Winter Festivals

Back in 2013 I wrote a couple of blogs about witches – yes, those of the toil and trouble kind.

These writings went some way towards relieving the frustration concerning issues my (then undiagnosed) dyslexic son was having with finding a rationale for ‘alien words’ out of the context of prose. The inevitable in-school practicing and word list reading homework (in order for schools to ensure they measured up to the first national test results of the newly implemented phonics screening test) made learning to read for my son even more difficult and uninspiring than ever before.

I wanted to share this experience to see if it would also resonate with other parents with children with specific learning difficulties (SpLD) and to highlight this issue with the teaching community.

It opened up a whole can of worms!

What I was not expecting was a significant amount of social media trolling by those declaring and presenting themselves publicly as ‘witches of the phonics coven’ – everyone of them concealing their real identity cloaked in their disguise!

(For those interested in reading these posts retrospectively, they can be found here and here.)

I thought I was done with witches, however the recent popularity of celebrating Halloween has brewed another potentially controversial discussion and brought it bubbling to the surface!

I consider myself in a somewhat privileged position as a regular visitor to various educational settings. I have been, quite frankly, surprised at just how many early years settings acknowledge Halloween in an inappropriate way.Commercialism has much to do with it , however, I am more than a little uncomfortable going into settings to find the staff dressed up as ghosts, ghouls, and mummies etc. thereby framing this as a valuable learning experience.

Again, I opened up the discussion on a social media platform in order to gauge opinion. Some couldn’t understand why I had ‘an issue’ with it so here’s what it is.

Firstly, from an educational perspective what and why are we teaching about Halloween? Secondly, early years practitioners who are responsible for very young children’s emotional and educational welfare dressed up as scary people is frankly just wrong.

Personally I’m not a huge lover of spiders, however, I don’t believe they should be underpinned as a scary creature in this context either directly or subliminally…and whilst we’re on underlying consequences, many kids (SEN/ASD in particular)cannot comprehend the difference between figurative and literal!

Of course however we decide to acknowledge Halloween with our own children at home is another thing, but I’m steadfast in thinking that it shouldn’t be forced upon us in an educational setting by commercialism.

So here, in the midst of our joviality, I am happy to frame the way in which MovementWorks treats all the winter festivals. Movementworks’ sessions acknowledge Harvest not Halloween. In this framework, we celebrate gourds and not ghouls! Our movement activities are inspired by colour, shape and form.

A Dancing Christmas Tree
A Dancing Christmas Tree

As we head closer towards the end of another year, if we make any ghostly references they come in the form of the spirit of Christmases past. We take notice of the changing seasons and our work is influenced by the things we physically experience; cold weather, the prospect of snow, natural icons of the season.

These these things are truly magical when we all pay attention to them; they’re there for all of us to appreciate and are a wonderful reminder not to be so dictated to by endless commercialism.

Not that I’m not partial to a bit of sparkle…I glitter my own props and try to remember to look up at the stars!

Seasons greetings to you and yours!

Ali xxxxx

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