Sometimes my days follow one another in a simple, ordinary, uncomplicated way with nothing momentous happening. I get up, do a little tidying - I was going to say cleaning, but that would be a slight exaggeration - I read things here on the computer, I may go to gym, I may take a walk. I may do a little food shopping, of go to appointments. I cook food for our evening meal. I fall asleep in the rocking chair watching TV, or I fall asleep on the couch crocheting while I watch TV. I may pull up a couple of weeds in the garden. I may not. I may just sit.
And so my days can be ordinary ones. I happen to like ordinary. Quiet. Simple.
Actually, I am getting perilously close to the stage where I would prefer to stay home and never go out, and so, with that in mind, I am making myself plan things so I do indeed leave the house.
Ordinary simple days are never boring. My mind goes off on its travels and thoughts flitter through it, one settling for a while now and then for me to mull over.
I love being at home. I have always loved being at home. I love having a warm and welcoming house, where people feel comfortable popping in. There is so much to do here. I just love having the potential - the possibility of making whatever I think of, because I have supplies or stocks of so much crafty wonderfulness here. And good heavens, I still have Glynis's 60th birthday present to finish and she will soon be 61. Memo to self - DROP EVERYTHING AND FINISH IT!!
Sandra wrote a post yesterday about Home Economics. And she wondered why it is not taught any more.
I do not know about the rest of the world, but I have first hand experience of what has happened to the more non-academic subjects in our schools. I taught in that department, remember.
So I will tell you what has replaced those good old fashioned PRACTICAL lessons which have been a real blessing to most of us of a certain age. Even those of us who didn't like them at the time. I do remember my cinnamon roll biscuits. They were amazing. I also remember making a handmade pleated skirt to fit me in Standard 4. I would have turned 11 that year. We were taught to knit and sew and do embroidery and everything was handmade, and really totally impressive in retrospect.
So what has happened?
Once upon a time, all children learned practical things at school. For example, all through my schooling (I was at a girls only school), there were extra classes - art classes, singing classes, and some years, sewing and domestic science . None of these classes had exams. They were a practical addition to the timetable to round out our education. In some cases, the children who were never going to be academic stars, found something they could outshine their classmates at, and they became stars in another sphere. There was drama, gym, sport as well. Winter and summer. None of them had exams. In junior school, there were eurythmics (a sort of wave the arms gym) and library classes too. Most of the sewing stuff was in the junior school, now I come to think about it. The bar was high. We did not make rubbish.
Once you got to the last 2 years of school, you could elect to take a subject like art as an examination subject - and a few others I think.
So, no matter who you were, you learned a great deal about a great many things.
Fast forward to 2006 when I started working in secondary schools here, and you get a vastly different scenario. Secondary school starts when you are 11. GCSEs are written when you are 16, and a great many children leave after GCSEs. Then there are A levels for 2 years. And you leave school at 18. From 11 - 13, you do rotations of "design" in 6 week lots. That includes Graphic Design, Resistant Materials, Textiles and Food Technology. In 6 weeks you can teach almost nothing, especially if you are only seeing the little darlings once a week. And EVERYTHING starts with composing a "design brief". Move on to the 13-16 year olds and I nearly lost the will to live. Now we have examinations ahead. Not in how good you are at making something, but the entire 2 year period is taken up with identifying need, design briefs, cost analysis, consumer surveys, prototypes, product reviews, marketing etc etc etc. And those 30+ girls did not know how to thread a sewing machine. So I had to teach them from scratch, and then the rest was all about academic acumen. And the exams reflected this. We are training generations of children to draw up design briefs to send to China to have things made by a foreign workforce, because so help me, our own do not have a clue how to make anything any more. The end product is not the goal. It is the master plan and all those details that is.
So, all the kids I taught somehow fell in love with making things. And there was no time in class for them to make anything, so every single lunch time, I had upwards of 40 boys and girls barrelling through my doors so that "Miss - please teach me how to make a bag/cushion/hat etc etc" could happen. They loved making things. I loved teaching them to make things. And this is OUTSIDE the curriculum. My time. There is nowhere left for a lad to excel at woodwork, or metalwork. Nowhere for a budding chef to excel, unless they also shine academically, because that paperwork and cost analysis stuff is more important than the skills needed to make things.
I tell you, it is a total tragedy. I just wanted to teach them all to make and fix and be proud of their talents and abilities as they discovered them. They LOVED doing something as simple as making pompoms. Most had never made one. Couching - even the boys loved that. I taught the boys to use the machines by referring to boy racers, and accelerators and steering - they loved that. Other teachers used to send the troublemakers down to me, and I made them finish the work they were supposed to do before I let them loose on the machines - they worked for me.
One of the 12 year old prima donnas was a real challenge. There were a few screaming matches - I won. And then one day, she came in at lunch and fell in love with the embroidery machine. A week later, I put her in charge of teaching the rest of the kids - some older and some younger - how to use it. "Seriously, Miss? You want ME to teach them?" "Sure", I said - "you know more than any of them." That child grew 3 feet as I looked at her with a grin. A couple of months later, after endless lunches with the crowded room and excited kids all over the place making things, she had never missed a day. As the bell went, she and I were heading out across the courtyard, when she yelled to me "Hey Miss - I am not such a bad kid, am I?" "No, sweetie, you are not such a bad kid after all".
And that was the day I resigned. It nearly broke my heart. I didn't have a choice. But you know, I loved every minute of the lunch times. Not so much the teaching of the academic stuff, but the lunchtimes were a magical time. For me, and, I think, for them.
And now? That school no longer teaches textiles, or resistant materials. I don't know if it teaches graphics either. Art. Food technology. Such a waste. A total and utter waste.
Children need lessons in life - in the growing of food, the preparation of it, the sewing and fixing and mending and budgeting. In woodwork, art, singing, drama. reading, dancing, in playing sport together, learning to win and to lose. In being creative, in daring to try new things. In being messy and in DOING.
When I was at my last school and teaching "Design" - they told me to think up a plan for something interesting as a rotation because they had too many children and so I invented a 6 week course. Hmmm. Anyway. On the last day, I copied one of my colleagues from my first school's brilliant idea. I divided the class into 4, and each team had a bin bag of cardboard boxes, yoghurt pots, cotton reels, paper, glue, string, elastic etc. They had 30 minutes to make a land yacht, and then we raced them along the desks, propelled by a fan. The winners got a prize. You have NO IDEA how much fun that was. They loved it. They had to think, to build, to test and hopefully try to win. They even had their team cheerleaders.
Kids like making things. I love making things. Everyone loves the satisfaction of creating something. And I worry that the generation growing up now will never have the opportunity to learn how to make or do things, with so many parents having to work full time, and with schools missing out on the creative side in favour of making those subjects academic
Just look at the rising popularity of knit and natter clubs/gatherings. Of crocheting, and thank the Good Lord for the internet. There is hope! Maybe the rising number of homeschooled children here too means the tide will turn. And in the meantime, I can always teach a child myself, can't I.......