Posts Tagged ‘school


Author Gill Jepson telling her stories about Furness Abbey in the abbey.

When looking at different cultures it is extremely interesting to notice the different ways in which we approach religion, morality, social structure, appearance and of course food.  Fundamentally the needs of human beings are exactly the same but how they are provided is determined by those who rule our societies.  Different belief systems tend to be the greatest determiner of how a country is run.  One element of every culture, that is almost identical, is the act of storytelling.


Traditionally storytelling was used as a way for elders in a society to teach younger generations about the strife of life and the values of their community.  Stories were passed down each generation like heirlooms changing and growing in each telling.  Cavemen in France told stories about hunting and battles against enemies by drawing on cave walls.  As communication got better and people could share ideas through a common language stories became the main entertainment in any society.

Pow Wow

Before electricity and the microchip revolutionised the world  candle light or the flame from a camp fire was the only source of light groups of people had to gather round.  The most striking image that comes to mind is that of the Native American Pow Wow. Tribes would sing songs and tell stories about the world around them to the flicker of warm protect flames. Without the use of technology and special effects it was up to the storyteller to keep their audience engaged.

Multi Media Storytelling

As society has become more sophisticated, storytelling is presented in the form of; films, plays, computer games, songs and television programmes. I haven’t included books because I am concentrating on the performance side of storytelling.  It doesn’t really matter how good special effects are, if the story is weak then the film will flop.  Stories have maintained their durability due to people retelling them over and over again.

Encourages Anticipation

Being able to communicate and anticipate are two very important skills in life.  Without these skills our lives would exist very much in the present and we would be very vulnerable to the trouble and strife of life.   Retelling stories helps children to structure sentences while they are speaking and get their message across.  Being able to think ahead and consider the implications of any decisions you may make is an extremely valuable skill to learn.  Just being able to sequence a story will help you deal with maths problems.

Written Stories

Eventually people started to write down stories so that they would not be lost by the passage of time.  At first reading and writing was a pleasure that only religious figures and insanely rich people could enjoy.  The introduction of the printing press in the 15th century eventually led to more people having access to books and eventually the existence of schools.  Reading is generally a private activity where one person can immerse themselves into a fantasy world from the safety of their arm chair, while storytelling is very public and involves lots of people.

Storytelling Chair

Schools are very keen to reignite the concept of storytelling because of the many factors I have mentioned above.  As well as storytelling areas in the classroom schools have installed storytelling chairs in the playground.  Sometimes the storytelling chair is surrounded by little seats or benches so that everyone can gather around and enjoy stories being told like our ancestors told them.

Storytelling is always going to be with us and the history of storytelling is one huge story in itself.



It is going to be so exciting when the children go back to school in September because they will find some new playground equipment in their school grounds.  The PTA and local business Make Us A Website have put money together to buy playground equipment from Playdale Playgrounds.  If my memory serves me correctly when we go back to school in September there will be a new Story Telling Chair, climbing wall and a bird table. These pieces of playground equipment will be great additions to the playground simply because of the play potential the children can have with them at playtimes.

The school playground is quite small really but the imaginative teachers have utilised the space to its fullest potential by having different activities in all of the nooks and crannies.  It would seem that apart from the sand pit and mud kitchen, the favourite playground activity is to build wobbly towers using crates and terrify any observing adult that they may just tumble when they reach the top.  Parts of the playground remind me of the concept of the, ‘The Land‘, in Plas Madoc in South Wales, where children are able to use every day junk to create their own play area.  Whereas only a minute part of Allithwaite school playground is dedicated to this type of play (it would look really awful otherwise) the whole play area in Plas Madoc is devoted to imaginative play.

Apparently when you approach, “The Land. A Space Full of Possibilities.” (Guardian) it looks like a dangerous junk yard and would send chills down the spine of any over cautious parent.  The whole point of the area is for children to learn about risk in their own way and explore activities that they may be prohibited from doing elsewhere.  Children who play in The Land recall exciting experiences where they have built amazing dens and furnished them with mattresses they have found.  Others remember building a huge water slide.   Inspirational youth worker Claire Griffiths set up The Land and with assistance supervises the children from a safe distance, broken bones and grazes are inevitable but that is all part of the learning process.  Play experts from all over the world have visited The Land to observe and gain inspiration from the project.

