I gave my parents a hard time and they gave their parents a hard time – I can guarantee that I will lock horns with my son as soon as he becomes a teenager. All I can do at the moment is to give him a good grounding so that he can deal with the emotional coaster of being a teenager. We bring our children up to be independent and have their own thoughts only to try to stifle the results of our training when they become teenagers. I think parents are programmed to be stick in the muds and teenagers become bulldozers with the goal of knocking any boundaries down.
I am not a parent of a teenager yet but I vaguely remember that being one was quite bitter sweet. Life seemed to be a constant battle between concentrating on my exams and coping with unrequited love. When you finally get to have a boyfriend you never think you are going to love anyone like that again and you are mortified when it ends. The truth is that you never will because next time that love is diluted a little with wariness and reality. Like a toddler discovering the world, a teenager is discovering adulthood and everything is in technicolour.
I remember my hormones raging, slamming doors a lot and spending hours in the bath so I could spend time on my own. I didn’t hang around the streets but had plenty of friends to be a teenager with. We didn’t try to conform to adulthood but we thought that we had the moral high ground – which was true because we hadn’t had chance to make big mistakes yet to discover our humanity. Some of my friends rebelled in big ways while others pushed the boundaries more subtly. I tended to not tell my parents where I was going and did what I wanted – well as much as my limited finances would allow.
Parents Aren’t That Stupid After All
Being a teenager and a young adult is all about taking risks and causing your parents to be continuously worried about your safety. If your relationship with your parents is pretty stable the rebellion eventually subsides. Once you discover that they weren’t that bad after all you have your own ideas and combine the both so that you can prepare your own child for rebellion.
The biggest issue with feisty teenagers is that they don’t really have anywhere to go to hang out. This predicament results in them making the street look untidy and getting into trouble. Playdale playgrounds discusses this issue in an article. They have referred to studies that have found a marked reduction in teenage disruption when teenage shelters were installed near recreational areas. Teenage shelters are essentially a collection of seats covered by a roof. This means that teenagers can still have a meeting place, away from boring adults, without getting too wet.
Being a teenager is not always easy and neither is being the parent of one but being part of your child’s next adventure is exciting.
My earliest memories of computers was the BBC computer in the classroom that seemed to be dominated by all of the boys. The game we attempted to play was, ‘Stig Of The Dump’, my memories of the format of the game are almost non-existent because I spent so little time on it. We were also reading the book and watched the TV series so Stig Of The Dump played a major role in our lives. There was no National Curriculum to ensure that all children had equal time on the computer regardless of whether they were interested or not. At home we had a Sinclair Spectrum which involved loading a game on a noisy tape recorder – most games took half an hour to load and crashed after 29 minutes so my hour on the computer ended in a flash.
Part of the fun of playing games on the Spectrum was that you had to write the programme yourself. We had a book with lots of games in that you had to programme in yourself. The satisfaction was immense and we didn’t realise that we were doing computer programming. The Spectrum made way for the Atari and my brother dominated it completely while I had total ownership of our rabbit. My uncle was the technical driving force in our family and he would introduce us to a piece of new technology and our family would eventually follow suite. Fundamentally we were a family of geeks.
I specialised in English and technology and became an ICT coordinator at the most exciting time in education, when being an IT specialist meant you could be an old fashioned maverick teacher. Now of course it has all been formalised and categorised with very specific learning objectives. I approached ICT bombastically and dragged my classes along with me we all learnt in leaps and bounds because we were excited about the new technology. We loved everything including Excel. Children learnt about programmable logic controllers by using roamers and the programme called LOGO.
Apart from Word, databases, simulations and the concept of servers we also found optic illusion sites where you look at the waste bin in the kitchen and a screaming ghost comes out to scare you. Here is a link to a similar video. Not appropriate I know but my class was fired up and made amazing progress in their ICT skills. I observed that some children had abstract minds and just got programming better than others, this was obvious with the programme LOGO. Also it was obvious that children had SEN still required support because computers involve a lot of reading and following instructions. When the first Interactive Whiteboards were installed we respected it and never took it for-granted and the children couldn’t believe their eyes with the new amazing technology and neither could I.
