Are schools expecting too much and turning us into pushy mums?

I will never be a pushy mum.

This is my solemn vow to you, Beaver and Godivy.  I don’t mind if you are the first or the last to do something.  If you don’t want to conform.  You are wonderfully independent, spirited and funny and whilst you challenge the socks off me some days, I know that your wilfulness means that in life you will both be ok.  No matter how much I mess you up.

But I have to admit when I was told at a class forum last week that our children will have to be able to read and write by the time they break up for summer in July, I had two reactions.

Panic.  Then fear.  Both of which could turn me into a pushy mum.  If I let them.

Beaver is the youngest in her year.  Something that has never bothered me.  Hey, we’ve saved a year on nursery fees, what’s to worry about?

Now, like so many before me, I’m beginning to see the unreality and the shortcomings of the school system.

Because honestly, the rate at which ‘we’ are progressing in both reading and writing, it is difficult to see how Beaver is going to achieve what is expected of her.  By July.  Or how I am going to help her do this.  I don’t want to let her down.

You see, I have no real idea what is happening at school.  Academically speaking.  Oh yes, I know ‘who likes who,’ what Beaver had for lunch and who brought birthday treats in.  The stuff that is important to a four year old.

But as a first time school-mum, I know very little about school.  I don’t really know what Beaver is learning.  Or, more importantly, how.  And I feel completely unequipped to support her at home.  They may as well be asking me to teach her Mandarin.  As the complex language of Phonics.

If I am on the Everest of a steep learning curve and I can read and write, how must Beaver be feeling?

At the end of a long school day, longer on the days I work, the last thing Beaver wants to do is more reading or writing.  She wants to chill out and watch Katy Morag or do some painting.  She is four.  Of course, this is what she wants to do.

At the weekends, we are busy swimming, going to Sunday school, a party if Beaver is lucky.  On top of this, there is a never-ending list of chores to do.

I’m not sure schools, governments and statistics always appreciate this.

As parents, we are encouraged to ‘make learning fun’ and incorporate phonics and reading into everyday activities.  But unless you’re a trained professional, this doesn’t necessarily come naturally and we’re not given much guidance about how to actually do this.  In reality.  Us first timers need to be nurtured almost as much as the kids and supported through this new terrain.

In the meantime, I will accept the following.  That Beaver is still oh so very young.  That I am new to this too and quite possibly a hindrance in her learning, whilst I am still learning myself.  That Beaver will develop at her own rate and if this rate is different to what is expected, so be it.  We will cross that bridge if and when we come to it.

I will never be a pushy mum.

And this, Beaver, is my solemn vow to you.

Do you feel the expectations of your child are realistic?  Too high?  Do you have any tips?  I’d love to hear your comments so do share your views below.



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    7 thoughts on “Are schools expecting too much and turning us into pushy mums?

    1. Annabel Osborne

      i don’t know about Beavers school – but Georginas school learn actions with the sounds of the words – she still remembers them… I bought a book from costco that was for practicing reading and writing and came with a cd rom and a wipe off practice board…. join the dots to form the letters kind of thing… I thought the way they were taught was the biggest load of rubbish I had ever heard of – BUT I have to say Georgina reads exceptionally well – age 7 the only word she couldn’t work out was ‘pterodactyl’ (stupid kid)… The writing is not so good – but again it has never been of interest to her and I’ve never pushed… The only thing I wish I’d followed my instincts with – the school don’t care how they form the letter in reception so long as it looks correct on the page… This is fine initially – but when they progress to joined up writing it’s frankly a NIGHTMARE to break the habit!! Good luck – she’ll be fine!

    2. suzanne3childrenandit

      I thought I would NEVER be a pushy mum and on the whole, I am not. However then the little nagging thoughts of: What if they berate me when they are older, for not pushing them hard enough? I know that my husband’s siblings think that about his parents. Honestly, this parenting thing is such hard work! I just want my kids to do the best they can, I am expecting no more. It’s taken me a while to get used to the idea that they will never be the geniuses I thought they might! But that’s ok. We can only expect them to do their best and celebrate their achievements, however big or small.

      1. Amy RansomAmy Ransom Post author

        That’s a good point actually Suzanne. I sometimes wish my parents had pushed me to make a different university choice. You’re right, it’s all such hard work! Bring on Wet February ;0)

    3. Clare Piercy

      You know what? I think that what this country is missing is that all research and childhood experts no matter their opinion agree with one thing. We are losing sight of what is Really important for our 4 year olds and that is that they all learn best through play. Every child is born ready to learn, they learn to sit, roll and walk without any problem and what do we do while they are doing this? We clap, we encourage and we nurture. So we focus on making the feel good about themselves and they achieve. This is the same as school. If children feel good about themselves they will achieve! Not every child learns at the same rate, different children are better than others sat different things but this is their unique being that we should encourage to develop at the child’s own pace. Phonics at 4??? There is NO evidence to suggest this helps children achieve more when they are older in fact quite the opposite! Studies have shown that our children in England are amongst the most miserable in Europe and let’s face it there has to be something wrong when other counties whose children don’t start “formal” learning until age 7 are way ahead of us in every area! A play based approach and a real focus on physical, social and emotional development are what our 4/5 year olds need. Not phonics!!!

      1. Amy RansomAmy Ransom Post author

        Thank you for taking the time to share this Clare. You have articulated what I feel. If I’m struggling with Phonics what must a 4 year old be thinking? The pressure from schools is so great. Lists of what we are supposed to achieve by when. And no it’s not private. Beaver already says things like ‘school is boring’ and whilst I know this isn’t the whole picture that makes me sad. Reception class was so different when I went to school! Thanks for the perspective 😉

    4. Catherine

      My little girl is in reception too and I am a teacher with a specialism in phonics. You would think this would put me and my little girl at an advantage! Not necessarily! Trying to teach your own child to read and practise phonics at home is a different kettle of fish altogether than trying to teach a class of 30 reception age children believe me! I agree that children need time off when they get home from school. For me it’s a battle to get the reading done and now this week the spelling lists! Just do what you can and enjoy time with Beaver after school. She will learn to read and write at school and with your encouragement and support but she needs time to enjoy herself and play. I have had a stressful time this evening telling my little girl to do her reading properly when really we should have been having fun. I now feel terrible for being pushy.

      If you do want to get more clued up about phonics I suggest you google Debbie Hepplewhite’s phonics international. She has lots of info for parents and videos including info on how to say the sounds correctly. We use her teaching programme at school and the resources are excellent.

      I love phonics and reading and books but I hate the battles and pressure homework can create at home. Time with our children is precious and there are enough pressures in our lives already. I think at home reading a book to your child and talking about it is the most valuable thing you can do to help them with reading and writing.

      1. Amy RansomAmy Ransom Post author

        Thank you Catherine. This is so reassuring. I will check out Debbie Hepplewhite but also do as you suggest and carry on reading, enjoying and talking about the books we read. Good advice from someone in the know ;0)


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