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The Education Of Harry (Part 2)

August 22, 2013

“You be the Mummy, I’ll be the Daddy”, said Harry to his little friend Laura, climbing into an armchair and settling in with a satisfied wiggle. “Right, I’ll sit here and you can do the washing up”.


Approved by my 3 yo son

A little while ago I wrote a post about The Education Of Harry.  There is still much to do.  Harry is, however, now being formally educated according to the government’s kind offer to pay for 15 hours of pre-schooling (is that a verb?  It is now).  I say ‘formally’.  The ethos of the classroom seems to be that the children can do whatever they want, when they want to, apart from when they are called to sit in a circle and listen to stories.  It’s the type of classroom I’d actually pay money to spend time in as an adult.  It looks like fun.

I say ‘educated’.  There is a philosophy behind it.  The name is made up of 2 Italian words, both of which I forgot the minute the teacher said them, but which I reported to A as being, in my opinion, something akin to Montessori.  There was a pause.  “Why”, he said, staring thoughtfully at the ceiling, “do you think that all these people are using Italian based learning systems?  Have they seen the state of Italy at the moment?”.

He’s got a point, but I’m not going to let that interfere with H’s right to sit in a large box of paper with a pair of scissors and spend an hour industriously cutting it into ever smaller pieces.   Apparently that’s building up his fine motor skills.

When we enrolled at the school the teacher showed us round all the different stations in the classroom which the children use to express themselves and learn empathy and sensitivity – two qualities not obviously demonstrated by your average 3 year old.   Apparently H will learn to appreciate art and explain his motivation behind his artwork to the rest of the class.  If he’s not able to use the phrases “existential; chaos of eternity; and emptiness of the human soul” in a manner reminiscent of Brian Sewell by October I assume he fails the course.

securedownloadA Three Year Old Doing Art Appreciation – Reconstruction (with thanks to Bill Watterson)

At the end of the show-round the teacher asked if there were any questions.   Summoning up quite a lot of courage really, I asked if, um, they did anything at all in the vague direction of numeracy and literacy and chainsaw-juggling.  I didn’t actually mention the last one, but from the expression on the teacher’s face I might as well have done.  The short answer is ‘no’.  Apparently if a child turns from the playdough table and, lifting their hands to heaven, cries “For the love of God teach me calculus”, the teachers will attempt to assist, but otherwise it’s a year of play and fun…and hopefully some lessons on the evils of sexism.  We can but hope.

  1. If you do remember what it’s called I’d love to read about it. My kids all went through Montessori (my littlest guy starts in September). But not all Montessori’s are created equal – some focus on the three Rs more than others and I think some of that has to do with pressure from the parental types.

    As for the sexism lesson, perhaps you should put your feet up tonight and leave the washing up to Daddy – you know, in the interest of teaching Harry balance 🙂


    • It’s called something like Regio Amelia. I’m sure that’s not the right spelling, but it’s something like it. If I find out more details I’ll let you know.
      The irony of H’s innate sexism is that his father is great. He’s a brilliant role model to the children and definitely pulls his weight. It’s not something that he’s picked up here.


  2. D’you know, I’d have LOVED my kids to have had that kind of pre-school. We were in places where the norm was much more to assess their skills all the time, and to teach them from a very prescribed list of “things they should be able to do”. It always made me feel a little sad that it was decided in advance what they *should* learn, rather than let them potter about learning what they fancied. Heck, they have 13 years of formal education in front of them (or more) from the age of 5. The years before 5 should just be fun and pottering. In my opinion. Has anyone in the education hierarchy watched a pre-schooler recently? They learn something pretty much all the time, just by being in a stimulating environment. It might be how to pick your nose and wipe the bogies down your shirt, or how many dead flies are in the dust pile behind the piano, or how to annoy another child, but there’s always something. (What do you mean, those aren’t very useful life skills?)

    Let’s face it, they’re all going to learn maths, reading and writing just fine when they get to school, whether they’ve had a head start or not. But if they spend their time doing that at pre-school, then when will they ever have the opportunity to potter about doing their own thing? Not till retirement age, presumably.

    But I always felt in something of a minority, so I guess everyone else is probably right. Or maybe I should have just moved to Italy.


  3. As for the sexism, yes, I heartily recommend a bit of role modelling, as suggested by WLDU.


    • You’ll be pleased to know that I am currently sitting with a cup of tea and my feet up whilst A baths the boys and puts them to bed. Then I’m off out to a party whilst he baby-sits. And H was treated to a little chat after tea (he had just asked A if he wanted to ‘go and relax with him whilst Mummy does the washing up’) about how we were all a team in our family and everyone had to pull their weight etc etc. Let’s just see how much he takes that on board….


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