At the recent Mountain Festival in Keswick I was drawn to a talk on ‘Adventuring as a Family’ given by a family of four; Mum, Dad and two daughters aged 10 and 12.
They were talking about how to ‘adventure’ as a family and what outdoor challenges they had met over the past year, such things as climbing the Yorkshire Three Peaks, canoeing the width of Scotland, endurance cycle rides etc.
This family’s achievements got me thinking about how and where we actually do most of our real learning in terms of the skills needed to succeed in life and work and to make us the best that we can be!
Most of the talking was done by the two girls. The way they presented themselves and spoke was way beyond their years and their achievements were way beyond those of your average 10 and 12 year olds. As a family they have written books, raised money and campaigned for charities, blogged, spoken at festivals and events, and much more. These two girls were obviously learning many varied and different skills from what they were involved with as a family.
We often struggle, as parents, with how to get the balance right between school, homework, extra curricula activities and family time in order to achieve happy, healthy, and well-educated children who will go on to do well in terms of building their own life and jobs.
It challenged me to think about what actually gives children the best opportunities in life. Is it doing really well at school and completing all your homework to the best of your ability? Is it having a great family life that is so busy that it’s sometimes hard to fit in all the homework? Is it having lots of extra-curricular activities and meeting people? Or is it having time to play, imagine, explore and experiment? The demands of reading, homework and other school activities often don’t leave us with much time and energy for the rest.
So how does this wonderful family in Keswick manage to do all this as well as cope with the demands that schools put on children? A visit to their website tells that last year Mum and Dad quit their jobs, as teachers and took the kids out of school. They now devote themselves to adventuring and learning in the outdoors.
I’m not suggesting here that everyone takes their kids out of school and goes adventuring! But I do think that there is so much more to learning than simply what happens academically in the classroom, particularly at a time of increased testing and accountability. Many children’s families simply can’t offer the same opportunities to experience the outdoors in even a fraction of the way as those two impressive girls in Keswick. Perhaps schools should be trying to do more of this for our children, at least as far as our health and safety conscious society will allow.
So does the balance in our school curriculum need to change? Is there anything we can do, as people working in education, to change that balance? The testimony of those two girls in Keswick at least suggests that we should try!