Are there certain things you imagine you would miss if your children were not in school? The mad rush to get everyone out of the door by 8.35 in the morning? Shopping for school uniforms and sewing (ironing or sticking) name tapes into everything? The gossip at the school gate? School photographs - the annual happy snap of siblings in their matching uniforms? School sports days? Were you one of those fortunate, athletic people for whom this annual event was a highlight of the school year, at which you collected a number of achievement stickers - 1st, 2nd, 3rd - and your team won the house cup repeatedly year on year? Or was this, for you, more a day to loathe, the thought of which was enough to make you feel sick, a day when you hated your sporting incompetence displayed for all to see, as you traipsed across the finishing line to the derision of your classmates? At primary school I was on 'the red team'. We were a motley crew of assorted sporting unfortunates, destined to come in last year upon dreary year. For me, and primary school was the peak of my sporting career (I did play centre on the netball team, and once ran in a hurdles race at the County sports!), sports day was an occasion to dread.
I do wonder, still, if there are things the boys miss about school, and I ask them sometimes ... I wonder, in particular, whether they miss their friends. Their responses surprise me. "I can still see my friends whenever I want," they say, "I can just invite them over". On days when I am bad tempered, I wonder if they would not rather be away from me. "Teachers have bad days too," they say. "Teachers often shout." Would they like to go back to school, I ask. A resounding "NO" from all three!
What about sports day?
This year I saw advertised on one of the Home Educators Yahoo groups I lurk on, a sports day for Home Educators in the West Midlands at a park in central Birmingham, so I asked the boys if they would like to go. "YES" from my eldest son, "NO" from the other two. So, I signed us up, figuring the younger two could decide once there whether to join in or not.
There was quite a large turn out, probably 40 or so children aged 2-13. One or two parents had taken responsibility for organising events, so the morning ran smoothly and was well thought through. The children were divided roughly by age group and ran a running race, an egg-and-spoon race (with plastic eggs, much to my middle son's disappointment!), a sack race, which was lots of fun, a welly toss, and 2 relays - one which involved moving plastic balls from one bucket to another, the second involving wet sponges and the movement of water, which was a fun idea.
My youngest son spectated, though he did participate in tossing the welly with his older brother. But my middle son joined in right from the start and the older boys seemed to enjoy the event very much. After the races, there was a bring and share picnic, and an amazing spread of food materialised from everyone's carrier bags onto a blanket on the grass. After eating, the children enjoyed running round the park together, playing various games. One of the things I always like to see at home educators' events is the way in which children of all ages, boys and girls, play together, the older ones helping the younger ones. This is one of the things other people worry home educated children miss out on without school .... socialisation. I wonder if being stuck in a classroom with 29 same-age peers is really the best socialisation we can give?