I sometimes congratulate myself that my children have managed to actually get to school age without
- they, themselves or any of Macy’s friends being injured by Max wielding his trusty baseball bat,
- me being carted off to The Priory, or
- me being interrogated by Child Line … they both know the number from memory.
Both children have been through our state educational system at primary school level, much the same as I did and my parents before me. I would often go home from school and go over what we had been doing in class that day. My children do the same with me. Occasionally I am asked to help … oh you may snigger and you may chortle but I know a thing or two. In fact I am a speedy whizz at times tables, have incredibly neat handwriting and know how to spell. Things you would think are embedded and consolidated by the time a child leaves primary school right? Hmmm maybe, maybe not.
Things have certainly changed since I was at school and teaching methods have moved on, but for the better? I am not convinced. I remember my parents uttering those patronizing words, “Well when I was at school, we used to do it like this!” 30 years later, I find myself mumbling the same words under my breath, desperate in the attempt never to speak those words you vowed you would never say when you had children.
Keeping a keen eye on what the children are doing at school not only allows me to encourage and motivate them but also help where needed. Imagine when you try to help you are met with, “No mummy, you don’t do it like that!” Yup, I hear it all the time, handwriting, spelling and times tables. Let me explain…
Children from the age of 4 are taught cursive handwriting from the very beginning when learning to write. To us old folk I mean joined up! Some children find this the easiest and most natural way, which is great. Some don’t and appear to find the physical act of writing a chore at best and are put off writing all together.
Surely the style in which you write shows your personality? Isn’t that why we have all these clever dudes who can tell all sorts of things about you from your handwriting. Why are we forcing children to write in a way that feels uncomfortable and unnatural? Sure teach them all the same at the start but if it is clear it is not right for a child let them express their writing in a natural way as long as it is neat.
When I was at school you wrote with a pencil and you printed until it was neat enough for you to be allowed a fountain pen (and see how long you could get away with writing in turquoise ink) and only then were you allowed to do joined up writing. Who cares if it isn’t joined up? Who says it’s the right way?
Recently my son went for an assessment. He was asked various times table questions and although he knew the answers he took a long time getting to the answers. The reason? As far as I can make out they no longer chant their tables. The only evidence I see of any working is a list of numbers and they just say the answers, so 4,8,12,16,20 and so on. These numbers mean nothing without the rest of it 1×4=4, 2×4=8, you get the picture. So every time they are asked a question they have to go through the whole table to get to the answer.
When I was at school we chanted every table backwards and forwards and randomly, with the whole question and answer. The result? A head full of answers on the tip of your tongue without a moment’s hesitation. When you see me next you can test me!
Children are encouraged at an early age to write and are given the freedom (in joined up writing of course) to express their thoughts in imaginative and thoughtful ways. The spelling at this stage, however, appears to have little relevance. When I questioned why my child’s work was not being corrected I was told that they didn’t want to discourage the child from writing by pointing out the spelling mistakes!! But surely we should be teaching the correct spelling from the start?
When I was at school we had each of our words corrected and then written in a spelling book to learn. Wot cn b so wrng with that? Or phps we shd just all write in txt spk cos it’d b soooo much easier innit?
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