I saw this on Twitter the other day and – unsurprisingly – it resonated with me.
Last week, my boys had their first swimming lesson. Harry had lessons with the school, but still wasn’t very confident in the water and Joe hadn’t had any lessons at all and, when we took them swimming, would cling to me like a monkey. So I booked a private lesson – just the two of them and an instructor (my father-in-law gave us money for swimming lessons for Christmas).
The boys were both extremely nervous beforehand. There were tears from both of them and Joe arrived at the swimming pool muttering “Just be brave” over and over to himself. But as soon as they got in the water, they absolutely loved it. I had a little happy cry because I was so proud of them and it was just thrilling to see them enjoying it so much. They were like otters. When they got out, neither of them could stop talking about how much fun they’d had and how much they are looking forward to the next lesson (mostly, I think, because the instructor told them they’ll be playing games).
When my father-in-law rang to see how they’d got on, the first thing he said was “How far did you get?” Not “Did you enjoy it”, no. He wanted something measurable. Now this isn’t a criticism of him – I think this is just the way we approach any sort of education. We don’t care whether or not it was enjoyable, we just want to know if it was demonstrably successful. It seems really odd to me. And a bit of a shame. If I’d insisted the instructor focus on getting the boys to swim a certain length or achieve a certain number of strokes, I don’t think they would have enjoyed the lesson as much and I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed watching them as much.
And the thing is, it’s not like they were playing instead of learning. The playing is learning. And it’s also fun. Isn’t that better?