Plas Madoc is a town stained with deprivation, the local leisure centre has closed and play opportunities are few and far between for children.  The Land gives these children a sense of purpose and achievement that can not be acquired in a structured environment.  Apparently the risk assessment for The Land is huge and is based on risk verses benefits from the activity, the fire risk assessment is nine pages long.  I was lucky to grow up in a time where there was enough space to do all of the things that the children do in The Land before over protectiveness took hold.  Being left to your own devices to play and learn about pain and your limitations gives you a strength and independence that cannot be found in a text book.

As parents we really do need to loosen our apron strings and let our children find out for them selves what they can create.  It is very difficult though because when your child hurts themselves you can feel their pain and you want to protect them for ever – sadly this does not protect them as it make it difficult for them to deal with adversity in real life.

Illness has always been one of those things that I am terrible at judging, particularly with my own health.  For some bizarre peculiar reason I don’t consider myself to be ill until I can’t function properly and am unable to do the smallest things.  Unfortunately this has often resulted in me battling on incompetently and admitting defeat in a flood of tears. Everyone around me seems to know when they are ill and are really good at discussing symptoms and how it is effecting them.  My inability to detect illness makes it quite difficult for me to decide how ill my son actually is and therefore he has missed very little school because if he can walk and talk then he is well enough to go.

Last week he was really tetchy and everything I did or didn’t do for my son seemed to be an indication of how little I cared for him.  We went to the playground to play on the playground equipment and the mere prospect of leaving caused an unprecedented amount of fuss – well out of proportion to the request.  I had an inkling then that maybe he was going in for something and that hunch was correct as he spent most of the weekend sleeping and watching Miss Marple.  We decided to keep him off on the Monday to let him rest more until he felt better.  On Tuesday he woke up saying he didn’t feel well enough for school and I wrongly assumed it was because he had enjoyed being off too much so I sent him in anyway, dressed with green socks for sports day. He did pretty well and won one race, came second in three and lost another.


Near the end of the school day I had a phone call informing me that Alistair was feeling sick and needed to be taken home.  Obviously I had made the wrong decision and he was in fact ill and maybe should have been at home.  As a result of this I am keeping him off for two more days and have had to cancel a much awaited play date – he didn’t make a fuss about that indicating that he really wasn’t feeling very well.

Alistair is very rarely ill and is always on the move so when he told me he felt ill and stayed unnaturally still I should have listened to him instead of suspecting that he was trying to miss school.  Being a parent is so difficult at times because you swing from worrying that they are seriously ill and in need of hospital treatment to missing the signs that they are ill.

The other morning before school, we had what can only be described as a small blizzard. I peeled back the curtain to see whether I needed to take an umbrella out with me for the walk to school (or if the wind was too strong for one to be remotely effective) and was met with a blanket of white stuff over the cars, trees and paths.

The snow obviously meant we had to make time for a quick play outside in the public playground across from the school. It’s amazing how a bit of snow transforms a place and makes it a different world almost.  Suddenly, a playground they know so well (although usually still fun and met with a good amount of excitement each visit) is a totally new and exciting place. What is it about snow that sends both kids, and adults too if we admit it, (so long as we don’t have to drive or travel anywhere as unfortunately we have to take a slightly more realistic and sensible approach to it!) a little bit crazy and very happy indeed?

Unfortunately as I look out of the window right now there are strong winds and a fair amount of rain so I’ll keep my dreams of a white Christmas fairly realistic at this point. Come on weather, you’ve got one week to produce some snow for us…but then make sure it disappears quite quickly please as I have to be back at work on Monday!


Oh, and I decided not to take an umbrella by the way…Oh, and also not to walk either!

Sitting in a still and controlled manner can be a challenge for any young school child as you may well know yourself through personal experience (if you can remember back to your first years at school) or through having your own child whose teacher is often telling you that your little one can not sit still in class. So why can’t some kids sit still in class?

Over recent year the number of diagnosed ADHD cases has increased dramatically. Through doing some research this is due to a couple of main reasons; we are now more aware and educated about the condition and children are also now expected to sit for perhaps longer periods of time, which inevitably leads to lapses in concentration. However, some people are too quick to push the blame towards ADHD for a child’s seemingly bad behaviour. It is also the case sometimes to blame genetics or the arguably less disciplined approach to parenting nowadays compared to times past, it could be blamed on sugary breakfasts and snacks, sleep deprivation or the fact you just have a so-called ‘naughty’ child.


But could some of this be down to the fact they simply aren’t expending enough energy at other points in the day?

