I’ve written on this blog before that Flea doesn’t do homework. She still doesn’t.
I firmly believe there are far more important things for a four-year-old to do between the hours of 3.45pm and 7pm than spellings, or sums. Like scattering small pieces of Lego around the house for your mother to stand on. Or creating stunning fashion statements like the one below, which Flea selected for a friend's party on Friday evening.
I’d much rather Flea spent the hours between school and bedtime playing in some way, than studying. I’ve always felt this way – when she was a toddler, I didn’t make any effort to teach Flea to read or write. We did have a very brief experiment with a toddler group that reckoned to ‘boost pre-literacy skills’ but that ended when Flea kept talking at the wrong moment and the class leader gave her a glare that could have frozen water at 50 paces (listening is a terribly important skill, I'm sure, just not to a talkative three-year-old).
Still, it’s not always easy to stick to slacker parenting principles.
At Flea’s first ever parents’ evening, the teacher told me that Flea was struggling to hold a pencil, and she refused to even try to write her name. That same evening, I overheard another parent worrying that her daughter was ‘still’ writing certain letters back to front.
A little part of me did panic. And I had that competitive urge that wanted to prove my kid was smarter than her kid, and with a bit of coaching I was sure that Flea wouldn’t write her letters backwards. That’s the part of me that wanted to take the worksheets the teacher was offering, to help ‘bring on’ Flea’s writing.
But I didn’t. My slacker tendencies are just too ingrained. I told the teacher I wasn’t worried, and that the last thing I wanted was for anyone to push the issue in any way. Fortunately, the teacher agreed, and said that providing Flea was happy and making friends, anything else could wait.
Last week, I went to my second ever parents’ evening. Flea’s handwriting is still a little bit behind that of her classmates but this term she was given a merit certificate in front of the whole school to recognise how hard she’s tried and how much she has improved. Not only that, but her teacher said she’s in the high ability group in both literacy and numeracy, despite being youngest in her class.
More importantly, Flea’s happy. She loves school, and she is friends with everyone in her class. She’s confident, she’s articulate, she has great manners and a fab sense of humour. She's just the most fun to be with, and I know I'm hopelessly biased, but it's still true.
Tonight, I lay on Flea’s bed while she read me a story. She read a whole 20 pages without stumbling over a single word, and although it’s perhaps not quite the book I would have chosen, when I heard her reading: “The green goblin threw another pumpkin bomb at Spidey and shouted ‘take that, web-head,’” and then cackling with glee at the words, I had to stop her and give her a little squeeze, and remember that her achievements are all the more special because she’s made them in her own time.