“What’s the point of this subject?” How one school mum answers this universal question

“What IS the point of school? Why do we have to study all these useless subjects?” One mum reveals how she answers the questions almost every child in the country will ask at some point.

My son has just started at secondary school. None of us expected the logistics to be as complicated as they have proved so far. And that’s just getting him there looking reasonably presentable, sufficiently clean and with most of the right kit. (And hopefully getting him home again pretty much on time with at least some or hopefully most of the aforementioned kit.)

And that’s before we even start thinking about homework. New subjects, new teachers, new goals. A homework timetable for the first time – and it’s online! But as always despite all of the technological advancements, I am braced for the universal question in relation to any and possibly every school subject “but what is it for?”

Why I’m grateful to Brian Cox and Dara O’Brian

Unlike ironing, bed-making and dusting the top of cupboards, being able to provide a ready answer to this one question is one area I am determined not to be found wanting.

Thanks to the rise of physics and astronomy and the (very welcome) talent for self-promotion of Brian Cox and Dara O’Brian, we have several subjects already covered. We even have reinforcement from the Big Bang Theory for anything engineering, astrophysics, quantum theory or generally science-related: you might get to go to the moon!

We also have the ability to code-break/design via an understanding of prime numbers and the quantum mechanics element without which we wouldn’t have mobile phones…or iPad’s…or Kindles (or did I make that bit up?) which totally validate the need to get better at maths and physics. To an 11-year old anyway.

Our French holiday also helped

But there are a few other subjects where a French holiday over the summer worked extremely well to provide the answers:

  • French lessons [tick!]: how else can you communicate exactly which flavours of ice-cream and which type of cone?? And how to make sure your steak is cooked just right?
  • Let alone how, without paying attention in French, you negotiate the price for a model of Tintin’s aeroplane at the local brocante market
  • Geology/Geography lessons [another tick!]: why are these caves here? Why do they have water in them? Why are these caves so deep? How do I know they won’t fall in on me?
  • Chemistry/Geology: but why are there way more stalagmites here than in Cheddar and Wookey Hole?
  • Biology: what are those bugs we keep finding in the cabin? And was that really a dragonfly over there?
  • Physics: will that chair break if I stand on it? (unfortunately “yes”)
  • Home economics: but how do you cook a varied diet for two hungry boys (in between the meals out) with just a hob and a microwave?

I’m sure similar answers for other subjects such as Latin will present themselves in due course, in the meantime I need to check again which lessons require apparently random objects to be taken into school today.

Sending warm wishes and empathy to all the other mums just about recovering from the back to school chaos this year.

Rachel Sestini is a tax and business consultant. You can find out more about her services on her website.