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'Slow schooling' a good idea?

(68 Posts)
Hamishbear Mon 15-Oct-12 14:21:18

Some may have seen the recent Article in the Times? Mike Grenier, a house master at Eton said that tutoring outside school and any intensive regime after school involving such things as music lessons and sports etc could damage a child.

Mike Grenier went on to say such things were demotivating and emotionally dangerous as they could make children feel 'as if they are a passive project constructed against their will'. The article added 'Mr Grenier is an advocate of “slow education”, a concept adapted from a culinary movement begun in Italy as an antidote to fast food that has spawned a wider philosophical approach to travel, business, living and now schooling. With other teachers, in private and state schools, he is spearheading a campaign to infuse this approach into education, and will speak at the London Festival of Education next month'.

Mike Grenier admitted there was pressure at Eton but suggested that competitiveness was often peer driven and not unhealthy.

The article ends by saying: 'The role of the teacher or parent, he says, is to provide a safety net as a child walks a tightrope, and to raise or lower it in different circumstances. “The danger of hyper-parenting,” Mr Grenier says,” is that it is intrusive and they don’t even let them get on the high rope at all.”'

Cognitive entry tests at Eton (which are allegedly tutor proof) mean that those clever enough to get in can benefit from this slow schooling? I think those in 11 plus areas etc feel that they have no choice but to adopt anything but this gentle approach in order to give their child the best chance of grammar entry at 11? They are left with little choice in other words. Should 'Slow Schooling' be brought in?

orangeberries Tue 16-Oct-12 11:21:47

Agree with the sentiments above.

Having children at a bog standard primary that doesn't offer any music or sport, I have to provide these outside normal school hours. Our school has even dropped swimming now, so if I want my children to learn to swim it's down to me to pay and provide it and the same with everything else.

I would love for my children to have a host of activities at school and then relax and enjoy their free time at home. Sadly this is not possible they way the system works now in many schools and this is why parents are roped into the extracurricular machine.

Colleger Tue 16-Oct-12 11:31:30

Most parents at Eton are very nice but do not underestimate how pushy the vast majority are and they needed to be to get their sons in in the first place!

losingtrust Tue 16-Oct-12 12:24:24

I agree with the HM. There is a lot of pressure on parents now for music lessons/tutoring etc. Whilst I think swimming is essential skill but parents can also teach this and make it fun rather than structured and some music lessons are useful if school does not offer it, I personally think kids do too much. I am lucky in the schools mine are at that music lessons are included in the school day (not Eton or fee paying) and now I take the DCs swimming (good exercise for me too) and my DD only does one drama school activity now. Single working parent and therefore no time to rush around every night. The DCs are doing well at school now and really enjoying their hobbies rather than finding it a chore to go out every night to do karate etc. I was raised the slow way as per my siblings (all very well educated now). Look at Caitlin Moran's life story to see this in essence. Why overcomplicate their lives now? They have a lifetime to learn things and need to enjoy learning when they leave school. Over activating a child now could put them off in later life. There is a difference between parents who take no interest in schools at all and those that do not overschedule their children and this is the point he is trying to make. I take a lot of interest in schooling but am very against too many activities and tutoring.

BlueElephant90 Tue 16-Oct-12 12:32:24

I am sorry but it sounds like something a HM from Leighton Park would say not Eton...

propatria Tue 16-Oct-12 14:09:08

I think this should also be seen in the light of Eton admissions,my understanding is they are getting a bit tired of the heavily coached/polished product of certain prep schools in London/home counties,its getting harder and harder for them to see through that and find the" innate ability"which the test/interview is meant to find,my dc(one more to go) have got in from preps in the country and have not been heavily tutored,pushed etc as people claim on here but Ive visited schools who boast of double figure entry each year to Eton and I really would not want my dc attending those schools,I see this as a shot across the bows of certain preps but of course his general points can be taken further.

wordfactory Tue 16-Oct-12 14:14:23

That may be true prop.

But ya know he really needs to stop looking at the world through the prism of his own tiny part of it.

This is a 'problem' that affects a diminishingly small number of DC. If it even is a real problem.

Rolling it out as a movemnet smacks of being entirely out of touch.

ReallyTired Tue 16-Oct-12 14:25:10

I think that Mike Grenier lives in a different world to my son. If my son had no extra curricular activities then his world would be very boring. State schools have very little decent sport, music or drama. If parents did not allow their children to have hobbies outside school then the gap between state and privately educated children would be wider than ever.

