That’s a harsh and perhaps controversial question I know, but I’m very concerned about our young children.
If you have known me for a while you’ll know what kind of parent I have been. In some ways I let my children follow their dreams and in others I put the right things in front of them to maximise their educational potential.
Which leads me onto asking you:
What are you doing to plug the gap whilst your children are not at school?
Are you worried about them being behind because of lockdown?
What expectations do you have of your children?
Parents today have a dilemma; to succeed in our education system you really have to be interested in academic subjects in most schools. All children are pushed to do well in Maths, English and Science. There’s nothing wrong with being literate and numerate. They’re essential skills for life. Then there’s the humanities and languages. If you want your child to go onto university they need to do well across the board don’t they?
But what happens when your child is a more creative child? And they are either not so good at the academic subjects or not interested in those subjects? If your child is really interested in cooking or comic strip writing there doesn’t seem to be a way for them to develop that at school.
I used to say to my daughter, when she hadn’t done as well as other girls in tests, that they hadn’t tested her on the things she was really good at and interested in; art, photography, dance, singing, theatre.
Her feelings were that school didn’t really value her because they didn’t value what she was good at. That wasn’t wholly true. She did go to a school that valued academic achievement because she was great academically. We knew that when we chose the school. We felt a solid academic basis was great start to any career.
But that wasn’t the whole story.
As she progressed though school it became more and more apparent that her gifts really lay in the creative arts. We came to an agreement that she would try reasonably hard to get her GCSEs done whilst also having the time to devote to singing, acting and dancing in the hope that she would get onto a performing arts course.
This worked well. There were times when she need to concentrate on school work and other times when her passion took priority. If you could see her today you would agree with me that it was absolutely the right choice for her to follow her passion.
So, what does it mean to “plug the gap”?
Some children go to school, have tutors, go to ballet, have Spanish lessons etc. in an attempt (their parents’ attempt) to be better than their peers. For me, plugging the gap, was about allowing my children to experience and develop interest in areas not covered in school; kung fu, orchestral playing, acting etc. Sometimes this meant missing school. For example, I took my daughter out of school to see her brother sing in the children’s choir at The Royal Opera House.
So are you worried about plugging the gap during lockdown?
My children are adults now so this is not a personal worry for me. However I am still worried about what they’re missing out on in the early years of their adulthood. I’ve had a good think about what this enforced lockdown can give us. For school age children it’s true that they are missing classroom time, together with expert teaching of the National Curriculum.
Take this opportunity to consider whether your children really need all of this knowledge. They don’t at them moment. For me, plugging the gap right now means taking the opportunity to do things you wouldn’t do normally; cooking, building dens, daydreaming, building cities from boxes, researching anything that interests them, cuddling, talking…
When they are back in school, don’t worry about catching up and making up time. It’s going to take quite a while for children to really get back into the swing of things and feel confident in school. I hope that the government, and schools, will adapt the curriculum and expectations. In any case, don’t worry. Don’t do extra.
To my final question: What expectations do you have of your children?
This is the fundamental question for all parents.
We all want our children to do the best they can and have the best opportunities. My word of warning is that their best may not be the what you think. School and academic work may not be it. Many children want to please their parents rather than themselves. Give them space and opportunity to find out what they love and don’t love.
Expect the best from them but be aware of what you define as best and how you go about achieving that. It may be that failing at things is an important part of that process. That’s a topic for another blog!