Thank all that is good and mighty that school holidays start from today. Besides not having to worry about packing lunches, remembering what day of the week what kid does what, and the endless shuttling up and down, it signals no homework. Don’t get me wrong, homework is not a bad thing, but the amount of homework is ridiculous.
Our afternoons are spent at the dining room table going over and over words, readers, colouring, cutting, writing, spelling, new languages, mathematics and testing. This year has made me realise that I could never be a teacher. Navigating that homework diary is similar to decoding some encrypted FBI document and countless Whatsapp’s get exchanged between me and a mom friend who’s been through Grade 1, and gets it. There’s no line of communication with the Teacher, that’s saved for parent’s evening. Unless you want to write a note in a diary, of which I’ve never had a response. The volume of work at the age of 6 astounds me. I don’t remember this amount of pressure.
The other day, while waiting at the school for Oli to come out, I overheard a group of Mom’s considering their quitting jobs in order to manage their children’s homework, extramural and therapy sessions. Seriously, this was said in earnest. Oli sits, tirelessly following my instructions in the homework book, and I can see after a busy day at school or sport that he just wants to chill. To relax. To play. But we power through it – school homework and Speech Therapy homework. I love the school, don’t get me wrong, he’s grown in leaps and bounds in two short months but I just feel like there’s so much pressure being put on our children these days, and is it not unnecessary?
Pressure to be well-rounded – to excel in the classroom (or attend necessary therapies to bring you up to what is expected of you), as well as on the sports fields and culturally. A lot of these extra pressures require ‘extra’ money too. Our children, besides being our children, have become an investment and we need to make the hard sacrifices now for them to benefit later, it is commonly believed that sending just one kid to school from grade R to grade 12 can cost upwards of R1 million – and that’s before looking at private schools or university fees.
Oli had to do a two minute speech a few weeks ago. I was more nervous than him. Two minutes at the age of 6, come on! I certainly never did that in Grade 1. I just don’t understand why at such a young age they need to be doing this. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe honing the public speaking skill will stand him in good stead but the relief on his face after fetching him and finally having him say he’d had his turn to do his speech saddened me. It was something he was glad it was done with. Over, for now. That’s pressure for you. And pressure often leads to anxiety which we’re seeing from a younger and younger age in our society today.
All I want my children to do this holiday is to be children. To have fun. To paint and play in the garden. To use their imaginations and create. For, Oli to page through books at his own speed and draw and paint endless masterpieces on his easel. To play under blanket forts and help in the kitchen. To enjoy a few weeks of unstructured play and just be, and be happy.
Is it just me? Do you agree that there’s too much pressure on our kids today?