At the time of year when parents are busy submitting their applications to schools, I am frequently asked at the school gates if I’ve submitted my school application for my son, Jack yet.
I haven’t. And I won’t be applying for a school place. My gorgeous, boisterous, charming, loving, happy boy is only 3 years old. He’s my second child so I’ve seen how quickly life flies by with children. He’s got years ahead of him to sit at a table and laboriously work on stencilling out his phonics. He’s got years ahead of him to learn to sit, be quiet and concentrate.
For now I want him to feel the wind in his hair. I want him to laugh with delight as he chases his friends through a meadow and grin as he jumps into muddy puddles. I want him to feel joyful and free to unleash his physicality, climbing, running, balancing, rolling. I want him to have the freedom to take as long as he wants to experiment with rainwater, with puddles, with measuring trees, with examining mini beasts.
I want him to be inspired. I want him to feel the magic of the world. I want to continue to see the look on his face when he finally understands something like gravity, rainfall, maths, how to operate equipment….or when he finally accomplishes his dream of climbing as high as he wants in a tree. I want his lessons to be concerned with ensuring he learns the value of kindness. That he is encouraged to work collaboratively with his peers and help each other. That he learns the power of what a group of children can accomplish rather than one child working on a problem alone. I want his days to be full of awe and wonder. I want him to continue to come home and report to me, ‘Mum, did you know….? That’s AMAZING’.
My darling boy is going to be a little boy for such a precious amount of time. I want to guard that time. I want to squeeze every drop of joy, freedom and laughter that I can out of his early years. And so no, he won’t be going to school yet. He will spend another year playing outside. In nature. With lungs full of fresh air, eyes shining and a great big smile on his face.
He will spend another year living an experience every day that brings tears to my eyes with how magical it is.
Am I 100% confident that I’m doing the right thing for him?
No. I’ve never been 100% confident about anything as a parent. I want, as all parents do, to do the absolute best for my children and so there’s always that slither of doubt. What I can do is trust in my experiences so far. Trust in seeing what an incredibly confident, independent, curious, self-motivated and empathetic little chatterbox he is. Observe how he blossoms when he plays in nature and how he’s learning so much about our world every day. See how strong he is physically and the stamina and incredible resilience he shows. I read book after book trying to work on my own mindfulness and growth mindset. My little boy has a growth mindset naturally and plays with mindfulness in his every day life.
I can look to Scandinavia where children play in nature mostly until 7 years old, and where in later life their exam skills surpass those of the UK…..yes, even their literacy and maths! I can see how his depth of knowledge about many subjects, including maths and science, far surpasses that of other children already, from his collecting, measuring, dropping, rolling and counting in the forest. I can think about the long term health benefits to being physically active all day, not only managing what currently only 9% of the country manage (3 hours physical activity a day for 2-5 year olds, recommended by the British Heart Foundation), but doubling it.
I can look to my older daughter, now almost 6 and in year 1. I can see how beneficial her time in the forest was, I can listen to her comments of ‘all we do all day Mummy is writing’ and ‘oh I’m sad it’s raining today as we can’t go out to play in school when it rains’. I can protect my little boy from this focused, fast moving academic world as long as possible. And I can give him one last hurrah!
I love you little bear!