‘Sometimes It’s All Worth While’ by Jo Tomlinson

I came back to my office which doubles as a classroom and guest chalet (we are nothing if not versatile) and on my chair and sofa and along the desk and on the floor were snakes – lots of snakes in different colours. Some had metamorphosed into snails with shells and some had become slugs. 

My grandchild had very creatively used her plasticine to make lots of these reptiles and had secreted them in and around the room for me to find. We had fun discovering each one with her shouting, “Look out, Nana, there’s another one!” 

The joy of this from my point of view is how her imagination is emerging along with her language. It may not appear such a big deal to outsiders but this is a child of whom we were offered no positive future. “She won’t amount to much I’m afraid,” was the prognosis of an eminent paediatrician. I am so pleased that her mother and I ignored all of this doom-laden advice and allowed her to be whoever and whatever she would. 

Children as individuals 

This is the thing about any child. They are so unique and individual. There will never be a time when we can forecast confidently how anyone’s life will turn out, especially in the young. The UK Early Years Foundation Stage serves our children well by promoting developmental phases rather than ages and stages, so that each child is able to progress and regress through the milestones and aspects of skills development and improvement and acquisition of knowledge. 

 Children’s Minister, Sarah Teather, 2012, said: 

‘The first five years of a child’s life, the foundation years, are absolutely critical. We want a system where every child can thrive, regardless of their social background. If we are to tackle the attainment gap and raise life chances, we must start in the earliest years. We know experiences in these first years have the biggest impact on how a child’s brain develops. It’s when children grasp the fundamental skills needed to do well at school and develop as happy, confident individuals. That’s why today I am setting out a much slimmer, easier to understand early years curriculum. It will give professionals more freedom in how they work with children, and will involve parents more in their child’s learning. Fundamentally, it will make sure we are preparing our children for the challenges of school and beyond. This isn’t just about making sure they can hold a pencil – children need the resilience, confidence and personal skills to be able to learn.’ 

The will to learn 

Even though her progress has been slow compared with the majority of children within her age group, she has come along tremendously. Home schooling has certainly supported her style of learning and this will continue for the foreseeable future. 

The long-standing nature/nurture debate would have a field day with a child such as ours. It is obvious that she will continue to need in-depth support, care and ‘education’ in its many guises from formal classroom stuff through to media, technology, friendship groups and literally watching the world as it goes by. 

By making models of snakes she demonstrates how she understands what they look like and how they travel along their terrain. She is aware of the differences between snakes, snails and slugs and can change one thing to another with ease. 

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