Now children go to school already familiar with technology and all of the advances that excited us are as common place as reading books and pencils. It would seem that the more sophisticated the software has become and everyone uses computers nobody really does programming any more. This lack of interest in computer programming is going to result in a huge skills gap which is going to cause problems for the UK internationally if we don’t fill it. Now that the government has established that children are generally come to school with a good grounding in ICT skills they need to go back to basics. The new ICT curriculum reflects that by introducing the concept of programming in its objectives.
It will be interesting to see how teachers (who are not particularly renowned for natural aptitude in programming – like the everybody else) are going to enable gifted computer programmers to develop their skills further. Computer programming has always been embraced by people with amazing abstract skills, determination and those who don’t mind working in some sort of isolation. Children these days are used to the fast pace of the world and are not prepared to sit for hours chipping away at anything so this mindset needs to be addressed. My son has started computer programming at school and I hope that he realises that if he perseveres he could be part of the next new thing in computing and work anywhere in the world.
The Spring term is the shortest one in the year but probably the most intense. Teachers of year two and six will be psyching themselves up for the SATs that can now determine whether a school is good or not. My son has finally reached the age where testing will play a major part of his school life and he will be expected to perform to his best abilities to prove that he has been taught correctly. He will participate in writing, reading and maths tests and will face an onslaught of practice tests until he has to do the real ones.
I am all for assessment and how it informs planning for his further learning but I hate the way that it is also a test for the teachers. There are many things that teachers do that are not accounted for in the test so their true worth is not represented in the results. The tests don’t take into account the non academic strengths a child may have and we get so tunnel visioned about what children can do in the test that all of the other important life skills are forgotten.
GCSEs and A levels are understandably stressful because they are transitional and the better you do the greater your career choices but with SATs there are no obvious benefits for the child. Motivating a child to do a test that has no reward seems to be cruel and unnecessary and the pressure is too great at such a young age. I really don’t like the concept of a child perceiving themselves as a success or a failure at such a young age.
My son is looking forward to going back to school to see his friends and play on the playground equipment in the play area next to the school. He loves learning and finds learning opportunities everywhere left to his own devices he has learnt how to follow instructions to build Lego sets, figured out how to build a computer game, how to look after a puppy, that adults are only human and that he loves performing. He sets himself challenges and gets so excited when he achieves them, his first words were, ‘I did it’.
I don’t want vigorous testing to destroy that thirst for knowledge and a curiosity to learn. I feel nervous about the tests in the same way I did when I let him have the MMR vaccine.
When you are a child the title of this post is likely to mean playground roundabouts and swings rather than a balance of good and bad events. Some children have the misfortune of experiencing the low points of life because their families either unintentionally or deliberately expose them to chaos and disorder. These poor children never manage to get a stable grounding in life because their childhood has literally been swings and roundabouts.
We are not talking about children not receiving the presents they asked for or missing out on expensive activities because limited funds does not equal limited love. We are thinking about children who are deprived of emotion and parental guidance causing them to be let down when they need their parents the most. No parent is perfect because we are all flawed human beings so we can only do our best based on the upbringing we have had. Sadly not everyone has had the benefit of parents who have been able to give them the love and care they need so there are no good examples to follow.
Being a parent is a constant flow of making decisions that can affect our children deeply. We can sometimes qualify bad decisions by believing that children are too young to be affected by adult issues. Often hiding the normal ups and downs of life and how we deal with them from children results in them having chunks of coping strategies missing so when they come across hiccups when they grow up they don’t have the resources to help themselves. Children learn by example so they way we behave is imprinted on their minds and that is how they also behave.
Therefore if a child has not observed or experienced care and compassion they will be unable to look after their own children. While there will always be exceptions and people from such backgrounds will move heaven and earth to make sure that their children will not suffer in the way they did. Christmas is a difficult time of the year for everyone, many don’t have ‘a wonderful Christmas time, domestic violence increases and children get caught in the cross fire. The mix of alcohol and financial woes can cause emotional explosions and issues to be magnified. Children are vulnerable because they don’t have the safety of the school routine to protect them.
