Why I hate SATs testing – a note from an oncology Mum

Mrs Brown's Blogs

My son will sit his SATs next week along with his friends.  I am so proud and grateful for this because in January 2016 he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia and will continue to be in treatment until 2019.  I have watched him as he has maturely and determinedly prepared for the SATs by attending additional classes after school and completing reams of work at home without a fuss.

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I know he finds it hard.  It breaks my heart as I watch him trying to remember how to answer a maths problem or to apply the concentration that he needs.  It breaks my heart to know that when the results come out in July they will not recognise how hard it has been for him and many others because of the personal battles they face.  I know he will be ranked and judged against his peers…

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Two Years a Blogger ~ How Blogging Has Helped Me Cope With My Son’s Cancer Diagnosis

Two years ago today I sat and wrote my first blog, ‘And so the story looks like this’.  I can remember it well.  It symbolised the start of my re-engagement with the world following Felix’s diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.  Whilst this was just a virtual dialogue, the safety of the blogging world gave me control over who I engaged with.

At the time, I was reluctant to be with or speak to people outside of our home because of the unpredictability of who I might see, what might be expected in conversation and how I might respond.  We were submerged in a new world of emotions where my only priority was to keep Felix emotionally and physically strong along with his brother and sister.  I did not have the capacity to think or consider beyond this.  In all honesty, I feel as though I am only just beyond that remit now.

When the children went to bed I would sit in the front room with the TV on for background noise.  My husband went into the other room and lost himself in a different virtual reality of gaming.  This again offered him the emotional security and safety we relished.  We didn’t really have the emotional strength, need or want to talk to anyone, even over the phone.  Our world was so small and confined we had very little to talk about beyond treatment plans and the logistics of family life with a very poorly son.  So I blogged.  My first blog just came out.  No planning, no theme just what I wanted to expel and vocalise. Once I started I couldn’t stop.  I blogged every evening as a way of trying to make sense of what was going on our lives.  I blogged to numb my feelings of utter terror.  I blogged so that something good might come out of this thing we were in.

As I blogged my heart out, my readership grew.  The comments and support I received gave me purpose and a desire to use my blog as a forum to spread awareness of what families in difficult situations including childhood cancer go through and offer support if I could.  People starting contacting me from near and far about all sorts of things.  I was speaking an honest and brutal language which many people understood and had experience of themselves.  This positive response empowered me to continue writing with the hope that each blog would resonate with just one person so that he/she will no longer feel alone or confined to the situation they are in.

I never intended Mrs Brown’s Blogs to be a commercial blog, I still don’t (although if it could pay off our mortgage, that would be quite nice!).  Yet, at the end of the week, I am attending the UK Blog Awards 2018 as a finalist in the Health and Social Care category.  I am so proud to have achieved this; I am so proud that childhood cancer will feature on a mainstream platform.  We must talk about this.  It’s not going away and the stats of 1 in 300 is not rare – 1 in a million maybe.  The more we talk, the more people will listen and the more potential there is for change.

In the meantime, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your love and support over the last two years.  It has really made this whole thing easier to bear.  This is just the beginning, I still need you!  We have just over a year of treatment left, please stick with us and encourage others to join the journey.  The tough and difficult times that we go through are hidden within my words, yet by communicating them to you, the intensity reduces enabling me to do what I have to do.  That is, work towards a positive future for all of #TeamBrown and other families who have to walk a similar path.

 

 

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April 2016

 

 

It’s Not The Leukaemia. My Fear of Relapse.

I was so pleased to hear those words at our recent oncology review.

I try not to say or think about relapse.  Instead, I bury it in my subconscious with a lot of fear, uncertainty and anger.  Freud would have a field day in my subconscious at the moment – so much repression taking place.  But that’s a blog for another time – not ready for publicly unearthing my subconscious yet!

Since Christmas, Felix’s health and corresponding blood counts have been all over the place.  His fatigue and illness caused by parvovirus could certainly mimic a relapse and with last week’s wipeout and neutrophil drop, sometimes it’s hard not to think relapse.

