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Education Education Education

27 Apr

At what age should you start school?  When should the freedom of digging in the sand, stories on Mummy’s lap and hours spent playing with trains end?  In Germany it’s at seven that you move from Kindergarten to formal learning.  In Scandinavia it’s a similar age, with the added bonus of school only in the mornings.  My youngest child will be 4 on 27th July.  He’ll start full time ‘big’ school with his brother and sister just over a month later.

I was chatting on Twitter with Paula about this the other day.  She is in the same position as me of having her youngest child, a summer baby, also starting school in September.  I jokingly said that our round the world trip was planned entirely so that Dickon would miss most of his first year of school, to put off the moment when I finally let go of my children’s infancy, their long days at home.

But I wasn’t really joking.  OK, so the reason for taking our trip does not entirely pivot around one child’s schooling.  However, the timing of it, and a strong desire to hold onto my children a little longer, to have them with me for more of their childhood, they were key reasons for embarking on this undertaking.

Our children go to a very good school, which they enjoy and we are happy with.  But I wish they had more time at home.  That we had more flexibility.  If it’s a sunny day, we can’t just hop on a train to the seaside to spend the day poking about in rock pools, if they feel like reading all day, it’s not an option.  I realise that it’s disruptive for schools if children do not attend regularly.  And I know that I am not cut out for full-time home schooling.  I don’t think my patience or the kitchen floor could take the mess and chaos that would ensue.  But I do wish that we all had more time together, that I didn’t feel that other people are getting the best of my children.

And I particularly wish that my baby, my little baby, who I held in my arms as a newborn such a short time ago, could stay with me a little longer.  So I’ve concocted a plan.  It involves three continents, nine countries and five backpacks.  How I’ll cope when we come back, I have no idea.

If any politicians could give me the answer to that, I’ll happily vote for them.

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This blog post is sponsored by Giraffe Preschools.

Are we mad?

8 Feb

Our children go to the kind of school that’s held up as a shining example of all that is right with state primary education.  They build dens, dress up when writing to ‘get in character’, eat healthy homemade food, turn classrooms into campervans and ‘travel’ around Australia, have winning sports teams and get visits from circus performers and the Royal Shakespeare Company.  All this and they also pass their exams.

As you might expect from such a beacon of educational wonderfullness, competition for places is fierce.  Despite taking on 90 children a year, the catchment area stretches less than half a km and about half of places are taken by siblings.

So when we started talking about our trip, we decided that we’d only do it if we were able to keep the children’s school places.  We’d be mad otherwise, right?  Hmmm.

About two years ago, we wrote to the Head of the Infant School asking her what she thought about our idea to go travelling.  She sent us a lovely letter in reply, enthusing about the great opportunity it would be for our children, but dealing a killer blow.  The school isn’t allowed to keep our places open, the council automatically gives them away after six weeks.

For months, we tried to think of ways around it by trimming our plans to fit.  But it just didn’t feel right.  I was already in mourning for the trip that we weren’t going to have.  After talking and talking and talking, we decided to go ahead anyway and keep our fingers crossed that we’ll get places on our return.

Yesterday we wrote to the headteachers informing them that we’d bought our tickets and would be leaving.  Gulp.  Are we mad?

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