We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, And know the place for the first time. ~T.S. Eliot Four Quartets

18 April 2007

Back to childhood

Every morning so far this week I've heard I'm not going, in reference to school of course, from my son, of course. I find the national curriculum incredibly dull, geared toward testing rather than educating, so I'm really not surprised that he finds it boring. Creativity and critical thinking seems to be stifled, and even subjects like science, including chemistry, are disappearing from the classroom. Just what is the point? to create little automatons for our consumerist society?

Feeling the way I do, I should homeschool again. I am planning to keep my daughter at home for as long as possible, adhering to a steiner/montessori/unstructured type of learning. But my son is not entirely sure he wants to leave school.. what he means is he doesn't want to lose the friends he now has.

the front 'bay window' of his house.

These past two months have seen peer-pressure/influence come into full force, particularly with gameboys, nintendo and playstations. We don't want these things in our son's life just yet. At six, we feel he's too young and doesn't need to isolate himself in his bedroom for hours peering at a small screen and using small buttons. It's bad enough that he uses the computer as much as he does. Yes, I say bad enough because again, just as Industrial revolution children ruined their eyesight from working in factories sewing and squinting, I feel this generation may do the same from staring at a computer screen for hours. There will be plenty of time in older years to do it. My son's second cousin, age 5 now has a PSP, while his 10 year old cousin has a Nintendo DS, and then there's the kids at school with their smuggled in Tamagatchi's and mobile phones, all of which contribute to the escalating nagging. I never wanted to be thought of as the uncool parent, never thought I would be. But holding on to our values in the face of blind consumerism is really tough.

What is nice to see though, is that when my son is outside playing in the woods or bushes or anywhere in nature, the computer is swiftly forgotten. The kids are drawn to the natural areas surrounding the play park area. It's there that they can make dens, pretend, hide and let their creative energy take over. And without the electronic games my son creates things out of boxes, like this, his house/tardis/time machine. It is actually large enough to sit in. And in the inside, he's taken a smaller box and a bit of building k'nex and created his own 'playstation'. This says to me that he doesn't really need it as such, he just likes the idea of it.

I'm reading The Story of Childhood, growing up in modern Britain by Libby Brooks, in which she talks to nine different children from four to sixteen. It caught my interest as I'd like to gain more insight into growing up in this country. Things are changing rapidly, society seemingly becoming more constrained, childhood shrinking. The amount of time children spend outdoors for instance, is shrinking, mainly due to fear (parents fear) of danger from cars, from strangers, and also time spent with technology indoors. I try to mediate my fear of these things.

Remembering my own childhood, in a big city, and the immense freedom I had makes me wonder where my fear has come from. Our neighborhood was our playground, going from friend's house to friend's house, bike riding all day long in summertime, walking home from school with friends (from about age 7 or 8). I was a 'latchkey' kid though, and at times I think this contributed to my fear of being alone which I had to work through as a young adult. But there must be a middle ground.

My 10 year old niece here in England, still does not walk to school on her own. We don't let our son out on his own to play, and yet many, if not a good majority of the kids in the village his age, do go out on their own. I just don't feel comfortable with this. Are we exercising too much control? Then the old adage 'better safe than sorry' rings in my ears, but its true that kids learn to stay safe by being given the space to do that.

It has been said that the number of child murders, abductions and paedophile incidents has not increased as such, just the reporting of the incidents. This is where the media is guilty of creating a climate of fear. The reporting that happens when a sensational case arises, makes us feel that we are all at risk. Risk from injury where automobiles are concerned though, has increased since there are more cars on the road now. It seems to me even though we live in a 'free' society, freedom is assumed and not guarded carefully enough. We don't seem to realise how we are losing our freedom (through fear, as well as other means), how the children are losing their freedom not just physically, but mentally as well. Could this be the cause of so much anti-social problems?

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