Saturday, 28 January 2012


A few kids in our local home ed group are following (in our case very loosely) the IGCSE curriculum for Geography.

I'm enjoying it. I have a special love for matters geographical: especially the physical bits requiring tramping through landscape.

It seems obvious to say it, but love didn't come from sitting in a classroom, studying black and white photographs in a prescribed curriculum text book.

It started when my mother pushed me outside and locked the door. Then, I thought it was a terrible injustice. Now, I know it was for my own protection.

But soon I was out and off, roaming willingly. Outside offered all kinds of new perils and opportunities. I expanded my unsupervised exploring range. From the back garden to the bank of earth that rose to cultivated fields and the crumbling outcrop of bunter sandstone. I took the skin off my hands, busted my knee, and acquired a whip graze on my cheek.

Then the long, tiny track, running alongside the fields to the iron gate that locked the private estate. Sunk to a ditch by a wall and hooded with brambles, I would hope, by creeping there, that I was breaking the law.

More than once, I came home muddied and bloodied. I can't recall my mother asking how. But I wouldn't have told her. Escape from a hideout where criminals with treasure defended themselves by bows and arrows was my triumph. She might spoil it all by assuming I was telling the truth then calling the police.

I never let on about slipping off to the quarry either. If she told me not to go back, for fear I would fall off the sandstone ridge, then I would never find Stig.

Family outings to beaches, hillsides, lakes and forests, all helped. I was tipped out the car and told to be back for tea or there'd be trouble. Mud didn't count in the charge sheet. Neither did prickle wounds from gorse bushes, leg bruises from sliding on seaweedy rock pools, and a wet bum from slipping down river banks.

It wasn't all neglect. To guide me, I had the injunction be careful. And my mother did sometimes keep an adult eye on proceedings. She stopped me going over that cliff edge in Devon. But it was never fair. She let my brother do it.

It has led me to a belief. Geography isn't a cold photograph in a text book. It's wind in the face, sore legs, split fingernails, a cut knee, and a smack in the cheek with a bramble bush.

Ma Shi Chau. Sand bar, coastal features, and Permian rocks. Or standing at the edge of the sea, waiting for the mountains to fold and the dinosaurs to arrive.


Retiredandcrazy said...

I so agree with you grit. education is only partially address with book learning. I, too, led a wild life of exploration when I was young. It was glorious.

But it's a different world now. How wonderful that you are able to offer your girls this freedom.

Nora said...

I bet you don'tt let your kids live as dangerously as your mother let you.

Gweipo said...

I LOVED Geography as a high school student, but in the days I was learning it we had no internet, no pictures, no photos nothing but our imagination and some rather badly drawn sketches to illustrate how rocks and mountains etc were formed. I can't believe what a wonder in resources there are now available to kids learning the same stuff, not to mention the freedom to travel and SEE things in real life as well! Have you been on a trip to the 9 pin islands yet? The royal geographic society of HK does a tour there at least once a year, and if you're not a member of the RGS I'd say you need to join right away - they have great lectures.