Life is never just going to be swings and roundabouts but as parents we can try our best to make childhood the most wonderful time in our child’s life. Children just want our time and company because we are the mist important person in their lives, the best we can do for them is to try our best not to let them down and if we do have let them know its because that is how life is sometimes.
Toddlers do it, puppies do it and crazy adults playing drinking games do it – we all love spinning around in circles until we get dizzy. My son used to purposely run round in circles saying he was trying to make himself dizzy before collapsing onto the sofa. Another favourite activity is spinning on an office chair and we have all had great fun making playground roundabouts go faster and faster.
Why do we like spinning? Being the peculiar creatures we are – we just like the giddy feeling spinning causes. As well as causing the state of the brain to temporarily change, spinning stimulates part of the brain that trains the body how to balance – this is called vestibular stimulation. The same part of the brain is trained through swinging, hanging upside down and rocking.
Children are completely unaware that so many scientific things are happening to their brains when they spin because they just do it for pure enjoyment. When your toddler decides that it it is is time for vestibular stimulation make sure that you encourage them to do it where they cannot get hurt or break your favourite vase. There are a number of ways you can get into a spin and have extra fun at the same time:-
- Roll down banking – choose one that is not too steep without too many obstacles in the way.
- Go on a playground roundabout – they are really safe now and some even have space for wheelchairs.
- Go on a fairground ride like the carousel or the waltzers if you are extra daring.
- Spin around when you are dancing, spread your arms out for more balance.
- Go Zorbing – this is a spinning activity for grown ups but try it if you dare.
And for those of you who are curious about what the drinking game is (and what your teenage sons maybe up to) here is a video clip of what I am talking about.
We are getting to the time of year where Christmas is upon us and we can no longer pretend that it isn’t happening. Children have been cast in their Christmas plays – mine son is Steve the Donkey this year. Parents are still panicking about Christmas parents for their children. Some people have got it all wrapped up, Christmas cakes baked and Christmas cards sent. Everybody is rushing around getting ready for the main event and preparing for the Big Man himself.
I am not organised, apart from having bought my son’s main present and thought about decorating the house, I am completely unprepared. I have had the bright idea of making decorations and buying lots of chocolate so that we can all get into the spirit of things. My son seems to think it unnecessary to write a letter to Santa because if he has the power to tell if you are naughty or nice – he can hear your present requests.
Any way here are a few phone apps and websites that will make Christmas fun for your children and help you to get them to bed on Christmas Eve.
If you want to prove that Santa exists to sceptical children then this may be the app for you. Basically you project an image of Santa on a picture of your room so that it looks as if he has really visited. I am not sure exactly how it works but just follow the link and try it for yourself.
This is one site I visit every year with my son, he takes Santa’s opinion about him very seriously. This site is so cool because it gives you the opportunity to add pictures to a video of Santa and recommend if your child should go on the naughty or nice list. We watch the video just before bedtime between looking at NORAD and the Christmas carols.
This is another evidence based app which allows you to superimpose elves and Santa on an image of a room in your house. I haven’t tried it yet so I am not sure if it looks as this video when you do it yourself but it is worth a try.
I think this is rather exciting simply because spotting any animal is fantastic – especially Santa’s reindeer. Something tells me that as Christmas Eve approaches the images will get an awful lot busier and we will possibly get a glimpse of the man himself.
This is a great way to hurry up Christmas Eve bedtime because you can look at how close Santa is to your town. NORAD stands for North American Aerospace Defend Command. Normally NORAD checks our skies to make sure that no unwanted visitors cause us any bother. Fans of Stargate will recognise the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, which is a real department. Anyway from December 1st NORAD activate their Santa search website and track Santa’s journey around the world. I love it when big serious organisations show that they are young at heart.
However you make the magic of Christmas happen remember to let the child in you come out and have a fantastic time. We are going for cheap cheerful and tacky this year and going to have a childish time.