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What's the difference between a "hothouse" and a school that pushes your child to meet their true natural ability?

(200 Posts)
HappyDads Thu 20-Dec-12 01:56:00

On Mumsnet, "hothouse" often seems to be used - by implication - as a slightly derogatory term for "damaging your child" by those not getting into said hothouse school (Westminister, St. Pauls, Eton, SPGS, Tiffins, Habs, Wycombe Abbey etc - whatever floats your boat actually).

Yet we all want our DCs to reach their maximum potential, and be stretched, yet without being damaged. Where is our dividing point?

Seriously I struggle to balance my own thinking with my DD at a school often described as both a "hothouse" and yet also called "balanced".

So what is a "hothouse" and is it more a term of jealousy vs your own DC's ability, or is it something more tangible you can describe?

bulletpoint Thu 20-Dec-12 10:12:07

What is a hot house to one parent is a rather "good school" to another. I don't believe there can be one standard definition, its best to just assess each school based on what's right for one's child.

seeker Thu 20-Dec-12 10:15:05

As I said, child happy, excited and learning = challenging.
Child not hqppy, stressed, anxious and learning- or spending hours on homework before they get to public exams= hothouse.

bulletpoint Thu 20-Dec-12 10:32:20

Happyg - just to pick up on your previous point, it seems then from what you've described, that the D children in this particular case are not scoring low due to lack of knowledge but due to poor 'exam technique' in which i can see why the Heads are convinced that if this is addressed they can achieve A's. I may be wrong but this is how i interpret it.

I suppose in all honesty a D child can be so for very many reasons other than lack of natural ability and we sometimes miss this crucial fact.

Bonsoir Thu 20-Dec-12 10:33:29

We have lots of friends and acquaintances here in Paris who have sent their children to "hothouse" lycées and prépas, or engaged strongly in hothousing (masses of conservatoire, for example). A lot - though not all - of the children have had major teenage crises - anorexia, depression, complete loss of motivation etc.

LaVolcan Thu 20-Dec-12 10:34:08

For me, it would be the girl who is in tears because, despite putting all the hours and more required in, she 'only' got As instead of an A*s, instead of celebrating the fact that this is a good achievement.

bulletpoint Thu 20-Dec-12 10:44:04

To correct what i said in answer to happyg" ...... Not due to lack of knowledge (poor exam technique is also lack of knowledge!) i should have said "due to lack of natural ability for the subject"

mummytime Thu 20-Dec-12 10:44:45

If they are pushing then I would think they are hothousing.

I prefer schools which provide opportunities and encourage pupils to take them. Which challenge and extend. An over reliance on exam results is a bad sign, the best schools get strings of A* from bright pupils without pressure or narrowing the curriculum.

Does the school celebrate everyone's success, does it look for success from everyone? What extra-curricula opportunities are there? What community service opportunities? What is the pastoral care like?

rabbitstew Thu 20-Dec-12 10:45:51

Your child was hothoused if he or she turns around to you when he is an adult and tells you he was and that he seriously resented it.

ChazsBrilliantAttitude Thu 20-Dec-12 10:47:19

I know that for some parents academic acheivement is to come first, second and third. I just wonder if some of the schools that are assumed to be hothouses actually are. My sons' prep is a feeder into one of the schools I mentioned and I get the sense that whilst good academic results are expected its not surprising that a cohort that needed 70% in the CE to get in, produce good results. Certainly what I have seen of those schools seem to place quite a lot of emphasis on sport, music and extra curricular activities as well e.g. St P has a long lunch break (1hr 40m) to allow for clubs etc.

Elibean Thu 20-Dec-12 11:06:27

Bonsoir, all very true - and sad. My mother (who is 84) remembers her own education in Paris, and says 'it was a sausage factory - and the problem was, I was not a sausage'

wildirishrose Thu 20-Dec-12 11:13:00

Only thick children need to be pushed/tutored, true academic children are self starters and will always go the extra mile to achieve the best results whatever school they attend.

LaVolcan Thu 20-Dec-12 11:34:51

@wildirishrose - best keep away from all those threads about Tiffins then smile, unless you want a cyberlynching of course.

TotallyBS Thu 20-Dec-12 11:37:54

If hot-housing is where a school pursues academic excellence to the exclusion of everything else like sports, the arts, music and drama then I doubt that the ones mentioned in the OP's list are hot-housing schools. Anyone who has but a passing familiarity with the schools know how much importance they place on music, art, drama and sports.

As one poster said upthread, one parent's hot housed child is another's thriving and challenged child.

There are children who have landed in an academic environment where they can't cope (cue debate about over tutored kids and the 11+). Whatever school they are in will be accused of hot-housing by the parent.

One only needs to look at the long continuing thread about Habs Girls that gets bumped every few months. I know kids who went there and they loved it. But there are no shortage of ex Habs girls going on about hot-housing and the academic pressure.