To hear, “it’s not the leukaemia” not only made me breathe a sigh of relief and bring a tear to my eye, it also validated my fears and worries.  Whilst I do my very best to maintain a positive outlook, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t consider the chance of relapse.  I know the stats, I’ve met the children, it happens.

The reason I write this today is as a shout out to everyone who has a subconscious full of fears, worries and anxiety.  To stay strong for your children and your family you may conceal these emotions to protect yourself and those around you.  A simple recognition of these subconscious feelings can offer validation and reassurance which can empower.  A simple nod to those fears and worries can make you feel stronger, maybe even to the extent you can talk about it.  The nod I had, which recognised my fear of relapse, has enabled me to face my worries and anxiety.  Almost like a valve in a pressure cooker has been slightly opened.  Not too much.  Just enough to rationalise my fear and then give it permission to be submerged again.  By opening the valve slightly, a small amount of power has been released from the fear.  It will certainly poke it’s ugly head back up when the next blood count comes back with anomalies, yet this will be with less authority.  It’s had the nod – it’s on it way out.  It may take months, most probably years, but because my fear of relapse has been acknowledged it will never have the same power again.  Until then, I will continue to repress with a smile!

I am not concerned about this repression by any means.  It’s how I deal with this thing.  One day I will tempt these feelings out of my subconscious, probably through blogging, maybe through therapy, I hope through chance rather than contrived.  At the moment, they are safe where they are.  I do wonder what/when/where/how is the best way to free these huge things which hang around our subconscious.

A Daily Walk and Talk session with a non-judgemental listening ear, I think, can unleash and resolve many inner conflicts, feelings and emotions.  Fifteen minutes a day walking with a confidant; sharing and listening, rather problem-solving or focussing on solutions can provide a safe and valuable space to start to unravel those repressed emotions or experiences.

If you ever see me standing on a street corner on a school day morning, no matter what the weather, ‘chatting’, this is what I am doing.  It is my Daily Walk and Talk session.  I am so fortunate to have a daily confidant.  It wasn’t planned this way – it just happened.  We clearly trust and value each other and dearly miss the sessions if we are not able to do the school run.  We talk everything, no censorship, no judgement, no rules. It certainly helps.  It was in this space that I first mentioned my fear of relapse. A lot has been shared in this space.

I would argue for Daily Walk and Talk Sessions for all to promote positive mental health.  The benefits and outcomes could enable us all to manage our mental health in a more regular and healthy way.  If we exercise our mental health on a daily basis by articulating what is making us sad/happy/angry/frustrated I know that those fears, worries and anxiety would lessen.  By giving them the nod we, in turn, disempower them.  We gain control over these fears and worries, we can open and shut their valves when we want to, reducing their power and eventually eliminating them from the depths of where they have existed for so long.We all feel better when we offload – often, there doesn’t need to be a solution or answer, just space.

We don’t need answers, they are often impossible to find.  We don’t need solutions, we’ve probably tried them all.  We just need time and space.

We don’t need solutions, we’ve probably tried them all.  We just need time and space.

We just need time and space.

Would you like time and space to exercise your mental health?  Would you be interested in a Daily Walk and Talk Session?  Get in touch today – let’s see what we can do!

 

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The Path to Walk and Talk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Hate About Fortnite

My usual calm and compliant nine-year-old turns into a different boy when armed with his controller and headset.  He automatically adopts the persona of a testosterone-fuelled, alpha-male as he struts the Fortnite Terrain with his team by his side.

This is what I despise the most.

It isn’t gaming as such.  In moderation, as with anything, I don’t mind it at all.  In fact, I think it can be a welcome form of relaxation for children who are growing up in a busy and chaotic world.  Of course, I would much rather they engaged in something more ‘wholesome’ like reading, playing outside or board games but this just isn’t the world my kids are living in.  Gaming is a key player in our leisure time.  My husband enjoys it and we have lived quite happily side by side with Minecraft, Fifa and Forza.

However, Fortnite is a different story.

