As a parent, I feel you can't ever stop thinking about your children. You want the absolute best for them. But what is the best? There's no rule book. We are all figuring it out as we go along.
Recently I've been thinking a lot about what I want for my children's futures. Until a few years ago, until actually having children, I thought my dream for my children would be for them to be happy, do well at school, to go to university, leave and find a job that they enjoy....generally follow the path well trodden by many before them.
Now, as a parent and also as someone immersed in education and childhood, I find my dreams for my children have become much less grand. They've been incredibly simplified. I just want my children to be....okay.
That sounds like an incredibly bland dream. And unambitious. But in the world my children are growing up in, I feel as though this will be challenging enough. Children in the UK are suffering from an epidemic of mental health problems. Our beautiful children are self-harming, are riddled with anxiety (even in their younger years according to recent studies), they have eating disorders, they are depressed, some are suicidal. It's terrifying. Add to this the readily available plethora of drugs, the peer pressure to engage in 'sexting' and sexual acts, social media and bullying and I feel suddenly, aiming for my children to be okay is a pretty big thing.
I want my children to enjoy a childhood where their personal, social and emotional health is a priority, not an afterthought. I want them to appreciate the power of collaboration and team work. I want them to constantly be challenged to think creatively. I want their communication skills to be nurtured. I want them to be active. I want the value of kindness to be modelled and explained to them over and over again. I want them to be the kind of people who befriend a lonely child. I want them to be the kind who intervene if they see bullying happen.
I want them to be strong. I want them to believe in themselves, to see how beautiful they are. I want them to resist pressure to take up destructive habits. I want them to realise the bigger picture and see the incredible world out there to explore. I want them to be happy. I want them to be fulfilled. I want them to be self-motivated. I want them to be curious. But I also want them to realise the value of hard work. To realise that you have to work at things to find solutions. To not be entitled.
My daughter is naturally incredibly creative. Her vivid imagination is a wonder to see. Her problem solving skills as a result of this side of her personality are astounding. I want her to grow up in a world where her creativity is seen as the incredible asset it is and is encouraged rather than crushed. Creativity is so much more than arts and crafts.
Am I asking too much of my children? No. I am certainly asking a lot. But I know my children are more than capable. I know they can grow up to be the kindest, most compassionate, friendly, astute, creative, intelligent, confident and happy people. All they need is a place to learn, an education system that values process over product. A school that nurtures and encourages creativity rather than stifling it. A place where they can be free to roam. Where they feel wonder and are inspired. Where they have time. To become resilient. To learn to manage risks. To find their passion and delight in being immersed in it. To breathe fresh air and move all day every day. To never feel jailed. To understand that they have a choice. To direct their own learning. To practise the joy of collaboration. To learn real life skills. To future proof themselves and prepare for jobs we can't even imagine yet.
I can't see a way for my children to have the experience I think they deserve in childhood. So much as I'd like to sit down and have a rest after creating Little Forest Folk, I'm going to instead launch myself into creating a school.
My children deserve it.
It's not going to be easy. It's going to require tenacity, creativity & enormous amounts of work. Luckily I have my three gorgeous children as inspiration so I am going to make this happen.
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