Our co-founder Evgenia shares her thoughts and experience on what is this 'best' that parents try to give their children through education.
When I was a teenager, I took a quiz in Cosmo magazine which told me that when I grow up, I should become a teacher. No thank you, I thought. I liked school, probably more for the social and the extracurricular aspects of it, and even though studying was not hard, I certainly did not want to do that for ever. My school shaped me in many ways- the students, the teachers, and its unique environment. I might not have realised it then (what teenager does), but now that I do work in education (how did they know at Cosmo?), and I am a parent myself, I really appreciate the impact of that experience. I was very fortunate to go to a school that offered an incredible array of opportunities and activities to excel academically, perfect a range of skills and build up character. Unfortunately, many schools don't have that for a number of reasons, often outside of their control. Thankfully, there are endless possibilities outside of the school for children to enrich their education and learning.
My career in education started with helping parents to choose "best" possible schools for their children. I discovered great schools, and not so great ones. I met lovely and caring families who really valued education and the opportunities it provides. I also met some parents whose unrealised and unrealistic ambitions were actually damaging their children. Finding the balance for each individual family is hard. Education is one of the biggest expenditures and commitments that parents make, so no wonder they want to get it right. All parents want to do right by their child, not to mess it up, and give them the 'best"of everything. We want to see our children grow up successful, accomplished, good, and happy, and we constantly look for ways to make it happen. I am no exception. Parenthood transforms you, and besides giving you great joy, it adds a great deal of responsibility. It also does not come with a manual, so you start looking around, asking and googling, trying to figure it out, only to be hit with overwhelming and conflicting information which makes you feel lost and helpless. Listening to my gut feeling and not to succumbing to the pressure was my saviour. It was (and still is) not easy (hello parental guilt and doubt), but I soon realised this: nobody knows it all, and you need to stick with what really matters to your family.
When my child was born, I steered my career into the Early Years by setting up a nursery school. It has been truly amazing to relive childhood as a parent and an educator- a lot of things suddenly made so much sense. Young children are amazing- they are truly a blank canvass. Their innate ability to learn, absorb, create and imagine is fascinating and impressive. It is sad to see that instead of nourishing it, often other "skills" are are being forced upon children so early on, like reading and writing, which the brain is not yet ready for. Such are the selective schools' expectations in many places, and surely your neighbour's child already can do it all, hence the competition commences.
This is especially true in the UK (mainly London) as well as in some Asian countries when it comes to schools, but it seems that parents everywhere feel pressured for their child to "perform"at the youngest possible age. The parents, and children as young as three enter a weird race, but nobody knows what is at the finishing line (a fancy school diploma? a broken spirit?). The system, which is supposed to be formative, fun, playful, nurturing and nourishing becomes pretty ruthless. Parents are stressed, confused and lose sight of what they really would like to do. This gets passed on to the children, parents feel guilty and this downward spiral just carries on. Curriculum expectations are also very high. In most countries children only begin to learn how to read and write at the age of six, and they master it very fast because they are ready- both physically and mentally. It is a much healthier approach than trying to make your four year old read C-A-T , enduring a tantrum and ending up shouting and then crying. All the while you could be playing superheroes or having imaginary tea.
Good news is that more and more parents and educators agree that it is not ok, and begin to prioritise personal, social and emotional development and skills. We are realising that computers will do most of the work for us in the future, and so we now turn towards what makes us human- soft skills, empathy, kindness, collaboration. We think of the environment and sustainability, as there is no Planet B. We are playing catch up and trying to instil this into our teenagers, but we also need to concentrate on our toddles, so we don't destroy but enhance those innate abilities. We know this deep down, and we need to stand up to the pressures imposed by the schools systems and competitive parents. It is hard enough as it is.
Through my work I meet parents and educators globally, and it seems that many is in a similar situation. So with my likeminded friend, we want to help families find that balance, that own personal "best", and this is why Collab Education was created.