The Sloth Club

“Slow, Small, Simple: the authentic essence of Japanese culture.” Interview with a leading Slow thinker.

Frantic Family Rescue: Behind the Scenes (ABC TV)

Take a peek behind the scenes of Carl’s new TV show on ABC 1 in Australia.

Here is the synopsis:

Across the globe, where money and opportunity collide, childhood is now a race to perfection. With children expected to pile up academic, artistic and athletic achievements, parenting has come to resemble a cross between a competitive sport and product development.

CarlPosterResult: many modern families are stretched to breaking point.

Enter Carl Honoré, the world’s leading advocate of the Slow Movement. His mission: to slow down the pace of family life to make children (and parents) happier, healthier and more successful.

In ABC TV’s Frantic Family Rescue, Carl has four weeks to reboot three high-octane Australian families. It’s a crash course where parents and kids go cold turkey – stepping off the treadmill of rushing, busyness, screen-addiction and constant striving. For a whole month, they are forced to unplug their gadgets, tear up their schedules and do things for the sheer joy of them rather than because they might look good on a CV.

Do the three families heed Carl’s advice and reap the benefits? Or is there no turning back from our frantic lifestyles?

Tune in to find out….



Tech for kids?

Two new studies on the effect that the new technologies are having on children. As always, the picture is mixed and a bit contradictory.

Yes, the new gadgets can help with learning. But only if used wisely.

If technology is good, many children are getting too much of a good thing. All those hours spent in front of screens are conditioning them (and the rest of us, for that matter) to expect everything to happen at the speed of software.

Result: shorter attention spans; lack of focus and concentration; a tendency to give up when an easy answer does not present itself at the click of a button.

What’s the take-home? Like most things, technology is good – in the right dosage.

Summer’s out…

Another thought to add to my May 24th post about the demise of the summer vacation. One of the rites of passage for teenagers used to be working a summer job – usually something menial like washing cars or bagging groceries. I waited tables, worked on a construction crew, ran a photocopying shop and mowed lawns. None was ever going to be a career choice but I had fun and learned a lot. Today, though, teenagers are turning their back on the dead-end summer job in record numbers. Manydon’t want to work – and don’t have to because their parents are happy to keep paying their credit card bills. Others prefer to burnish their résumés by attending summer school and college-prep programs or by doing volunteer work. Some are setting up their own businesses. All of these are worthy pursuits, but maybe something is getting lost along the way, especially for teenagers from affluent families. Though it may not glitter on a résumé, a menial job can teach some important lessons – that not everyone is as rich as you,that life can be tough and unpleasant, thatsometimes you have to keep on working when you’d rather stop. In arecent article inUSA Today,leading CEOs explained that doing menial summer jobs in their teens gave them a solid grounding for later success. As parents we want to give our children the best of everything, which tends not to include flipping burgersat McDonald’s or cleaning out the toilets at the mall. But maybe it should. After all, nothing punctures that sense of entitlement, that feeling that only the best is good enough, more than getting bossed around at a dead-end job. Instead ofgetting our kids accustomed to the best of everything, perhaps we should be helping them to learn a much more useful skill: how to make the best of what they’ve got. I hear Burger King is now taking applications for the summer…

In praise of summer holidays…

A new reportfrom a leading think tank in Britain draws some intriguing conclusions about the future of education. First off, the authors warn that the modern obsession with academic learning in primary schools is backfiring, that pushing the three Rs earlier and earlier is failing to produce a generation of children who are more literate and numerate than before. Their prescription: promote overall well-being in the classroom and clear more space for kids to learn through play. “Improving results can’t just be about focussing on maths, English and science,” the report argues.”Schools need more support in developing healthy and happy young people.” Amen to that. Let’s just hope that the politicians take note. But the report contains a second conclusion that is harder to interpret: that the long school holiday should be abolished in favour of a series of two-week holidays spread across the year. The argument is that children forget too much of what they learn during the academic term when schools shut down for a long summer break. But is this really the case? I’ve read mixed research on the subject. Some argue that children need a long break from school in order not only to recharge their batteries but also to let the academic learning sink in. And what about the sheer joy of a long vacation? Surely that is the time when children can see a world in a grain of sand and hold infinity in the palm of their hand – it’s certainly hard to imaging William Blake campaigning for shorter holidays for the young. One of my happiest memories of childhood was finishing school at the end of June and knowing that I had two months of play and freedom ahead of me. Do we want to lose that? Especially when nations with very successful education systems (eg. Finland) allow their kids a long holiday in summer. If academic gains really are eroding during the warmer months in Britain, maybe the real reason is not that children are taking a break from school; maybe it’s that they are getting the wrong kind break. For many kids, the summer holiday is no longer a time to play freely, to roam the neighbourhood without adults butting in or to explore the world on their own terms; it’s just an extension of the rest of the year, a treadmill of structured and supervised activities. Perhaps that is where we are going wrong. Instead of abolishing the long summer holiday, we should be finding better ways to spend it…