Not only does my nine-year-old play but my other two children also play.  My thirteen-year-old daughter who usually spends time in the world of health and beauty and my football mad 12-year-old have succumbed to the lure.  The older ones play, probably once a day, and fortunately are able to moderate the length and frequency.  They’ll nip in for half an hour and then potter off to do something else.  They laugh and joke as they play.

That is fine.

What worries me is the hold it has on my nine-year-old and the way it turns him into a different person.  One without reason, kindness or compassion.  As soon as he gets permission to play you can immediately see the excitement and adrenalin starting to build.  If the game is delayed because of an update you can literally see the steam coming out of his ears.  And then he’s on.  We then have a good five minutes of him calling his friends to play.  Once they have established their team the mission begins and his Fortnite alter-ego emerges.  During gameplay he dictates and demands, declares and despairs.  The result of his complete absorption in the game leaves him in a trance like state.  He’s never experienced this intense range of emotions before.

He can’t manage it.  He can’t cope with it.

As soon as I feel as though the emotions of gameplay are starting to take a grip without him being able to control it, I intervene and dictate that the game over.  Following the obvious protest he surrenders and after about five minutes and our happy, funny and calm boy returns.

This is what I hate about Fortnite.  It changes my boy.

There has been an abundance of research about the effect of gaming on behaviours and attitudes which I have always taken with a pinch of salt.  However, having now experienced the immediate impact of gameplay on my son my viewpoint has changed.

Personally, I can’t wait for this current fad to fade into the history books.  For parents out there who are experiencing the same, you are not alone.  Every day I will continue to restrict despite his protest.

If we all work towards limiting their gameplay maybe we can bring about the demise of Fortnite?

Who’s up for it?

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My Child Has Cancer: Things You Could Do And Say By Those Who Know

This is written from the hearts of over 50 parents of children with cancer. 

These words are borne from heartache, love and experience.

What you do and say makes this thing a whole lot better for me.  You…

You…

  • Keep in regular contact and adopt a ‘no fuss approach’. Thank you.
  • Talk to me about my child’s cancer.  I need to talk about it.  It’s a huge part of our life now.  Thank you.
  • Pick up the siblings, drop off groceries or prepare a meal.  You take out our bins on bin day, cut the grass, wash the car.  Thank you.
  • Ask if you could go to my house before I come home from the hospital to give it a clean.  We don’t really need this but it is so specific and I can see you want to do something practical.  You wash my bed linen instead.  Thank you.
  • Play with my child so that I can pop out for some fresh air or go for a shower.  Thank you.
  • Are there for ME.  You love my child but you are the only one who makes me feel normal!  You are also the first person to check in if he’s not doing OK.  Thank you.
  • Overwhelm me with an outpouring of love, understanding and empathy.  Thank you.
  • Set up a meal train for our kid’s lunches.  It is so nice to know that so many people want to help. I even had a mum say that her heart was filled with love when she made those lunches. Thank you.
  • Arrange a meal train so that every Monday there is a lovely home cooked meal for us.  If you had offered I would’ve said no.  Thank you.
  • Prepare food and meals for us which is a huge stress relief especially with lots of hospital stays! You cut our grass if summertime.  Thank you.
  • Phone to check in and to see if we need anything from the store.  Thank you.
  • Send cards and little gifts and include all the siblings as you know they tend to get pushed aside when a brother or sister has cancer.  Thank you.
  • Pay for an ironing lady to do two black bags of ironing. You just gave me her number and said just call her when you’re ready.  Thank you.
  • Gave me a couple of Costa gift cards…for coffee at the hospital, or if I just wanted to escape for a quiet cuppa etc.  Thank you.
  • Sent my child an iTunes gift card to download games or films etc.  Thank you.
  • Made up a parcel of PJs and toiletries both for me & my child.  Thank you.

