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spires from Carfax

primary school

walking to school

Children — February 2019

When I was barely seven, and we lived in Sydney's Upper North Shore, I used to walk home from school not just by myself but taking my year and a half younger sister with me. more

Golden Awards, Dojo points and behaviour colours

Children — November 2018

Helen's school has a "Golden Assembly" each Friday, in which one child in each class gets a Golden Award. Every Thursday she asks me, a bit wistfully, questions like "do you think I'll get the Golden Award tomorrow?". And now she's started talking about it at other times, too. more

mathematics approaching 6

Books + Ideas, Children — November 2018

I never did end up running any kind of pre-school maths circle, and once the children started school there hasn't really been spare time in the week for such a thing. But some of my thoughts about teaching mathematics from two and a half years ago have progressed.

One of my principles is to try to avoid things that will be covered in school. more

don't make your child read

Books + Ideas, Children — October 2018

If your school tells you your child is supposed to read to you four times a week, but they don't want to do that or don't like doing that, don't make them read. more

reading at 5¾

Books + Ideas, Children — October 2018

I got a new kindle for my birthday, so I deleted everything off the old one except the children's books, renamed it, and voila! Helen now has a kindle. And she read her first book on it - Roald Dahl's The Twits - pretty much in one sitting. more

graded readers

Books + Ideas, Children — July 2018

Helen's school uses Oxford Reading Tree graded readers, as do apparently 80% of English schools. ("Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM.") I mostly ignored these when she brought them home, since she was happy to read them at school and we had more interesting things to read, so I missed the clear "Stage N" on the back covers and it was a while before I realised these were graded into quite narrow bands. more

reading at five and a half

Books + Ideas, Children — July 2018

An update on Helen's reading, following on from reading at five. more

5 to 15?

Books + Ideas, Children — July 2018

If we moved back to Australia and then came back to the UK in ten years, I don't think any of Helen's friends would remember me. I'm just not that salient a part of their lives. A more interesting question is, would I recognise them after ten years away — what are all these little children going to be like at fifteen? They all seem as distinctive as anything now, but the evidence on personality persistence is limited, and tends to only involve broad features of temperament.

Anyway, whenever I think about planning the future, I try to imagine what Helen will be like at fifty and I realise that I have no clue.

my formal early education failures

Books + Ideas, Children — June 2018

My plans for formal early years teaching all came to nothing. more

class photographs and market failures

Books + Ideas — June 2018

Helen's school recently had class photos taken. We bought a copy of hers, paying £13.50 to the photography company, without thinking about it much. But there are, on consideration, two major problems with the way this worked. The first is a failure of inclusivity. The second is a market failure, where goods fail to end up in the hands of the people who value them most. more

reading at age five

Books + Ideas, Children — March 2018

These book updates now cover the books Helen is reading herself (with a bit of support) as well as the books I am reading to her. more

Larkrise school (Oxford) - walking and cycling

Oxford — January 2018

Like most urban primary schools, Larkrise has a reasonably small catchment area (and out-of-catchment children are selected largely based on distance), so walking or cycling to school, accompanied or independently for the older children, should be an option for almost all children. But there are some serious failings with the transport infrastructure around the school, and a little investment here could make active travel to it significantly more attractive. more

books books books

Books + Ideas, Children — January 2018

Helen got 33 books for Christmas and her birthday: 8 from me, 9 from Camilla, and 16 from friends and family. Helen and I have also given everyone books for Christmas and birthdays more

books approaching five

Books + Ideas, Children — November 2017

This will probably be my last book update before Helen is reading herself, though I expect to be reading to her for a long time as well. (She's at the point where she can, if motivated, puzzle out pretty much anything with sensible orthography, and with the early reader books — Russell Hoban's Frances books are current favourites — I'm now helping her with the hard words rather than getting her to read one or two words.) Here are some of the books we've enjoyed since my last update. more

learning to read at Larkrise

Books + Ideas, Children — October 2017

Helen's school is pretty keen on getting the children reading. more

approaching school

Life — July 2017

Helen herself is moderately excited by the prospect of school but not (I think) too much so, and we're thinking this will work out ok. The welcome afternoon a couple of weeks ago went off swimmingly, despite the heat. more

give me the girl

Children, Oxford — April 2016

Give me the girl until she is eleven and I will give you the woman...

Neither Camilla nor I are that keen on religious schooling, but I had suggested before, only half in jest, that a good Jesuit-run school would be an attractive option. And now I've seen the closest thing I'm likely to see to this for girls, in an Open Day visit to one of Oxford's private preparatory schools. more

teaching mathematics

Books + Ideas, Children — March 2016

I was planning a rant about the dangers of formal assessment of mathematics in primary schools, the insanity of streaming maths classes based on knowledge of times tables at age nine, and suchlike. But there are more than enough depressing stories about the UK education system at the moment, so I've tried to make this a more positive piece, about some of the things I think children should learn about mathematics in primary school, along with a random collection of ideas for actual teaching. more

A tale of two schools

Books + Ideas, Children, Oxford — September 2015

It's early days yet, even for the UK where children start formal schooling between 4 and 5 years old, but we've already started thinking about schooling for Helen, and as part of that we visited two primary schools. The first was our local state school, the one we're actually in the catchment for and (since it's just around the corner) could be relatively confident of getting a place in (due to a baby boom, there's such pressure on schools that even being in the catchment is now no longer a guarantee of a place). The second was the prep school for a prestigious private Oxford girls high school. more

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