Monday 24 October 2016

Stop whining about 'back-to-school blues' and be thankful for the education we enjoy

Published 30/08/2016 | 02:30

'It’s a shame the new school term has been hijacked by consumerism and experts and isn’t a more positive time'
'It’s a shame the new school term has been hijacked by consumerism and experts and isn’t a more positive time'

Spare a thought this week for the thousands of hassled parents whose stress levels have shot sky-high as the chaotic back-to-school season gets into full swing.

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Behind the thousands of excited, fresh-faced kids in newly minted uniforms skipping their way into schoolyards are groaning mothers and fathers, feeling depressed about the end of the summer and thoughts of the long winter ahead.

You can actually feel the change in the national mood as parents face into juggling work with school drops and pick-ups, child-minding schedules and the multitude of sports and extra curricular activities.

This is compounded by the expense involved in buying uniforms, schoolbooks and paying for music lessons, art classes, sports training etc. It all adds up.

A recent Irish League of Credit Unions survey shows it costs an average of €987 to get a child to primary school and €1,400 to secondary school - up a third since 2012.

As if this isn't enough, parents are bombarded with back-to-school advice from psychologists, dieticians and a multitude of other 'experts'.

You can't open a newspaper or switch on the radio without reading or hearing somebody pontificate on how to be the perfect school parent.

Take food, for example. It's not enough to pack a lunch box - it must be properly presented and nutritionally balanced.

Don't forget to cut the carrots and celery sticks into perfect batons to make it easy for little Johnny or Mary to eat (jam sandwiches did me fine in my day).

And helping your child with homework is like a science and must be done with precision. God, it's not a PhD the kids are doing. What doesn't help the back-to-school blues is the fact that traffic in our towns and cities has reached chronic levels - adding to the stress of parents of school kids and the workforce in general.

It's a shame that the new school term has been hijacked by consumerism and experts and isn't a more positive time for young and old.

It should happily mark the end of a long, lazy summer and the transition to shorter days and cosy winter evenings.

A good education is something we in Ireland take for granted. Amidst all the stress and hassle, let's not lose sight of the fact that we have a top-class education system and our children are so lucky to have the opportunity to go to school. Ireland ranks ninth in a global education league.

Education is empowering and fosters positive change in the world. It is something we have come to regard as a human right.

Every subject has its purpose. English allows us to read and learn more and express ourselves. History helps us chart the future by noting the successes and failures of the past. Geography helps us understand more about the world. Science explains the universe.

I must admit when I saw pupils in the back of cars in early-morning school traffic gridlock in Dublin yesterday, with strained dads and mums in the driver seats, I got a pang for my own kids' school days. Now in their mid-20s, those days seem so far away. Where on earth did the time go?

The next few weeks will be tough with the change in family schedules. Early mornings will be full of tired, cranky, griping kids and parents. Evenings will be full of tears as kids adjust, grapple with homework, and their bodies get used to the new routine.

Evenings and weekends will be busy ferrying little Johnny and Mary to music lessons, sports training and other classes.

But parents: try not to stress too much about getting kids back to school. These years will pass quicker than you think, so enjoy every precious moment.

And remember the privilege it is for your kids to be getting a great education - and the fact it is free (notwithstanding the cost of books, uniforms, etc).

Irish Independent

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