It is highly important not to diminish recess time in favour of classroom time, and not all schools will be getting the balance right. Nowadays, kids may not get to play outdoors as much for a number of reasons such as; parental concerns, educational pressures and restraints and also now of course we have so much technology and screen time which can often become like babysitters. But hours of television or computer games can be a bad idea, sensory over stimulation can be just as much of a hindrance as under stimulation.

Basically, children are not moving enough. Restriction of movement and not enough time spent running around and getting rid of energy can mean more fidgety children with below normal core and muscle strength. We all know the health benefits that come from playing and exploring in a playground that will stimulate their imaginations and improve their skills – physical, mental, emotional and cognitive all included. It can definitely be more difficult in these Winter months to muster the enthusiasm and energy to tear yourselves away from the TV or computer screens in favour of getting outside into the cold, puddles and wind, but even some time spent in the garden or the school’s own playground at the end of the day may make a big difference and help a child concentrate more, and not only just in classroom.  Schools need to make sure that they are allowing enough unstructured playtime during the day. And if they aren’t? Well, that can be a difficult thing to change as many will already be feeling the time pressures of fitting in all of their curriculum in the allotted lesson times. But playtime deserves to be shown the same regard as academic time.

So I guess the bottom line is if your child is coming home from school with warnings for not sitting still in class, it is by no means a reason to panic and try to get a medical diagnosis ASAP, it may be as simple of a solution as a little more playtime!  No one solution will work for every child, as we are all well aware, but it’s definitely worth a try.

These images really are incredible and go to show just how important and meaningful getting an education is to these families! Definitely makes me think how we take it for granted. Both terrifying and inspiring.

children-going-to-school-around-the-world-35 children-going-to-school-around-the-world-54 children-going-to-school-around-the-world-42 children-going-to-school-around-the-world-55 children-going-to-school-around-the-world-28

For the full set of photos click this link.

I have a love/hate relationship with technology.

I love new gadgets. I am an internet-oholic. I use social media regularly. I can spend hours on Youtube. I am always within close proximity to my smart phone.

Sounds like I’m a fan doesn’t it? For the most part yes I am but at the same time our dependence on technology is starting to worry me. I worry about it mainly for the effect it has on our kids. They are growing up in a very different world to the one I grew up in and indeed to anyone over the age of about 20. I’m thankful we didn’t have all this to deal with when I was younger! I dread the day my son wants to join Facebook and have his own phone and learns how to use the internet properly. I think most parents want their kids to stay kids and retain their innocence and happy outlook on the world for as long as possible but unfortunately that is becoming less and less easy nowadays. As an adult obviously I am less impressionable and more wary of the world and the people in it but now kids are exposed to so much more at earlier and earlier ages and it’s pretty difficult to prevent that.

We’ve all heard cases of online bullying, stalking people, jealousy, negative views and opinions, bragging, trolling, hacking etc – all of the bad things. Of course it can be a great and useful learning tool too. It helps raise awareness of certain causes e.g The ALS ice bucket challenge, Kony 2012 that otherwise we would not hear about but I would rather the vast majority of learning was done in school.


You’ve probably read debates about social media making us less social and I would have to agree with that. It is uncommon to take a walk around and not see countless people on their phones/ipads etc playing games, checking Facebook or texting etc and forgetting how to actually talk to people. In all honesty I’m sure that without sites like Facebook I, and I think most people, would have a lot more face to face interaction.


There aren’t just the social issues to think about. For kids, spending time on devices can also lead to other health issues and concerns such as:

Childhood obesity – Unsurprisingly, use of technology, video games and TV is linked to obesity as it leads to decreased physical activity.

Sleep deprivation – Screens give off blue light which interferes with the production of melanin which controls the bodies sleep and wake cycle. Also, the brain can become overloaded with information from different technology sources which makes it harder to relax at bedtime.

Delayed development – Using technology restricts movement and often social interaction which can have a bad effect on development.

Mental Illness – Studies show that overuse of technology can play a part in a number of mental disorders in children including depression, anxiety, attention deficit, bipolar disorder and [problematic behaviour.

Addiction – With people becoming more and more attached to their devices and less to each other, addictions can develop between a child and their technology.

Aggression – Media and video games with violent content can lead to child aggression.

If you want some heavier reading on the subject here is the big study by Common Sense into children’s media use and the effects it has:

All of this sounds a bit scary to me and that is why I both love and hate technology and the internet. I just hope we don’t become any more dependent on it than we already are. I don’t know about you but I am going to encourage good old fashioned outdoor play for as long as I possibly can!

Are there any other parents out there who are share the same thoughts?


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