Saturday, September 27, 2014

Make time for friends

Life is busy. Always. I keep telling myself that next week will be calmer, or the week after that. If I'm realistic though, my life never slows down, except maybe when we go away as a family at the end of the year. I'm realizing afresh that if I'm not careful, my life will control me, instead of the other way around.

I was struck by a comment in an inspirational email sent to me recently: make time for friends. 

Make time.... This is an admission that time is in short supply in our lives. At a recent parenting workshop someone mentioned that for every hr you spend working, instead of playing with your kids, is like failing to have spent 100 hours with them. I'm not sure how that was calculated, but it reminded me of that well-known maxim: when you die, what will you regret - having worked those few extra hours, or not having spent those few extra hours with your loved ones? 

Make time.... This is an active process. This requires me to get off my butt and actively do something. Whether it is rescheduling things, or saying no to some things, or phoning that person to book a time to see them, this requires more from me than the 'let's get together sometime' euphemism.

Make time for friends. Loved ones are more important than work. In the daily juggle between the things that are urgent, important or both urgent and important, very often the things that are only important get shoved down the list of priorities. Friends, family and relationships are important. Work is urgent. If I don't work now, I won't meet that deadline; I won't be paid; I will miss that fabulous opportunity which could really boost my business.... There are 1001 reasons why we have to work NOW. Work is urgent. People, though, are important. 

Without our relationships, what is all that work worth? Making time to be with family and friends is important on so many levels, yet in my own life, I often put work above people. I become impoverished as a result - I feel isolated, unloved, misunderstood, tired, joyless, stressed, guilty, to name but a few. Don't misunderstand me - I LOVE my job, I love my work. I find my work energizing (for the most part), but when I don't spend enough time with people, the pendulum swings too far to one side, and I become a horrible person.

I need to connect to people around me, irrespective of whether I am an introvert or extrovert. I need to connect to peopleat a deep level, regularly, to laugh with them, have fun with them, be accountable to them and hold them accountable, so that I can be the best possible me I can be.

Make time for friends.

What one thing will you do this weekend to make time for friends, family and loved ones?

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Play time

After going through a phase of being seriously annoying to each other, and constantly fighting, the kids seem to be in a phase of playing nicely again. I can't really pinpoint what has made the difference, but I am loving it. 

Something I have noticed is that they play best when they have free play - time to just make up stuff, time to create. They are loving building bricks (we have several different brands - Lego, Duplo, etc - in different buckets) at the moment, and starting to get really creative with it. They also spend a lot of time playing make believe games. Of course, #1 generally decides what game it will be, and directs operations, but #2 gives a lot of input. 

Coincidentally I have been reading several blog posts and articles that have just popped up in my reading list about the importance of free play, particularly in the current education climate where play is being systematically removed from the curriculum. As a teacher I have always been aware of the increasing pressure on students - increased volumes of work as well as increasing difficulty levels of work at younger years. 

When I was at school, our second language was introduced in grade 2 or 3, at a conversational level only. Now, kids must be reading and writing in a second language before the end of grade 1. Our third language was only introduced in high school; now it is introduced in grade 3. I know there are good reasons for this - not least the fact that most children in this country do not have either English or Afrikaans as their home language, yet those will be the language of instruction in GET and FET phases. I support the theory that I. Order to help kids cope then we need to start the introduction of the language earlier. I'm just not sure the way it is being done is helpful. 

Similarly, at FET level, the work my matrics are doing was varsity level when I was at school. The reason for this is because the volume of knowledge is constantly increasing, and therefore there isn't time at varsity for everything to be taught. By introducing significant concepts at school, time at varsity is freed up. Yet, to what extent is doing this harming our kids? How many are turned off Maths because of having to do significantly more difficult algebra, or geometry or differentiation?  How many kids are turned off biology by having to have SO MUCH content thrust upon them? I get that there are certain biological concepts that are crucial for life, but then why not split them into different courses? Why not do an environmental management course, and a human physiology course, as two separate things? That would give appropriate time for practical work in each....... I could go on and rant for several pages, but I think you get the idea.

So how do we fix this? How do we create students who are engaged keen to learn, and yet also able to think at high levels and be creative, and yet are able to master content? The answer is that I don't think there is ONE way, and I think that is the fundamental problem with education. We still approach it with a manufacturing or factory mentality. Resources in, predictable process, then product out.

The thing with play is that it is not predictable. The resources are constantly changing, and the products do too. Some produce kids who know content, while others produce kids with skills, or personal qualities. Some games develop co-operation. Others develop creativity. Others develop perseverance. There cannot be a 'one size fits all' approach, because each child is unique. 

Of course, governments can't deal with this, because to them fairness means equal, or sameness. Any parent can tell you that fair does not mean equal. But that's another story.

I am loving watching my kids grow and develop through play. I am loving how the creativity flows out of them as they learn how to co-operate, negotiate, plan, take turns, share, communicate effectively, and dream. I wish school could be more like this, more fun, more play and less institutional.