My son loves his singing and playing his guitar. He does his music because he wants to.

losingtrust Tue 16-Oct-12 16:42:09

I think the main issue seems to be the pressure some parents feel to make sure their children have tutoring, grade 8 in an instrument, speak five fluent languages and are a gold medal winner in rowing (all by the age of 12). Sounds flippant but I have heard parents panicking when their child has not learnt to swim by the age of 5 or are not yet learning an instrument. The point is this kind of pressure does lead to children being a project not all actitivities but I know of some kids at my DD's school who do something every day after school and a couple of activities on Saturday so they do not have time for friends to come over just to spend time. To me there is plenty of time to be so fully scheduled. A couple of activities are probably sufficient and only ones children want to do.

I remember witnessing a woman forcing her two children into a swimming lesson and they cried all the way through every week because their legs were covered in excema and it was hurting them. For me that bordered on child cruelty and the mother just told them they had to learn to swim as everybody else could. This kind of pressure on kids is just not healthy. A lot of state schools do have music lessons (sometimes cheaper than the private schools), sports teams and if kids are interested there are options out of school. Many boys play football, rugby etc but what I have noticed and been told by a football scout is that many kids who start too young give up early because they get fed up of the routine from such a young age. I remember being upset when my DS gave up a sports club because he was so good at it but it was actually putting him off so I let him gave up. Some parents I knew were amazed that I allowed him to do that but life is long and not just about what you achieve by age 11.

Elibean Tue 16-Oct-12 16:58:59

I took it to mean, overall, that a healthy balance is best - as opposed to hyper-parenting/frenetic activity/pushiness. Which, sadly, does definitely exist.

In which case, I agree wholeheartedly.

EdgarAllanPond Tue 16-Oct-12 17:08:17

i got bored re-hashing the same stuff day after day in school. that did me no good. i don't think he's thinking about how a 'slow' approach would look in one of the more remarkably unchallenging schools of the state sector

on the other hand, the Chinese style where even very young children cram in structured lessons from dawn til dusk gives no space for invention.

middle way as ever.

EdgarAllanPond Tue 16-Oct-12 17:08:58

x-posts smile though ten minutes - what the hell was i doing??

ZZZenAgain Tue 16-Oct-12 17:09:34

I think it is true that if a dc's life consists of a great deal of coercion in addition to school (which is coercive itself by nature), then it can crush the spirit and dc thrive better when they can learn what they want to learn and when they want to do it outside of school - given a certain amount of inspiration and guidance. Although I am not sure this holds true for all children in all circumstances. I suspect that some left to find their way to interests of their own really don't get any further than the next computer game, whatever the specific reasons might be for that.

Extra-curricular activities tend to be the things you pursue throughout your life if you enjoy them. So in that way, I think they are actually more important than most school subjects. If you play sport and enjoy it in childhood, it could become a lifetime habit to do so, same for music or singing, dancing. Some things are just better acquired in childhood than in adulthood. A boy who attends scouts could grow up to be a group leader and have an active social life through that. Often too it is a hobby which you enjoy and become good at which can lead you to a particular job choice. So I do think a certain amount of extra-curricular activity is a good thing.

slipshodsibyl Tue 16-Oct-12 17:12:55

To be fair to the HM, it's not really possible to deduce exactly what he means from this article which is not very informative and is just filling space in the newspaper really. It seems to be a follow on to a similar article written in the Times a few days earlier. Here is an extract:

*Sophie, a TV executive, is only sorry that the $40,000-a-year Avenues won’t open here until 2016. Her son, Giles, attends an exclusive prep school in west London, where many of his classmates are Chinese or Russian. On top of the £16,000-a-year fees, Sophie estimates she pays about £400 a week for Giles’s extracurricular activities and coaching.

“I like to combine physical and academic things,” she says, elaborating on a week crammed with fencing, maths coaching, Suzuki piano method, tennis, badminton, stable management and charity work at their local animal sanctuary. Sophie did try Mandarin classes with Giles, but admits: “He’s having trouble with French, so we thought we’d drop that one.” She’s not ashamed of hot-housing her son. “Young kids need a good CV to get into the top private secondary schools these days.”

Mothers trying to get their children into a top comprehensive via a music place are driven to desperate measures. Sarah, a graphic designer from north London, admits she feels “slightly guilty” for making her daughters learn the bassoon and euphonium instead of piano and violin, but she reckoned they would have “a better chance with unusual instruments”.