Please don’t…

  • Do nothing and ignore me “because I didn’t know what to say.”  I would rather people say the wrong thing than saying nothing at all.
  • Excuse not texting because you think ‘we have a lot on.’
  • Ignore my other children.  It is lovely that you ask how my child with cancer is and how I am but please also think about my other children and my partner.
  • Say, “we have been following your child’s daily plight on Facebook”.  We don’t journal extensively on FB so I know that it’s just a platitude.
  • Say “let us know the next time your child is in the hospital as we would like to visit.”  And then not turn up.
  • Say, “Well I didn’t want to bother you because you seem like you have loads on …”
  • Tell me stories about grandparents, uncles, acquaintances you know who had cancer which is totally unrelated and who aren’t children.
  • Say, “don’t worry it will all be fine, he will be fine, he is a fighter.”  I know you say it because you don’t know what else to say but no one can see the future where cancer is concerned.

What surprised me …

  • I thought were my closest friend but you haven’t been there … not even a text.  People who I didn’t really know have been amazing.
  • A journey like this has shown me who my real friends are and it has also introduced me to new friends.
  • My friends of 20 years never once helped me or popped in to make sure I was OK.  I found those who I’ve known longer didn’t want to be there.
  • Someone very close to me never asked how my child was doing but a new friend from school came to the hospital and brought a goody bag of little things for my child and her sibling which filled them with delight.  That meant a whole lot.
  • You get to see the true colours of friends and family.
  • The friends and family we thought would be there for us have been nowhere to be seen. No phone calls or texts.
  • It’s been a very interesting learning experience of people’s behaviour. As others have said, I have been amazed at the kindness and generosity of people – some who were friends and some who we hardly knew. I have also felt a little disappointed/surprised by others, but luckily that’s in the minority.

In summary, here are a few wishes …

  • I wish friends and family would just ‘do’ rather than wait to be asked.  We have so much to think about, we don’t really know what we want.  Plus (for us as a family) we don’t find asking for help easy as it makes us feel like we’re failing in some way.  Simple things like cooking a meal, offering to babysit, hospital visits, listening to us rant, cards through the post, actually getting in contact rather than a ‘we are always thinking of you’.
  • Please be more proactive and specific, not vague.  Some friends said, “hope to see you soon” whereas others said, “when can I visit? Tues, Wed or Fri are good for me.”  Guess which one I text back first and arranged to see?
  • If you are offering to help, please don’t be too polite.  I haven’t got the time or energy to encourage people to come or worry if they’ve been pushed out of line in the pecking order of visitors.
  • Please understand that when we say we are OK we aren’t.  Little things make all the difference.  Normal life goes out the window.  At the beginning, I was so busy concentrating on what was happening I forgot to eat.
  • When you visit me in the hospital, turn up with food!  One visitor brought me a big box of mince pies.  If I’d popped into the shop myself I’d probably not have chosen them because making decisions about what to eat when your poorly child can’t eat anything without vomiting is difficult.  Those mince pies were lovely.
  • Some friends/coworkers are afraid to bug me because I must be so busy.  In actuality, during treatment, there is lots of waiting and downtime that are better filled with connecting with people than more worrying. Stay connected with me!
  • When our child was diagnosed, my head was spinning with thousands of things that needed to be done.  Ask me for a list!
  • Don’t forget the siblings.
  • I really wish some people would have texted more often just to see how we were or to chat for a little about anything. It was pretty lonely being in there with little interaction with the outside world.
  • I’m not gonna ask for help, so offer to do something specific, on a specific day. Then I can just say yes please or no thanks.
  • Keep asking how my child and family are doing. Being over a year into treatment my child *looks* “normal” but if anything I am finally coming out of the fog of just getting by during that first year of treatment and still need support. I am eternally grateful for the people who always check in on me regularly because sometimes, they check on that one day when I really needed to know I’m not alone.
  • Invite me to normal social events.
  • So what do we need…company.  Either in the ward or drop by the house when we are low in energy.  We crave actual conversation & laughter but also for you to listen and develop an actual understanding of this world.
  • The thing I would’ve loved most is a few homemade dishes sent up in Tupperware to the hospital as I got completely fed up with the limited choices and fast food.
  • DO anything, something, whenever… send a note (send one a month), let us know we are on your mind even if we don’t know you (friend of a friend sent the nicest card), keep sending notes months/years past diagnosis, acknowledge that THIS SUCKS every part of it sucks, every part. I have been so blessed and let’s not kid ourselves money has helped the most with copays, food, and gas etc. but I have been most touched by the personal notes and stories of encouragement that seem to appear at just the right time.

