Sunday, 20 May 2012


I am on the look-out for girls again.*

This is something I do regularly, so I suppose I should tell you about it. And I thought it could help you, if you are worried about making your profound move from school to home ed, and are concerned about the S-word.

Here are the usual strategies.

1. Join the local home ed group. They meet up routinely to muck about in woods, fields and swimming pools.

This is helpful, but it can be frustrating. You can't choose whether your local group is made up of a bunch of boys, a group of girls, or a pile of toddlers who want to eat soil.

Presently, our local group contains mostly boys. They enjoy waving sticks at each other, chucking pines cones about, and making a loud noise. I have asked Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, does this matter? Because you do exactly the same. (I am unreliably informed by Squirrel, when boys chuck pine cones about, it is 'different'.)

2. Join as many interest groups, hobby clubs, volunteering groups, and after-school activities as possible.

This can be quite a useful strategy to meet girls, but there are several problems, like the after-school club closes down, thanks to the fact that no-one attends, apart from us. (Apparently, too much homework; not enough takers; parents can't afford it; the water activity centre sacked the late staff.)

Then the other problems. You obviously must have kids who are joiners; you cannot attend every club held on a Saturday morning between 9.30 and 11.30; and if Shark, Squirrel or Tiger do make new friends, then they have to wait all week or month to see them again. Because school kids can't come on a whim to footle about the garden because it's sunny.

If you overcome all these hurdles and find a group where you eye-spy a potential good few matches, then you might just face this problem: the one where the schoolies stare in bug-eyed incredulity at the home edders, and the home edders stare back in confusion at the schoolies. The schoolies are all scared to death that the home edders are an uncivilised rabble (as the for/against English debate concluded), and the home edders struggle to understand why the schoolies pay attention to anything they are told, ever. Sometimes there's no helping kids. You simply have to encourage both sides to understand that the other side is not going to eat them.

(Hmm. Ditto for the parents. If I sidle up to you, it is because I want to say, it's OK by me if Tinkertop comes over. You do not need to slide your eyes at me like I am hiding a knife and fork in my handbag.)

3. Roam the streets, visit the playgrounds, hang out.

Not a good strategy. As parents, we have specifically not encouraged Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to hang around street corners. They get bored at the playgrounds if there's no one to play with, and they are not of the age or disposition where they can 'hang out'. They like doing and making stuff and, being young women of purposes, find waiting on group decisions annoying.

4. Make compromised alliances with special interest groups.

Like the local home ed Christian group, or the nearby anarchist brigade. If there is a suitable girl in that lot, we parents have to put aside our differences, never mention God/meat-eaters/taxation/politics/the local authority/the electricity company/indeed much of any potentially interesting conversation at all, and hope the kids hit it off, somehow.

5. Skype, email, go online.

Useful, especially if Shark, Tiger and Squirrel are expecting to see remote friends soon in person, like Twiss&Flizz, hopefully to arrive in England this summer! Yay!

Of course we sanction this contact only with known friends. So if you are Mr Spooky trying to pass yourself off as the 'sad 13-year old home educated Angelica looking for friends', then forget it.

It is an unavoidable truth that home ed involves the entire family. Yes, I agree, it is a nuisance. I have tried sneaking off for years in search of easy men and cheap beer, and I haven't made it yet.

6. Make private deals.

Most of the time, this is where we're at. 'Psst! Meet you at the lake at 2pm! Bring your Jessie, Em, and Erika!'

The problem with this is that Jessie, Em, and Erika take part in a maths group until one, the Latin tutor with the head wound comes round at five, and they must bring the dog because he has prostrate problems and piddles on the floor if he's left alone.

Now, these techniques are how I have been approaching the S-word issue since we returned to England a good two months back. I have had partial success.

If any experienced home educators want to pitch in and help with a few more strategies to help me meet my responsibilities in the S-department, then I would be glad of it, since Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are clearly now missing their regular contact with the lassies up the Hong Kong mountainside.

* Girls for me, because I have girls. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger have reached the age where they confidently claim that boys are 'pointless and annoying'. I have suggested they lighten up on this judgement, because how would they feel to be judged in turn? Squirrel thought about this, then conceded that boys do sometimes come in useful if they let you chase them with sticks.

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