Apologies for the title, but I am feeling arsey, thanks to HESFES.
HESFES, for people who use schools, is the home educator's summer festival. Here it is, just outside Bury St Edmunds.
Held annually over one week, it's a time and place where the off-gridsters, hippies, anarchists, pink hair brigade, and completely normal people like me, all meet each other.
Whatever the state of our hair, we have a common thread. We educate outside the conventional school system. While we're chatting in the workshops and over coffee, the kids can be chucked in a field together to build their own social system.
I last went to HESFES Dorset, but haven't bothered with it since. Really, the kids were too little and, although I felt home education was right in all the possibilities it offered, I was still trying to investigate the landscape, meet the type of people who do it, and keep an open mind with one eye on conventional school.
At that time, HESFES struck me completely as a wild camp filled with autonomous types and feral kids.
I have grown in my understanding and awareness of the many home ed communities since then.
I know that to many people like me at that stage - familiar with the sight of uniformed children progressing in crocodile chains, accustomed to the idea that to learn anything, children sit facing in one direction, still expecting them to do the same activity at the same time - then sure, a large cacophony of kids whooping it up at a camp Tom Sawyer style, dressing how they want, running over fields, in and out streams and up trees, all without much parental screaming and helicoptering, can look scary and intimidating.
Especially if you then add into the mix the hammering from the copper beaters, the singing of the weaving circle and the accordions of the music group, practising for the afternoon theatre show. The science roadshow will be ongoing too, right next to your ears, with experiments of air pressure rockets, and Mr Robinson is touting for his afternoon show on how the world was created. He's compressing the talk into 13.75 minutes; one minute for every billion years.
Then the pink hair brigade wander past clutching coffee cups looking wild eyed after a night when the air bed punctured. Yes, it can look like a good portrayal of chaos.
But it's not. Human behaviour is the same, regardless of the clothes it wears or the colour of the hair dye bottle. Look closer at this lot, and you'll see people from a slice of a society, same as you'd find anywhere in Britain. The teenage home ed kids do as you'd expect. They hang around in small groups, mostly dressed in black, hoping they look cool. The little kids get on bikes and race each other over the fields and into the stream. Their toddler siblings sit and bawl or eat grass. The parents wander about hugging babies or looking for coffee and passing comment on the state of the toilets, the weather, and the suitability of the tents after a night of rain and wind.
It's in this environment that I am completely won over to the delights of the HESFES experience. And even less patient with the vocal opinionated arses who have very little understanding of the many ways in which home ed can work.
Because here I can sit and chat about all the familiar home ed issues - approaches to child rearing, the state of the house, legal duties, the role of the local authority, the usefulness of labels like autonomous and structure, child-friendly text books, self-motivation, truancy patrols, the oddities of local home ed groups, how to get hold of tutors for special courses, the easiest ways to access GCSEs, how to approach college entrance exams, what university requirements are in vogue, and which home ed kid you know who is now travelling the world, studying history at Oxford, setting up their own business, or working for charity. I can discuss it all, not so much with like minds as with people who understand the territory.
And I didn't talk much about socialisation, except to feel sure that the griblets need to be located at HESFES not only for the day, but for the entire week.
Shark, Tiger, and even Squirrel, the declared arch enemy of camping, each say that next year we are staying in a tent and we are not driving over for one measly day.
Even in our limited time we clocked up science, bag making, weaving, leatherwork and copper. (No photo of that. I was busy over tea.) Plus Mr Robinson's excellent talk.
All of which shows then, that home educated children do not lack opportunities to socialise, nor do they lack contexts and situations which meet their endless stream of inquiries. Even the parents can satisfy their rebellious urges over a cup of tea and a chin wag about the vagaries of the English weather.
Let's hope for next year then, that the weather is kind, the toilets are cleaned, and by July I have figured out how to pop the pop-up tent back down.