Too school for cool

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Isaac passed another small milestone on the road to adulthood this morning as we received confirmation of which primary school he will moving up to in September. It has its downsides as well as its upsides, but it certainly marks the beginning of a big and exciting phase in his life.

First, the downsides.

There’s no escaping the fact that going to school will be an expensive affair. For starters, it means the end of off-peak fun. No more sneaking off to Legoland on a quiet weekday. No more spontaneous last-minute getaways. No more being able to go on holiday outside of term. Like everyone else, we will now be booking months in advance, paying through the nose and having to endure the weekend/holiday queues wherever we go. It also means Heather and I will be juggling and planning our leave around school holidays for the next 18 years. Good God, that’s more than a little depressing.

Our daily logistics will also become significantly more complex. Up until now, it’s been straightforward. Drop Zac and Toby at nursery at 8am, go to work and pick them up at about 5.30pm – which at least means we can juggle sensible working days. No more. Now the daily routine will involve dropping Toby (and, eventually, the new baby) at nursery, then taking Zac to school (we cannot drop him off until 8.40), going to work, then picking up Toby (and his plus-one) and collecting Zac from after-school club at the end of the day. That’s double the number of drop-offs/pick-ups, and a working day which becomes pinched in that little bit more at each end, which will inevitably mean more time working at home in the evening. We’ll manage – millions of other dual-income families do, after all – but it certainly makes life trickier.

Daddy, where’s the launch pad?

Of course, there’s nothing new about these problems – and what first-world problems they are, eh? – as any parent will recognise. In every other respect – particularly from Zac’s perspective – it’s all good, as it will give him so many opportunities to grow and develop.

I’ve written previously about how he seems to be following in his parents’ footsteps by developing into something of a science/technology geek, embracing all things electronic and tackling any problem put in front of him with a systematic approach which suggests an intuitive grasp of scientific method.

He’s certainly intelligent enough. He was an early and confident talker and counter – honestly, he never stops these days! – and constantly amazes me with both his memory and his ability to make leaps of logic in his thoughts and conversations. It’s easy to forget sometimes that he’s still only four years old. I’m not saying he’s another Heidi Hankins, the four-year old girl who hit the news this week after being measured with a genius-level IQ of 159. But he’s certainly smarter than the average bear.

Based on his less well-developed creative and physical skills – he’s enthusiastic rather than proficient (much like his father) – I’d say he’s unlikely to become a Turner Prize-winning artist or a Premier League footballer. (There goes that retirement plan!) He’s very much a social animal at pre-school, often at the centre of things with his little gang, so I’m hoping he will continue to be gregarious and popular as he moves into formal education (very much unlike his swotty father). And I sincerely hope he maintains his interest in technology and his general inquisitive nature.

So, all I did was write this bit of code – and now here’s the MOD database …

Given his affinity for computers and gadgets, I’m half expecting him to end up as a member of one of the hacking communities such as Anonymous or LulzSec. Hmm, I’m now getting visions of him starting a game of Global Thermonuclear War. (That’s a reference to the 1980s film WarGames, by the way. If you haven’t seen it, you must – not least as a reminder of what a pre-internet world and an old-fashioned modem look like …)

Anyhow, I’m intrigued to discover how he copes with adapting to a more formal classroom structure than he is used to at preschool. Hopefully he will embrace the kind of multi-faceted, project-based approach to learning which is part and parcel of the modern Key Stage 1 curriculum. He’s about to enter a world of education which is very different to the one I went through over 30 years ago, where teaching was far more regimented and based around learning by rote, but one without aptitude tests and acronyms such as PSHE and ICT which never existed in my time.

It will certainly be a different and stretching time – for both him and us – but I hope he finds it exciting and stimulating, and grasps the opportunity to learn as much about the world he lives in as he possibly can. And if he ends up being too school for cool, that’s fine by me as long as he enjoys it. If nothing else, his school days are something I want him to be able to look back on with fondness rather than regret. It’s all part of life’s great adventure.

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