Last concert, and last dress up day (Ancient Greeks is tricky when your sewing box is already packed)
In the top ten questions I’ve been asked when I’ve told people about our trip, this has to be the most common – and perhaps the most bizarre. So obsessed has the world become with having our children in school all the time (otherwise we’ll fine you) that many people think we might be breaking the law by taking the children travelling. Luckily, I can answer that one quickly. We aren’t.
“Is it legal?” is closely followed by “what about the school places?”so I thought I’d tackle them both at once. Let’s start with a disclaimer. We are schooly people. The girls have been at the local state primary at the end of our road since they’ve been old enough to be there. We have our moments with state education, but generally I’m a fan. Paul’s the co-chair of the PTA and I’m a rather inept governor. The girls have thrived.
I’m hoping they will thrive there again. But for the next year we will be “Electively Home Educating”- which anyone is legally allowed to do. We’ve told Lewisham Council, and sent a formal letter to the school – though I think they’ve probably noticed, given the amount of times I’ve had to take the children out for jabs. And no, they can’t hold our place, so it will be the luck of the draw whether they have a space when we get back (but since we live so near and the girls will go into the Juniors where there are usually a few spaces, they probably will).
As the daughter of a teacher, handing in a letter taking my children out of school is enough to bring me out in hives. I feel a bit guilty if I forget to sign a reading record, so ‘electively home educating’ is quite a big step. I’ve always associated it with a) hippies with beads and b) quite conservative religious families – not good girls like me who always contribute to the class collection at the end of term.
But in the end, missing a year of school didn’t seem enough of an excuse not to go, nor even did the threat that the girls might not get their school places back. We’re lucky in our tiny pocket of Lewisham, where all of the schools are good or outstanding, so that probably helps. And even though I love state education, I get tired of the measuring, the tick boxes, the admin (not to mention the sudden demands for costumes, random homework and endless, endless cakes).
The girls’ school reports arrived yesterday, dividing their various skills into ‘expected’, ’emerging’ and ‘exceeding’ – not categories I’d ever use for anything they do. I particularly hate “emerging’ – which makes children sound like inept caterpillars who may, or may not, transform into beautiful butterflies.
So we’re going straight for the butterfly stage. No emerging, expected or exceeding for us next year. And yes, the school have been very supportive (though I hate to break it to them that we’re not going to pack ALL of those handwriting booklets in the backpacks). We’ll do diaries, we’ll do times tables (under duress, I suspect) and most of all, we’ll do chat. And for six months, the girls will go to school in Mexico, where I’m not really expecting them to learn anything except Spanish. Most days I think it will be fine. Fly free, butterflies…