When I finally finished writing ‘Can I Go And Play Now?’ and all was done and dusted, the publishers said to be prepared for both positive and negative reviews. At the time, I was just happy with the idea of having a reader to even have a book review, so I didn’t really think about it.
And then, as word spread and as people started to feel the book spoke to them, the reviews began to come in on Amazon. It’s been amazing to see how ‘Can I Go And Play Now?’ has struck a chord with Early Years people, more so because I wrote it from the heart and a negative review might just break it into a million pieces if I allowed it to.
And then it happened. A three star review. Opening it up, I felt a bit sick. Had I offended someone? Had they read it looking for Bold Beginnings approval? Had I failed somehow to get my ideas across and been too critical of the adult world?
There before me, in the review headline were three words: Not for parents
This particular person had bought the book on the strength of other reviews which had mentioned its importance to parents but having read a short amount had decided otherwise and returned it. It’s at this point that my heart actually broke. Not because of the three stars, that’s fine, but it was more the fact that the reader felt like it wasn’t a book for parents.
For me, it absolutely IS for parents. In fact, in some ways, it’s probably more for parents than anyone else. Parents seem to be happy to accept the schooling that their children are given until things go wrong or incidents happen on the playground. They accept homework and reading records and tables and chairs and uniform and termly parent meetings because this is what they have been led to believe school is.
They base their image of school on their own experiences, their own memories of assemblies, of the Head’s office, of how teachers taught them. It becomes ingrained. And in the same vein, parents begin to accept that play needs to be left behind and replaced by ‘work’ and ‘Big School’ – leaving play behind seems like a rite of passage, a door to pass through, a land to leave behind and be replaced by a world of being taught, of being told.
And yet, children do not need to leave the land of play. They can continue to inhabit it quite happily if the adult world would only take a step back and adopt a different way, a different view of children, one that accepts that they are full of curiosity, of language and dream.
But because parents know little different they accept the diet of what their children are given them, the lack of real creativity, the control, the crossed legs, the shush, the book band and the red group, blue group, green group, yellow group. And in this way, the myth of schooling perpetuates itself. It remains unchallenged and unchanged. Play erodes, is pushed to the side so that adults can ‘see’ learning, can grade and evaluate, can take control of the learning adventure and direct it in an adult world way.
This acquiescence is what I’d dearly love to change. Parents visit my setting and see play, listen to the rationale and, seeing their children thriving, begin to feed back that they wish their schooling could have been similar all those years ago. They start to see a different way. That maths is something that can be done, that writing isn’t all about doing things for the teacher, that learning can happen outside in the garden and that play does have a power and can transform.
Play begets play: parents begin to be more playful at home, ask for ideas, begin a dialogue, a communication; play starts taking centre stage, it becomes the focus for learning, it becomes school.
And here is the challenge: how can we use our playful pedagogies to affect change? How might we engage parents in the adventure that is play, in the deconstruction of what school is, in how deeper and more connected learning happens through play and playfulness?
So ‘Can I Go And Play Now?’ is for parents, play is for parents and play is for Now.
Time to transform, to play and to play hard. Let’s turn three stars into five… :)
Can I Go Play Now..? is committed to widening the understanding of the magic of children's play as an educational tool. Child-centred, play-based learning is where it's truly at....