 

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this blog so openly and honestly.

Many of us are on a long, bumpy road and we would like to thank everyone who has and continues to support and love us.  

We couldn’t do it without you!

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The Day We Met Dr H.

Two years ago today we met Dr H.. for the first time.  Whilst he’s a very nice bloke indeed, I really wish we hadn’t.  That day will be etched in our life story forever.  It changed the essence of our hopes and the direction of our dreams.

Thursday 28th January 2016

It’s about 5pm, a hospital room in the Children’s Assessment Unit of Poole Hospital.  Dr H. walks in and introduces himself.  We had no idea at the time how important this person would become in our lives.  Without any delay, he said something along the lines of, “it would appear that Felix has leukaemia.”  He briefly explained how they had to come to this conclusion, what it meant and the treatment plan.  Blood was mentioned, enlarged liver and bruises – a conversation using a language we had never heard of before.  We were then given space and time just the three of us,  Dylan, Felix and I time to process this devastating news.  I think we are still processing it now.

From this moment on we were catapulted into the world of Children’s Oncology.  We were led to Dr H’s consulting room where we were given books and leaflets about Leukaemia:  a book for kids about leukaemia, one for grandparents, information for school even one on leukaemia and pets.  We were then shown what would soon feel like our second home, Dr H’s consultancy room.  Felix was then, with the utmost sensitivity, invited to have a look at some information about Piam Brown Ward.  He was encouraged to look at images of children bloated through steroids and bald from chemotherapy – a simple gesture to help prepare him for what was about to come.

Whilst Dr H and Felix started to get to know each other, the start of a relationship which would prove invaluable during those really tough times, Dyl and I were offered the privacy of his consultancy room to make the most difficult phone calls of our lives.  The phone call that would shatter the lives of those we loved the most.  Through tears, we tried to explain the diagnosis, the plan and what would happen over the next few weeks.  We placed the phone down, tried to compose ourselves and went back out and embraced our beautiful son.

 

 

Felix was admitted to the ward and we started to get used to an environment that would soon become so familiar to us.  Dylan left to collect our other children with the unfathomable task of trying to explain to our then 7 and 11-year-old why he was so late.  At this point we knew one thing, we had to be together.  So Dylan returned with Tals and Rufus so that we could all seek some sort of comfort from each other.  We laughed and we cried.  We became #TeamBrown.

 

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That night, as Felix slept, I laid wide awake on the small and cramped parent’s bed and cried and cried and cried.  I had no idea how I was going to get through the night, let alone the next day or the 3 years and 3 months of treatment.

Two years on and we are still laughing and crying but now with hope and aspiration.  There have been some really tough times, times when I wondered if we had the emotional and physical capacity to cope with all that Felix faced.  Throughout all of it, Dr H has been a constant for us.  He has been our expert, our confidant and our guiding light.

So, to mark the 2 year anniversary, we will be spending tonight watching a local band raising money for Poole Children’s Unit.  This is a special band though.  It is a band made up of doctors and nurses, most of whom have treated Felix at one point or another and our very own Dr H!  For once, we will be there to support Dr H in his hour of need as he has always been there for us.

So here’s to the next 12 months until the next anniversary and To Martin and the Mavericks – Let’s rock and roll our way through this thing!

 

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28th January 2018                                                                                       Home

 

 

Martin and the Maverick

My Blog’s Honest Truth

My blog has always been a means through which I have tried to make sense of this crazy world we live in.  Whether it is exploring my feelings and experiences of having a child with cancer or a personal view about a current issue or debate.  Whatever it is, I have always blogged when I wanted to about what I want to.

