Lockdown has shown that the school of life matters far more

Showing children everything from changing a plug fuse to making simple meals is just as important as

Showing children everything from changing a plug fuse to making simple meals is just as important as getting good grades, says Rachel Moore - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

What’s really going to be more important to our childrens’ future? Rachel Moore says lockdown time spent teaching kids about money, DIY and gardening is probably more useful than worrying about school grades

The government stands accused of failing a generation by not getting them back to school.

But, if this pause in education has taught us anything, it’s that “education” as we’ve made it is not fit for purpose.

With UK children from four to 17 being “home schooled”, we’ve become brainwashed about the value of our system and what it offers children and young people.

A month ago, I would have agreed that these children were being failed by the system.

But, talking to parents with school-age children, it’s clear we’ve become so used to the learn, remember and regurgitate (forget) cycle of education designed to pass exams and move on to the next stage, we’ve never bothered to question if it is fit for purpose or life.

Now, looking at my two young adult sons, each have envelopes stuffed full of qualifications but are largely clueless about the basics of just getting through life.

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From the day they started school at four, everything was focused to testing their learning. Believing that qualifications opened doors (and being as sharp elbowed as any parent that wants the best for their children) I got sucked into the grades as being the be all and end all.

“Forget the stress of home schooling. Enjoy,” I said to a friend tearing her hair out trying to get her teenagers to study. She looked at me like I’d lost it.

“This is their future,” she wailed on FaceTime, loudly glugging from the wine glass. “They have to do it.”

My point was that they won’t miss out on a few months’ learning. Better to park the stress of trying to be what she wasn’t – a maths/science/geography/history teacher – and focus on what she could do to do more to prepare her children for life than a school ever could.

These weeks at home would be far better spent looking at what our children will NEED to know when they are adults rather than what they SHOULD learn to pass exams.

Dump algebra for real problem-solving around the house. Teach them basic plumbing, how a U-bend works, change a tap washer, take a washing machine apart, take the oven apart and clean it.

Swap maths lessons to teach them about interest rates, how credit cards work, about pay-day loans, what a credit score is and how to apply for a mortgage.

Teach them about house and car insurance and how to file important documents.

Share the household bills with them so they can see what being a grown-up means and what you have to pay out each month. Teach them how to budget. Get them well versed in Excel to get them into the habit of keeping a running tally of what they spend every month.

Get them in the garden to learn the basics about how to grow vegetables, keep a garden tidy and paint a fence.

When it’s raining, show them how to replace a fuse in a plug, build flat pack furniture, decorate a room and understand the difference between emulsion, eggshell and gloss.

If you’re a dab hand at DIY, teach them to tile a wall, how to mend a loo flush and stop a dripping shower.

It sounds basic but teach them how to clean properly – the bathroom, the kitchen, mop the floor and to vacuum.

Most importantly, cook with them to make sure they have a repertoire of at least five basic meals and can make basic bread. And teach them how much food costs.

Parents have been moaning about trying working from home and home schooling, often both parents taking shifts to look after small children to fit in Zoom and Teams calls.

What no one’s said is how important it is for your children to see what you do every day, what employers expect of employees and what a week’s work involves.

It offers them a window to the working world, how you speak to colleagues and how deadlines are not moveable in the workplace.

Take this time to speak to children about careers, the type of jobs there are and get them to explore what they might like to do.

This “pause” in education is a chance to focus on making teenagers capable, properly functioning young adults who know how to navigate life – as well as an exam paper.

Will you be part of the July 4 stampede? Or has your FOMO (fear of missing out) turned into JOMO (joy of missing out)?

I’ve had the hairdresser call and an appointment booked, I’ve already had my first face-to-face meetings and been meeting up with friends, as allowed.

But I’ve quite liked how the lockdown has reorganised my life to a smaller circle, and a slower and kinder life.

Cycling and exploring the countryside will continue and I’ll be in no hurry to jump back on the consumer bandwagon.

But the biggest thing lockdown has taught me is how to say no. If something doesn’t work for me, I’ll say it now rather than agree, be a people-pleaser and regret it later.

We can all build back stronger and better.