Son #2 will not be attending school tomorrow. Is he ill? No! Does he feel under the weather? No! In fact his physical health is in tip top condition at the moment! *she touches wood and keeps fingers crossed throughout her time blogging* Put simply, I am giving my child a ‘Well Being Day’ tomorrow.
Well Being Day/ Mental Health Day/ Time off just means a day off school to be yourself, recharge, relax and generally stop without being ill! Ever since my children have started full time school I have given them Well Being days whenever I think they need them. Yes this means they are yet to receive 100% attendance, but quite frankly this is not of any importance to me or my family! What is important is that they are feeling happy, confident and are able to put their best self into each situation.
From the moment children start school (age 4) they are given approximately 190 days of schooling each year until the age of 18! That’s about 2,660 teaching days! With each school day lasting around 6 hours they get a total of 15, 960 hours worth of education before they get to leave…I think! Maths was never my strong point!! Basically it’s a heck of a lot!
Over the years my boys have had to take time off for sickness bugs, ear infections, chicken pox, temperatures, etc and have been nursed back to health at home with over the counter medication and lots of TLC. These times have not been fun or relaxing or in anyway out of choice! However, at certain times since starting school my boys have also had days off for their Well being; for their emotional, psychological, health and welfare. This may sound completely new agey to you, but I am a firm believer that in order to be our best and perform to our best we must give rest to the body, mind and soul. That is to take time to stop when things are feeling too much, to spend time doing the things we love without being rushed or given time limits and to be in close proximity to those that we love.
My eldest needs more of these types of days at home than my second (at the moment). Over time I have noticed that prolonged shouting, restlessness, numerous night wakings, flared temper and increased negative first responses are indicators that he has reached his limit and needs to take time out of the school environment. For my second child it is tearfulness, severe anger and refusing to comply with reasonable requests that suggest he is in need of some relaxation.
I’m sure some of you will be thinking ‘just chill out after school’, ‘do some yoga’, ‘have you tried mindfulness’, etc and believe me we have…tried it all! But as I am sure you readers are aware by now my children are intense. They are full on. They live life at 100mph, giving 100% in all that they do (be it an activity they love or an argument about eating their dinner)! So despite keeping as many evenings free after school for child initiated play, park trips, yoga, mindfullness, story reading, music appreciating, etc, etc, sometimes they have given all they can and are running on empty. And this my friends is when they will get time off school.
For those of you who worry about child attainment and school progress (and all the other stressy things that I really don’t put much thought into 😉 ) I can assure you that a couple of days off (out of the whole year) to chill out and rest does NOT have a negative impact on their school work and academic achievements. In fact, I would be so bold as to say my children do better at school because of their Well Being days!! Because they are given time to refresh their minds and refuel their souls and because they are listened to and allowed to express their selves (even their worst traits) safely at home, they are able to fully apply themselves within school in the knowledge that they are loved and respected whatever ‘results’ they bring home. Thus taking away some of the stress school can put on them and allowing them to see the bigger picture: that there is more to life than attendance and attainment.
The recent school reports sent home were accompanied by a letter explaining how the demands placed on children have increased recently with the new curriculum and to be mindful that the children’s attainment is now being assessed at an even higher level than ever before! Teachers are aware of the increased pressure and stress children are under. Schools are being inundated with mental health training and courses in anticipation of the impact all this pressure has on children and yet I still hear parents giving their children short shrift for ‘poor results’ or ‘low attainment’ or just berating them to ‘keep up the hard work or else you won’t be top table anymore’!! Seriously! Maybe they need a Mental Health Day!!
I am pleased to say that (despite my children taking days off even when they aren’t ill), the boys are both working at a greater depth (ie exceeding expectations) in every subject! And more importantly their attitude to learning is rated ‘Very Good’, which is the highest band given! And…furthermore, neither of the boys know this!!! Of course they know how proud we are of them and how hard they try. They know that their teachers wrote very positive things about them and how they learn, but they are not aware of the marks they got or how they fare nationally, etc, because this is not of importance in my opinion. Should next year bring reports with ‘lower levels’ or every year from now on show ‘no progress made’ I do not want my children to think that what they ‘achieve’ in a school report reflects the complete picture (because it doesn’t). I do not want them thinking they have failed in anyway just because their abilities do not match the marking criteria set out by an elitist government. For as long as possible I want school to be a place where my children go to acquire new skills, have fun with their friends and experience new opportunities. I want them to feel confident, be enthusiastic and have a desire to find out more. So for now, when my children show me that they are feeling less than enthusiastic, that their confidence is waning and their happiness is compromised I will give them a day off school even when they aren’t ill!