Since hanging out in the virtual blogging world I have become more and more exposed to the commercial world of blogging and quite frankly, it’s just not for me.  There is a professional world of bloggers who, quite simply, have a completely different perspective on the purpose of blogging.  There is the talk of SEO, self-hosting, analytics and brand collaborations which are all far beyond my realm of understanding.  This is not a criticism by any means but by becoming part of this community, I have felt pressured to adopt a more committed and strategic approach to my blog.

This was exacerbated by becoming a #UKBA18 finalist for the second year running.  Once the finalists were announced, I received a number recommendations from a variety of bloggers about what I needed to do to meet the judges’ criteria to win.  From the content of my next few blogs to my website design and the frequency of my blogs.  I listen intently and started to draw up an action plan designed to give me the best chance of winning.

Then I stopped.

I stopped because I realised I wasn’t being true to myself, my blog and my readers.  The reason I started the blog was for me and then I realised that actually, I could help raise awareness of childhood cancer and be a supportive platform for families both nationally and internationally.  Yes, I would love to win the Health and Social Care category I am a finalist in but not as part of a strategy.  I want to win it to help raise the profile of childhood cancer and the families it affects.  I want to win it to be able to stand there and stand there tall and proud in honour of the beautiful children who have endured the pain and suffering that should not be bestowed on a child.  I want to stand there for the siblings who experience living with the harsh reality of childhood cancer on a daily basis.  I want to stand there in honour of the families who lives have changed forever when they heard the words, ‘Your child has cancer’.

I want to win it because it is an honest and frank account of life, family and education. From a parenting and educational perspective, it explores the finer details of daily life with the added dimension of having a child with cancer.

This is my Blog’s Honest Truth and I nearly lost it.

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My 2017 in 100 Words

So, 2017 was all about being human, simplicity and leukaemia … still.  The leukaemia is always there but I consciously try not to give it the attention it craves.  Instead, I want to celebrate what it means to be human and the simplicity of this wonder.  The love between us, the kind gestures, the thoughtful words.  The simple “how are you?”, the smile of understanding or the time to chat and mull things over that are troubling; all of this void of judgement or criticism. Thank you to my trusted family, my loyal friends and new acquaintances for simply being human in 2017.

Now it’s your turn – sum up your 2017 in 100 words.  Who will be first?

#anyonecanblog #100words #2017 #yourturn #beinghuman

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Why I’m Wishing you a Lovely, Imperfect Christmas

So this year, we are very much looking forward to a lovely imperfect Christmas.  We won’t be sharing out Christmas day with aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces and nephews as is depicted on those oh so wonderful Christmas adverts.  We are not spending endless evenings with friends adorned with stylish winter wear drinking the finest mulled wine whilst regaling in laughter.  We will not be using words like stunning, magical or amazing to describe our festive season.

It’s not that I don’t like Christmas, I think it’s a lovely time of year.  What I don’t like is the pressure and stress the idea of a perfect Christmas causes individuals and families.  Whilst I would love to have all of my family around the table on Christmas Day I can’t.  It’s no one’s fault at all; time, distance and family dynamics make it impossible.  We can’t go out and enjoy endless evenings of indulgence because we simply can’t afford it, don’t have a babysitter and we are quite frankly shattered by 7 pm.  When superlatives are used it denotes that the experience or things are of the highest quality or degree which implies all else falls short.

Instead, this year we will be having a lovely and imperfect Christmas.  Just like a lovely weekend, a lovely night in or a lovely walk.  I look forward to experiencing the imperfections; it’s the imperfections that we remember and talk about in years to come.  We have had quite enough stress and anxiety of late; there is no way I’m going to let the notion of perfection cause anymore.

So, to those of you who are exhausted by work, shopping and preparations consider this instead.  Christmas will be just lovely as other aspects of your life are.  Lovely like the meal you had the other evening, lovely as your child’s smile this morning and as lovely as the conversation you had with a friend the other day. For those who will find this Christmas very different to those in years gone, either through illness, separation or loss we send you our love and strength and I hope you find comfort in something lovely over the festive season.

