Wednesday, 2 June 2010

The Royal Albert Hall, free tour

If you start home educating, one of the first radars you grow inside your brain is the type that detects places which offer activities that

a) take the kids off you,
b) you can call educational, and
c) which are FREE.

You will develop this detection system quickly, because after two weeks you have found that home ed is like strapping an electric suction pump to your purse, with a one-way money-outward action.

Very soon, you realise this leads to problems of the soul-destroying giving-up type.

For example, you might accidental meet your not-friend Jelinka Harquottle. She has dropped Moonquiver at the free state childcare house down the road, then hails you in pride and satisfaction en route to her adult-only batik class. She delightfully recounts how yesterday (incidentally at the very same moment you realised you did not know anything about Pythagoras's Theorum) she went shopping, and picked out a snipsnip sale of perfect shoes for a bargainifilous fifty pounds! Look at the diamante sparkles on the red satin kittens! She's wearing them now!

You look down at the grubby third-hand plimsolls stickered to your feet with duct tape (5p, Church jumble bin). Then you recall the fifty pounds you once had in your account, which you used to pay for one French lesson, settle the library fine on 45 overdue poetry books, and send the reluctant Tinkertop to a tennis coach for twenty minutes, allowing you to tick PE and persuade yourself it's all led by your child in an autonomous free-spirited sort of way. Between your fingers in your pocket you feel the 29p in coins and remember you owe the £15 for next week's workshop on sewage.

This life of deprivation, financial constraint and old shoes, can, over time, eat into your soul. It can cause resentment, bitterness and envy. So we must avoid that route, obviously. We cut out the cursed and cow-faced Jelinka Harquottle from our thrifty lives. We start growing our own courgettes while calling it science, and we exclaim the virtues of making our own flip flops from cardboard. For that, we use all the passion and energy of the evangelical happy clappy, because first you must persuade yourself of the moral benefits of your alternative, educational-inspired, thrift. The louder you clap, the quicker it drowns out your doubts and covers your indignities.

Anyway, none of this thinking is particularly relevant today, except for the fact that the educational tour and workshop we attend at the Royal Albert Hall is FREE. So my advice to you home educators is go, because on that basis, it is a very good bargain indeed.

This is what we were promised. 'A tour of the building, plus a Key Stage 3 Art & Design workshop which takes a closer look at the Royal Albert Hall's beautiful Victorian frieze. Children will be involved in group work and practical activities to create their own modern version in this exciting and hands on art and design session.'

Well all of that is true. I might question the exciting description, and put in interesting. Hands on I'm not sure about, but if it means, can hold a pair of scissors and do some drawing, well that is true too.

This is what you get then, for FREE. (Or, for no outlay whatsoever after the enormous cost of getting there.)

You get a tour of the building, led enthusiastically by one, two or three ladies all aged 82 (but possibly aged 34, 46, and 52). They want you to love this building, they really do, and they walk you about and incant looovellyy building! with many long vowels and determined expressive faces. I do not mind this, but we might have engineering-type genes somewhere lost in our family lines, so next time please a bit more hardcore steel and glass construction news. They also become a little confused over the composition of terracotta, so more accuracy needed on the differences of earth-hewn stone and human-baked clay.

Nevertheless, the ladies tell you interesting factoids. Like the stairs. They are wide enough to allow two Victorian upper classes in full skirts to descend, side by side, without resorting to a brawling fist fight because one of them trampled the other's frill. The hand rails in some places are too short, proving that the Victorians were miniature sized, probably on account of too much vinegar, white bread, and tea. No dancing in the royal box. The best seats were sold in perpetuity, so families today whose granddaddies had a hundred quid to blow on a seat in 1870 today can go sit in the seat for free. The light above the royal box faces outward and lights up just before the royal comes in; this tells the conductor to get the orchestra to stand before the great arrival, and not mess up the ceremony by allowing the violinists to sit there picking noses, scratching armpits and plucking strings.

Then the workshop. That is led by an ex-schoolteacher and is textbook classroom. I can tell this, having experienced hopelessness and loss in a classroom while the textbooks are thrown out of the window in a general atmosphere of chaos because Gripper has got out the hammer again.

But here the Ofsted approved lesson is roughly as follows: teacher organisation of classroom into groups; teacher introduction, information about activity; child involvement in rapid timed activity; table feedback, teacher talk to reinforce feedback loop, introduce 40 minute activity; activity completed; teacher feedback, the point of the lesson revealed by magic.

This is all very good, and I am not complaining at all, because it has been FREE.

And there is something more too, because all the ladies seemed to genuinely welcome us, and that is a very great reaction, and something we usually get only if we pay for it. To a home educator, feeling welcomed is a high priority, and is a perfect antidote to the routine reactions we receive of disgust, contempt, pity, mockery, sorrow, disbelief, and red-alert terrorist level vigilance, because as everyone knows, we are bound to smash up the furniture, encourage anarchy, set the place on fire and allow the children to take drugs.

So what with the tour, the workshop, the welcome, all in all, excellent value.

All this and some desk work too.

(And for your own research before you go, this is very thorough.)


sharon said...

Yes, there is always some merit to be found in 'free'!

Grit said...

and only 30 quid to get to london! BARGAIN.