Our last post explored what childhood was - or could be - and asked whether western schooling is always the best approach. Today we come to terms with reality. Not as depressing as it sounds!
The idea behind our Starting School series might, at first glance, seem almost Victorian in its utilitarianism. Learn to count, to form letters, to sit still and concentrate.
Children must be ready for school
I once worked in a wonderful nursery. The setting was beautiful, the staff highly trained. As a visitor you would have been impressed by the children's calm, purposeful confidence. They were engaged in challenging activities that reflected their interests and they benefited hugely from being there.
But in one crucial way, the nursery was a failure - even though it was not to blame: the children it produced were not ready for school. The structured way that schools operate is at odds with the independent, child-initiated learning that happens in a good nursery. Our children were arriving at school bewildered. Of course, we produced resilient, resourceful children, so they soon adapted, but the truth remains that the transition to formal learning was a difficult one.
The 100 Toys Starting School series sits in the space between nursery and school. We don't believe in worksheets and rote learning for under 5s. But, equally, we want children to arrive at school with the skills they need to thrive.
Whether you're the most laid back free-ranger or an ambitious tiger mother, we think how you parent is up to you.
The only thing we need to agree on, is that it’s better to be prepared than not. Starting school is more enjoyable for all our children when they are familiar with the tasks, when they know what’s expected of them, and they don’t feel they’re being left behind. Whether you want to give your child a slight nudge or completely structure their activities is up to you. We provide the tools. You decide which ones to use and how.
The current school system is less than ideal for our children, with its early start and immediate focus on attainment. There's a long and noble tradition of parents opting out, choosing another, gentler way for their children. That might mean a different kind of school, or perhaps a different country altogether.
Our Starting School series is for those of you who, after much consideration, have decided on the local primary. This doesn't have to come with a sense of resignation. I taught in state schools for years and many are wonderful places. Reception teachers are often highly experienced and will handle your child's start with sensitivity and care.
But the truth is that maths and English start straight away, even if it's just for a few minutes a day. If this is the kind of school your child will be going to, we believe you should make your peace with it and accept the reality.
Better to face it head on.
10 games to get set for school
Banish first-day nerves with a starting school scrapbook
Teach your child to read
How tying your shoelaces leads to success at school
The no. 1 skill all schoolchildren must develop
Get ready for writing with these simple games and activities