I hope you all find the lovely over Christmas and are able to smile through the superlatives and perfection that will be forced upon you.  Christmas is not a time for superiority or greatness; it is a time to be and enjoy the simplicity of loveliness.

Wishing you all a lovely and imperfect Christmas!

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Let’s Get Rid of Homework

As both a parent and a teacher I have always debated the value of homework.  There have been a few things this week that have happened that have swung my viewpoint.

On Tuesday evening I casually asked my son, you know the one being treated for leukaemia if he had any homework.  His reply was, “Yes, but it doesn’t have to be in until next week, I’ll do it on Sunday afternoon”.  On one hand, I’m proud that he is able to manage his time well enough and can put aside time when he will feel more refreshed to tackle it. On the other hand, I feel sidelined that precious family time at the weekend is being eaten in to by school work.  I, of course, did not say this to him as I want him to respect education and his teachers, however, I cannot help but feel less and less supportive of the endless homework tasks which intrude our personal lives.

As a parent, it is our responsibility to nurture our child’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive abilities by helping them develop and hone the knowledge and skills they need to reach developmental milestones and progress further.  This can be achieved through directed modelling, teaching and guidance and as a product of our inherent values, behaviour and lifestyle.  I believe that as parents, we should support and encourage a love of learning and curiosity in the world around us through exploration and enquiry.

I have seen and experienced that the relentless setting of homework can obliterate this desire to learn, instead of replacing it with immense stress and pressure for the child and the family.

I met with a young man today who was concerned about an argument he had with his Mum the previous evening; the trigger was that he was unable to access the homework he had been set.  I saw a post from an exasperated parent on Facebook asking for help about a Year 7 Science homework.  Another parent in the supermarket asking how he can help his son who consistently has meltdowns about his homework tasks not being good enough – but why?  Because he sees his 5-year-old peers take in pieces of art clearly designed and made by the parents.  For him, his attempt on his own just doesn’t quite look as good no matter what his parents say.

I have worked with families where there are 2 adults and 4 children living in a two-bedroom flat – where can they complete homework?  Families with no access to paper let alone resources to make a Tudor House.  Families where both parents work who want to spend time enjoying their children rather than completing sterile and useless MyMaths tasks, or those plain and dull worksheets which are given purely to tick a box.

Homework is killing our children’s love of learning.  Are we not meant to be preparing our children for the world of work?  What other occupation, apart from teaching, are you expected to complete work beyond your hours of work?  Yet, we expect our young children to do this.  This concept of homework is even more difficult for children who are on the autistic spectrum to comprehend – school work should be completed at school right?

As a parent and a teacher, I tow the line about homework but I am becoming increasingly opposed to it.  I am more than happy to go through spellings or times tables in the car or whilst we are out for a walk.  If my children show interest in a particular topic or issue we will discuss it or research it in more depth.  We will talk about political and social issues, we will write letters and stories that have meaning, we will draw a beautiful image representing the day we have had.  This is far more meaningful than trying to recreate a Tudor House.

I do believe that work beyond the classroom becomes relevant and important as children embark on their GCSE and A Levels.  Children do need to develop skills of research and inquiry for further study and success in the workplace.  I also believe that there is an argument for determined practice but this needs to be driven from within and a desire to learn and succeed; not a product of relentless persuasion from a parent.    Children do need to develop skills of time management and meeting deadlines and this can be mastered in time, as they approach adulthood and independence.  Imagine the enthusiasm if the concept of home learning and individual inquiry started at 14 years old rather than 4 years old.  Unfortunately, by the time children reach GCSE, homework has become an arduous task with little meaning or benefit.  It is purely a task which has to be endured; there is no investment or passion.

Let our kids be kids when they are not at school.  Let our kids explore the world around them.  Let them simply enjoy time with their friends and their families.

We need to remove the unnecessary pressure and stress of homework.  We need to allow children to enjoy and relish the precious time they have beyond the classroom.  We need to liberate our children to enjoy the fun and freedom in life.

Homework