Do you remember the pictures hanging on your bedroom wall in your childhood? Depending on your age and sex, it could have been Donny Osmond, Farrah Fawcett, even that poster of the girl in a tennis dress scratching her bum . Pity. Because there’s no doubt that the image you spend a lot of your childhood staring at, trying to go to sleep, or sent to your room for bad behaviour or just lying around doing nothing (before the age of computers in bedrooms) will be indelibly printed on your cervical cortex. And what if it had been a work of art? The Last Supper, for example? Or Caravaggio’s ‘Supper at Emmaus’? Or a poster of the world’s greatest scientists? Fantastic information printed on your brain for a lifetime – and with no effort! So get yourself down to http://www.schofieldandsims.co.uk/ and look at their ‘Famous People’ posters or http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/ and check out the posters in their shop. That empty wall space in your kid’s bedroom could be a springboard into learning something interesting – without trying.
Do you push and shove your children? Or just let them get on with growing up? I can’t work it out. I mean, Mozart would be a nobody if it weren’t for his ultra-pushy dad, making him practice from an early age. And would Tiger Woods or Serena Williams have made it into the sporting pantheon without their dads’ discipline? Even if you recognise this, you’ll also know that living a fulfilled, meaningful and happy life has nothing to do with extreme achievement. The monster swots at school rarely distinguish themselves later on. Even those genius children who pop up in the newspapers for getting into Oxford to read Quantum Physics at 12 sometimes grow up to find life difficult down the line. So what’s the goal with your kids? A love of learning, of knowing stuff, of finding out about things – to me, this is what gives a life its richness and texture. And the more learning that’s done outside the classroom, the better. Pen in hand, behind a desk, it can all seem rather B-O-R-I-N-G unless you have an inspirational teacher. But through books, films, kitchen experiments, trips to museums, interesting chats in the car – you get my drift – you can really help develop a curiosity about the world and an enquiring mind. And this stays with you for a lifetime. A nice thing to give your children, I think.
Table talk. What’s yours like? Sometimes fascinating chat round the table with children just happens. But often, especially if you’re eating out, children might be more interested in digging your iphone out of your bag to play games on. I’ve tried politics, plants, what-would-you-do-if? games and which-would-you-rather? tests (shark attack or death by strangling). Lately a table discussion we call ‘what’s it made of?’ has turned out to be good while waiting for the waiter to bring the pizza. The table? That’s easy. Wood = trees. The napkins? Cotton = plants. The knife and fork? Everyone knows it’s metal. Or more precisely steel, made from iron. Where do they get it? How do they make it? Check out http://www.xomba.com/where_does_steel_come for a brief and clear answer. The glasses? Well, made of glass but how? Answer – melt sand, soda ash and limestone. The plate? Clay. The menu? Paper = trees again. And once the pizza’s in front of you, well then it’s easy – tomatoes, cheese, dough, salt, oil, pepper and so on.
Recently I read about children who didn’t know that chicken nuggets come from birds. But do many kids know that chocolate comes from a plant?
Simple questions. Interesting answers.
Anyone with computer-addicted boys ? Why not harness this wonderful addiction, the impressive stamina they show in front of the screen, and make them learn something useful? Get yourself a copy of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator ‘A Century of Flight’ from www.amazon.com. Invest in a joystick. Position son in front of screen. Leave to play for 3 hours.
Now, when I call the kids for dinner, my son inevitably shouts back, ‘hold on Mum! I’m on final approach to Miami/Hong Kong/Vancouver (insert preferred city) and the landing gear’s down and there’s heavy crosswind.’ And while we are having breakfast, he is mid-Atlantic en route from Frankfurt to Las Vegas – he’s mastered the autopilot so as to fit in a bowl of cornflakes.
And we are now obliged to be the last passengers off any real-life flight, so that he can chinwag with the pilot about altitude, flaps, engine size, call signs etc etc. He now spells his name Juliet-Oscar-Hotel-November.
The volcano. Eyjafjallajokull. Can you pronounce that!? I gather it’s ay-yah-FYAH’-plah-yer-kuh-duhl. Anyway, thanks to IT, we drove back to the UK after Easter, instead of flying. And instead of breakneck speed, our plan was to stop on our way at the Normandy beaches. Have you been yet? I hadn’t, and I’m 44, so I thought my children should see them a bit sooner than that, especially as World War II is such a key history topic.
Doing this without any background context would have been fatally.. terminally BORING for my kids. How to prepare? We rented ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and imagined what it was like to be in one of the first boats that landed on Omaha beach on 6 June 1944. We looked at a map of the coastline and wrote in Gold, Sword, Juno, Omaha and Utah. We booked the Overlord tour (www.overlordtour.com) which includes Omaha beach, the German battery and the American cemetery at Coleville-sur-Mer where 10,000 Americans are buried. And we listened again to Horrible Histories’ Woeful Second World War (www.amazon.co.uk) in the car. And for a first experience, it all fitted together.
Now my son is angling for a trip to Pearl Harbour but I think it’s for the surfing.
Is anyone feeling like going back to pen and paper ? To throw out (or put away) the computer for a week? To drop the iPhone in the bath? It’s a contrarian approach, definitely, but everyone must need a break from technology sometime.
If it annoys you to see your child’s nose glued for the nth hour to the computer screen (don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot of interesting stuff on there) throw it under the bed and consider sending them out on a walk.
Mission – collect 3 leaves and 5 flowers. And then identify them.
Take a look at the subheading Flowers/Plants at the website www.theteachersguide.com. Primary children get into flowers during science so a short spot of botany will be useful and could actually, possibly be quite FUN!?!!