Sophie concedes that organising Giles’s extracurricular life is exhausting, but she sees no educational value in boredom. “I can remember those long summer days in my own childhood when you’d be so bored you’d be kicking Coke cans around for something to do.” She insists that she’s not as pushy as some parents. There is a boy in Giles’s class who has endless cello and piano lessons and is forbidden by his parents to play sport in case he damages his hands. “He’s really porked out,” Sophie says, eyebrows raised. She adds that his parents tried (unsuccessfully) to resolve the weight problem by sending him to Vienna for a month this summer with a personal trainer.

Sarah admits that she suffers from “paranoia and toxic thoughts” when she sees how other people are bringing up their children. “We saw some kids in the park. They were obviously from public school, and playing cricket in a really confident, aggressive manner. I thought, ‘Oh, they’ll go on to become bankers and get on in life.’ But right-on friends give you such flak if you go private.”

An unlikely critic of this constant hot-housing is Eton College. Next month, Mike Grenier, a housemaster who has been a teacher at the private school for nearly 20 years, will be promoting “slow education” at this year’s London Festival of Education. Grenier, 42, calls the hyper-parenting phenomenon a “crisis whose epicentre is London”.

“You can’t micromanage children’s lives and neither should you. You need to give teenagers time to discover life at a natural rhythm, to fall on their faces.”*

It's a bit of a silly article about a minority of parents. I don't think he's said anything out of order in this context. It might also just be a plug for the London Education Festival, what ever that is. No doubt lots of the above parents might attend if an Eton HM is speaking.

slipshodsibyl Tue 16-Oct-12 17:14:16

Actually, I've just re-read it and I think Sophie is a figment of the writer's imagination.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 16-Oct-12 22:21:24

If this is a potential for government to adopt as I believe someone up thread suggested that Grenier had said. Then the cynic in me is thinking maybe this could be a way of Gove and co ceasing any funding for music, sport, the arts, etc. Maybe even to remove them for good and we will believe its for the good as "slow learning" is the best way.

Hamishbear Wed 17-Oct-12 00:14:01

Slipshod what is the title of the article?

happygardening Wed 17-Oct-12 07:30:43

I'm suspect these examples are made up but probably also have a large degree of truth in them as well. The competition for places at schools like Eton St Paul's Westminster is exceedingly fierce. In your 8-10 minute interview you have to shine. The Pre test Eton do does not ask about interests, but the reference from a child prep needs to state what an all round child they are.
Historically most children going to Eton of course came from boarding preps; activities provided courtesy of the school to filll up a school day. I d

happygardening Wed 17-Oct-12 07:35:55

I doubt most children in primary schools do as much as their contempories being aiming at Eton etc. because even for super selective grammar schools there are no interviews asking about you hobbies and interests. Although of course there will always be parents in the state sector who do view their children as "projects."

Bonsoir Wed 17-Oct-12 07:47:00

I doubt the examples are fabricated! I know plenty of children with very full-on schedules. TBH, when urban parents both work, there is a great deal of security in scheduling your DCs' time with lots of improving activities with other children. Hanging out at home with a housekeeper who barely speaks a language in common with the children tends to end up being a TV or games console fiesta.

exoticfruits Wed 17-Oct-12 07:58:40

I agree with Farewelltoarms.
However, if they really have tutor proof entry tests I wish they would share them with other schools - especially in the grammar school areas.

happygardening Wed 17-Oct-12 08:07:06

Also children going to Eton have to sit CE i was told/read somewhere that CE curriculum requirements are generally considered two years ahead of the same year group in the state sector I struggle to see how that equates to slow schooling.
exotic Eton may state that Pre test can't be tutored for but rest assured most parents/prep schools are frantically coaching for it who knows whether it is beneficial. And they are very keen to tell you that the 8 minute interview and reference are also very important.

exoticfruits Wed 17-Oct-12 08:11:24

I am very sceptical that any tests are tutor proof.

slipshodsibyl Wed 17-Oct-12 08:21:07

Hamish , the article is here: 'In The Hot House' (7th October)

Hamishbear Wed 17-Oct-12 12:38:53

Many thanks. Had an interesting chat with a friend who said her Prep are preparing children daily at the moment for computer based cognitive tests. It seems as someone said up-thread there are no tutor proof tests? - although I have heard that you can't really improve VR scores or cognitive test scores beyond a certain point?

slipshodsibyl Wed 17-Oct-12 15:02:39

I think you can coach for familiarity with a computerised test and for technique. Eton says its test cannot be prepared for. I don't know if it can or not. Prep school parents are paying customers and require that their children practise, so schools comply. Whether this does any good over and above a certain number of tries I don't know, but thought the answer was that it does not (for this kind of test).

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