TotallyBS Thu 20-Dec-12 11:42:49

wildirish: MN is full of stories about bright kids that failed the 11+ because their parents didn't believe in tutoring. I'm guessing that there are a lot of parents with 'thick' tutored kids with offers that are glad that there are parents like you out there grin

badguider Thu 20-Dec-12 11:49:13

"we all want our DCs to reach their maximum potential, and be stretched"

Well, i dont' know, i want my DC to be happy.... getting good grades at school opens more possibilities than not getting such good grades, BUT... grades are a reflection of the level a child is working at and leads to opportunities that require the continuation of working at that level. I think 'hothousing' is the effort to artificially inflate the grades a child gets to make them exceed expectations and appear comfortable working at a higher level than they really are comfortable at.

A 'hothouse' would push a child at primary level to get marks required for a selective environment at secondary that requires them to keep pushing and pushing to keep up with their peers and get grades for a university that requires them to keep pushing... being a little bit out of your comfort zone occassionally is a good thing but being always out of your comfort zone, feeling like you might sink at any moment and always on edge is not a way i'd want to live my life and not what i want for my DC either.

ChazsBrilliantAttitude Thu 20-Dec-12 11:50:43

I do hope you are joking because quite frankly I think there is a fairly significant number of bright kids from more deprived backgrounds that are not reaching their full potential due to a whole range of issues such as poor schools, lack of resources, lack of space and quiet to do hw etc. There is a limit to how far self starting can take you.

badguider Thu 20-Dec-12 11:53:32

oh, and you can totally 'hothouse' in sport and music and cadets and DofE etc. etc. as well as academics...

in fact, pressure to get tons of A*s AND play in the firsts for rugby or hockey AND get gold DofE AND a grade 8 in an instrument etc... can be worse than just academic pressure on its own.

happygardening Thu 20-Dec-12 11:53:56

Chaz I know all about St Pauls and its long lunch break and am a great admirer of it. It probably appears that the boys are working hard because there day is actually not very long especially compared to boarding schools all I believe finish at 4 pm.
The one big difference I do know about compared to my DS school (also considered a hot house by some) is that my DS's school does not set homework over the holidays (no relief smiley what a shame) whereas St Pauls I know does. My husband an old Pauline used to hate the endless homework given over the holidays at that was many many moons ago.

happygardening Thu 20-Dec-12 11:59:09

"oh, and you can totally 'hothouse' in sport and music and cadets and DofE etc. etc. as well as academics..."
Years ago I trained along side world class sportsman (Im not one just privileged enough to train along side them) and those identified as potential world class young sportsman. They worked at their chosen sport day and night this is essential if you are going to achieve at world class level. Some would say this is hot housing and I know they had days when they hated it but that is how you win Olympic medals.

NightLark Thu 20-Dec-12 12:02:45

Wildirishrose's point is my ILs point of view. With the result that DH was never allowed to learn to play an instrument (something he would have loved to do) because "if he had the true ability he would just pick up something and play it, he wouldn't need encouraging". I think that is a shame. And the concept easily translates to other aspects of academic and recreational life.

I think hothousing is pushing your children way beyond what they would enjoy. Encouraging and placing opportunities in their way is different.

I did not 'hothouse' DS when I insisted he stayed at football practice rather than quitting, despite his tears and protests at the first session. I made sure he took the opportunity to improve his football - something he had been begging to do for months. Had I insisted he stayed week after week if he had carried on hating it, practiced when he was tired, and that he was always 'the best', that would be hothousing.

bulletpoint Thu 20-Dec-12 12:09:53

Oh, and no 11 year old should ev be doing homework past 9 at night. Unless it's a self induced crisis of some sort. And then only as a one off thing.

You don't know anything about my dc day to day life so you are not in a position to dictate when 11 year olds should finish their homework. What would be more useful to know is what the quantity of homework is not what time they finish.

happygardening Thu 20-Dec-12 12:11:08

"practiced when he was tired,"
those aiming to be the best in the world IME frequently practice when they are way beyond tired, but what they don't do is believe that they are the "best." Many i knew had little belief in their obvious abilities they and their trainers were were constantly analysing and criticising their performance.

seeker Thu 20-Dec-12 12:12:41

Actually, I don't think it matters what sort of day to day life a child has, they shouldn't be doing homework past 9.00 at the age of 11.

happygardening Thu 20-Dec-12 12:15:03

seeker I too wouldn't let my 11 yr old regularly work past 9 pm but we are all different and also have a different structure to day/life.

NightLark Thu 20-Dec-12 12:18:05

HG, I think that's part of it. I see intensive work, intensive training as different to hothousing. I have worked intensively, am one of those self-starting academic achievers from a very ordinary comprehensive school background. My choice, even at a young age.

IMO, hothousing is what happens when it is all about other people - parents, schools - not the children in question.

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