Sunday, 24 August 2008

Lessons from a Viking in a field

Here I am, burdened with the responsibility to provide an education for Shark, Squirrel and Tiger.

Our education could mean lying flat on the sofa watching Teletubbies and Big Brother. I could interrupt Tinky Winky to do English language and shout out I'm sure that was a verb! Noun! Adverb! Then we could do the same in the afternoon with geography and history, like Where is Eastenders set? and How long has Coronation Street been running? and I guess we could spend our days in this privileged home education way, never needing to move our arses further than the front room to get a good solid understanding of British culture. We could even drink beer and eat chips everyday and call that a domestic science lesson. And do you know what is the best thing about all this? No-one would stop us. That's right. In home ed land we can do what the heck we want.

But do you know, there is a state in the Grit home ed household, and it is called conscience. When conscience calls, it asks sternly, Do you really want your children to be functional only as Mr Blobby sofa slobs who can finely distinguish the vowels in Tinky Winky's speeches, or reel off the E-numbers used in a packet of cheap bourbons? Or would you like your children to know about the Vikings of middle England?

When conscience calls on Grit she becomes all penitent and sorry about those bottles of beer, packets of biscuits, bags of crisps and the loafing around on the sofa watching Tinky Winky, and she jumps up and demands everyone get up right now and come to a field at Rockingham Castle because we are studying the Vikings. Yes. As of now, Shark, so put the crisps down.

So everyone gets in the car, even Tiger who says she is feeling better today and will come to see the Vikings so long as there is no education at all and that I don't try to teach her anything, and I lie and say That's OK, the Vikings are really Tinky Winky in disguise, and off we go.

Once we are here the little Gritlets seem to expect they can sit under the shade of a tree and scoff the picnic. But at the sight of a bloke dressed in a skirt and waving a sword Grit is overcome, so she naturally starts intoning all her Viking knowledge in one long stream of non-stop education. She just cannot help herself, and defends herself by claiming she is just making conversation about the Vikings and she is not teaching anybody anything and what do you want me to talk about at a Viking festival? Ceiling fans? Table mats?

Unfortunately the Gritlets are now well argumentative and Tiger says I am the worst mother in the whole world for trying to teach her something and she's never going to walk with me again now I've done the worst thing possible and brought her out to the Viking show when she never wanted to come and I have forced her. So I do the childish thing and say Fine, I'm never talking about the Vikings ever ever ever again, so there.

Because I am now acting like a five year old I stomp off to look at a tent and don't care whether I am being followed or not by the revolting Gritlets. They do scurry behind me anyway, possibly because otherwise one of the wandering Vikings will bend down and speak to them. And so we all arrive at the Viking surgeon who is demonstrating the healing power of his saw and who shows us his model of his cut off foot. I note that seems to cheer up the sulky Gritlets and they start listening to how Viking surgeons might have adopted Christianity and burned crosses into the flesh but that could have been Thor's hammer, so you could hedge your bets.

After twenty minutes we know all about Viking surgical methods, payments and insurance schemes and I keep quiet about that talk possibly being educational, but I just note quietly that there didn't seem to be any trouble about that when it came from a bloke wearing a skirt, and not from mummy with a compilation of Viking information in her head. This is one of the principles of home ed: it is fine so long as you are not teaching anything. And if someone else teaches the very same thing, and especially if they have a model of a cut off foot in their hand, then their words are treasured as gold nuggets gathered from the pool of eternal light.

There doesn't seem much of a job left for me to do after the surgeon but suggest we watch Eric Bloodaxe being slaughtered in battle.

Here the Gritlets sit entranced while Eric Bloodaxe gets a sword through the belly and out squirts red blood because these reenactors are getting pretty professional and have stocked up on all the film set stuff to make those battle scenes as realistic as possible. Here the Gritlets learn again about Vikings beating up Saxons and vice versa when really, Shark turns to tell me, they were all the same kind of people and, did you know mummy, they were just fighting over land and resources, you should study the way they lived and the clothes they wore to know that they were the same tribes but with different rulers. And I nod and say really? That's interesting because I had always suspected that. And then the Gritlets are clapping away like fury at all the dead bodies strewing the battlefield and Tiger is all but punching the air to shout Down with Bloodaxe!

And then all the way home I am told all about how the Vikings and the Saxons are pretty much alike and how the dividing line of England must have run with raids and how they must have got on too and traded and settled and married and made language and religion and how they cooked chicken and made wool and created the land that became England.

Which just goes to prove that when my conscience demands that I provide an education I should just put Shark, Squirrel and Tiger in a field and then stay out of the way. Because there is really no substitute for a man in a skirt and a bucket of fake blood.


Samurai Beetle said...

You find the most interesting things to do outside with your children!!!

Kael said...

Great blog, and i'm glad you enjoyed the event :-)


(Assassin of Eric Bloodaxe from
the 'Vikings of Middle England')