Initially, my plan was to dedicate this week’s blog post to extolling the virtues of my new favourite comedy heroine, but that will have to wait, as something less hilarious but more urgent has come up that I want to address.
This morning I marched my children off to school earlier than usual, to attend a parents’ meeting in my eldest daughter’s class. She’s now in year four, and with only two years to go before she moves on to secondary school, the pressure is building. I assumed that was what the meeting was about.
I am not a pushy mother, and deliberately so, as personal experience tells me that a bunch of A grades isn’t the key to happiness.
That’s not to say I don’t care about my children doing well at school; of course, I do. But I don’t believe the so-called ‘Tiger Mum’ approach is a particularly constructive, or healthy, way of supporting my children’s growth.
I was pleased to discover, therefore, that the reason we’d all been called into school this morning was not to add more pressure, but on the contrary, to implore us not to fret about our children’s secondary school application and to assure us that tutoring was not the way to go.
Tutoring, by the way, is an ever-growing business in London thanks to anxious parents worrying that their darlings won’t get into the ‘best’ schools, thus ruining their chances of a prosperous future.
In a nutshell, the headmistress’s message was: your children’s academic future doesn’t depend squarely on them excelling in arithmetic and algebra. Math is important of course, but so is reading for pleasure and immersion in creative pursuits, as well as the ability to think independently, none of which tutoring will necessarily achieve.
The headmistress’s words were music to my ears though there were a few grumblings from other parents.
Each to their own, I suppose, but when it comes to my daughter’s application to secondary school, I am infinitely more interested in finding a school that suits her, rather than pushing her to the brink to secure a place at a top ranking school.
I’d like to think I know what I am talking about. I’ve got postgraduate degrees from two top-ranking universities, but I credit a large portion of my learning and growth to the happy two and half years I spent at a small, respectable but by no means top ranking – liberal arts college in the American mid-west.
I learned much more there than I did at the Ivy-League universities I subsequently attended, and where the relentless pressure to excel, took me down the route to depression, excessive drinking and an eating disorder.
Yes, I got my PhD in the end, but it cost me both my physical and emotional health, and I’ve spent much of the last decade repairing the damage and gradually finding my way back to the person I truly am.