The children In my class, 8 through 11 year olds, are at least 50 years younger than me. My childhood was so very different. Our lives and games were soaked in war. Our parents and grandparents were survivors. Everything seemed simpler, easier to grasp. Our milk came from nearby farms, pasteurised in a local dairy. Our history books shorter with line drawings of cavemen and kings. And so on. Sometimes my pupils seem like a different species or inhabitants of a different planet. Then again, when they are fascinated by a spider or delighted by a bounce time shrinks.

5 thoughts on “Blogvember 11 Childhood

  1. @johnjohnston You and @canion both mention not being able to recognize your childhood experiences in those of today’s children. I’ve found topics like this fascinating, and I wonder if there aren’t occasionally points of disruption in history where things that had perhaps previously been moving/evolving slowly along a continuum suffer an abrupt break.

    My great-grandparents grew up in the horse-and-buggy age and lived into the space age (as their 50th anniversary cake features), but sometime in that period, two adjacent generations’ childhoods no longer resembled each other in large ways—I think it’s between my grandparents’ (all of whom spent time as children on the family farm) and my parents’ (whose childhoods were small town/suburban, and postwar). The automobile was always part of my parents’ lives, ubiquitous even, but it was technology that would have appeared in my grandparents’ lives as they grew up.

    Similarly, there are significant continuities between my parents’ and my childhoods; though you do start to see the creep of communication-ish technology like (more) TV, more (telephone), and video games into mine, the big things, outdoor play, freedom (being called home for dinner by voice from across the neighborhood!), and the like are the same. But now, it seems, my generation’s children are always supervised (except when they’re given the iPad to give parents a break), mostly inside, and have computer technology for toys…(I have no children, and I don’t teach them, so this is just from my limited observation of friends and family…may not be a good sample). Personal computers—and even tiny, portable, intensely personal computers—and ubiquitous communication have always been a part of their lives; it feels like there’s been another significant break again.

    I’m not sure if this makes any sense or not, but the fact that both of you mentioned this disconnect (and also the loss of the large role of the outside/natural world) got me thinking….

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  2. @smokey @canion it does make a lot of sense and food for thought. One interesting thing in the similarities you see. My childhood was in the 60s (not the groovy ones) and @canion’s 20 years later. The outdoor change is very evident here and schools and educators are beginning to push back with some efforts to get learning outdoors. Mostly small steps so far. The amount of spatial freedom children have has been steadily declining and I don’t see much sign of that reversing.

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  3. @canion @smokey The amount children roam free over the last few generations is shown nicely here
    I could certainly wander a few miles from home unsupervised. We played in woods, fields, along the shore and in building sites!
    I think we’ve got to the stage where we need something like ‘nature play’. In my own school we have a fair collection of ‘loose materials’ some natural and some not. Logs, building site wooden pallets, plastic pipes and the likes. The pupils have a lot of fun.

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  4. @johnjohnston @canion Wow; that’s a huge change in four generations.

    I think some of the comments on that post are right; it’s more than just the “safety” concern that have caused this, but also the overall changes in our society/families/lives and our geography (more cars, more bigger roads—and no sidewalks/crosswalks, more fragmented subdivisions, and no access to forests and parks, at least in the US), all compounding the effects of each other.

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