As a child I hated fireworks. I think this aversion came from my mum. Anyway on bonfire night every year our family would eschew the traditional firework display and go instead on a pilgrimage to the cinema. My brother and sister would see some adventure film or other with dad, and mum and I would choose something more cultural – Anne of a Thousand Days was one such gem.
On really exciting years there would be a new James Bond released and we would queue for ages in the inclement British weather in order to secure a seat. These were special family times and became over the years part of our rich tapestry of family tradition.
Family time is really important for young children. Some of my nicest memories of growing up revolved around the dinner table and dinner time conversations. Some evenings we would still be at the table late into the evening – my dad played his piano and we would make up silly songs and dances. I hope my own children recall our daily tea-time laughter and debates with such fondness – they were definitely as noisy!
Many of our children at school lead incredibly busy lives and few have time on a school night to sit, chat and relax with mum and dad. Their days are punctuated by school, homework, Madrassa, TV and bed – or so they tell us. Weekends are then crammed with the usual busy housework and visiting wider family.
Many children come to school nowadays with poorly developed social skills and sometimes they have limited language. At school we recognise that lunchtime is a really important social experience for the children. We have invested a lot of money creating a warm and friendly dining room for the children where they can sit and chat over dinner.
In nursery we are developing an initiative called ‘snack time chat’. Children are encouraged to prepare and eat their daily snack around a table and one of the nursery teachers uses this time to develop rich conversations with children.
We have also developed ‘nurture provision’ to help those children who struggle to engage with learning in the classroom and it might interest you to know that spending time eating and talking around a dining table is a key feature of nurture provision.
I have asked my teachers to welcome families into the classroom every morning to share family learning time. This starts at 08.40 am and runs for twenty minutes until the bell goes at nine. It is lovely to see children sharing their learning with mum, dad, auntie or grandma and I would encourage as many of you as are able to come and join in.
Perhaps, over time , family learning time will become your own tradition!