MAKE SOME HOLIDAY MEMORIES
School is nearly out – the teaching and learning stops, in favour of days of relaxation and sunshine. Or does it? Quite apart from the perennial threat of a rain-soaked August, the challenge of how to fill a long holiday can test the most resourceful parent – and his or her pocket. The presumption that every moment has to be action-packed and fun-filled is hard to avoid, given the pressures that bear upon us all in a world beset by glittery images of familial perfection.
Besides this, there are teachers warning of the ‘summer slump’, loading children down with heavy revision packs or reading lists. This may be agreeable for some, but I suggest this is the point where children who do not fit the standard mould come into their own.
What they need is time, and this is one thing they all have. Time for you to be alongside them, in wandering conversations about the birds in the park, the horse nodding over a fence, the form and nature of clouds, the randomness of traffic lights, the fluffiness of kittens or the existence of God. These conversations have no agenda and, as you listen and are led, not pressed by lists, appointments or the rush to school, become bonding experiences because you see each other in new, developing, creative ways. As the conversation unravels, so the questions occur and it becomes our parental job not to provide neat answers but simply encourage the questioning, because in this children’s thinking grows too.
By the same token, tinkering with an old CD player, whittling a stick or lighting the barbeque (no matches allowed) can become gentle puzzles; there is time, after all, to work them out, with minimum direction from adults.
Likely as not there will be a car journey or two. We used to play ‘publegs’, the car game based around the nation’s hostelries in each town that you pass through. Motorway travel has put paid to that, but ‘Spot the VW Beetle’ counting and memory games while away a Friday journey through holiday traffic. Whatever it is, your total involvement is the crucial part, with negotiation, discussion and development, every step of the way.
So, though school has finished, the stimulation and growth that can make up the summer holiday can feed teaching and learning in ways us schools never can and – of course – feed that most precious thing of all for your children: memories of time spent, with you.
Fred de Falbe, headmaster of Beeston Hall School