Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Hollow Crown

Nine o'clock comes, and I am sat in front of the TV with my eyelids stapled to my forehead. I am not missing one micro-second of this Beeb action.

Yes, it's Richard II, and the start of The Hollow Crown. I expect not to be disappointed otherwise there will be hell to pay in this household. I will be in a foul grump all Sunday.

Thank goodness then, that it delivered. My children were spared the torment of thwarted mama. Because I loved Goold's version of Richard II. So much indeed that I had to stay up well past pumpkin-transforming midnight to watch Derek Jacobi look wistful as he watched his former screen self play a much shoutier Richard than the delightful Ben Whishaw.

Didn't Ben make a splendid job of it? I loved his interpretation of Richard. Fey, droopy, androgenous, with a touch of the psycho-nuts. Focusing on his precarious mental state, together with the soft reflective way of delivering some of those lines, talking more to himself than anyone else, he perfectly chimed his Richard with the self-referencing times we live in.

The focus on Richard's self-absorption was wonderfully helped by that close up camera, so a big tick for exploiting the resources of the small screen. The close ups engaged me a lot, actually. The closer the audience came to Richard's eyes, the shiftier and less attractive he became, and the less his character seemed able to hold up to our intensive scrutiny. It was a treatment that brought out an aspect of him in the play: that he is nothing of real depth. He is a glittery crown, propped up by shine, bolstered by show, ceremony and gloriously luxurious verse. Knock them all down and he is an inadequate child-king promoted beyond his capabilities.

That is the other characteristic I loved about the Whishaw portrayal. The childishness of Richard. I tried not to glance at Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. Honestly, when Richard knows he must yield the crown, it was like watching the puffin incident all over again, swinging an exaggerated course between defiance to submission. I want Mr Puffin, he is MINE. Alright then, you have Mr Puffin. TAKE IT and I HATE YOU.

But unlike the gritlets, Wishaw didn't yell until his face turned purple. Not at all. He put on a drama queen of a show and, as Jacobi later suggested, delivered it with not too much self-pity. Instead, he had Richard clinging to that belief in his divinely appointed role; and by focusing on his rightful place in this hierarchy he allowed the audience to consider not the man alone but the consequences of severing a God-given order. The play itself provides for this with Henry's rule starting off with plots and suspicions and fears.

Possibly my only gripe with the presentation was when Richard is shot through with crossbows in his dungeon-cave. He is so evidently Christ that my toes curled a bit. Although it is true to say I could not know how else it would have ended for him, given the way Goold had brought his passage to this point. Maybe it was the crescendo of the heavenly choir when the arrows went in. For my taste, just a touch too overplayed.

Anyway, as for the rest of the performance, David Suchet was excellent and I wish I could know him for more than Poirot. Captain Picard was excellent also, playing a character from history - John of Gaunt - who is increasingly fascinating me for his political actions. Rory Kinnear as Bolingbroke matched Richard's languid poses by delivering a Bolingbroke that was authoritative, calm, and paced; I loved that moment when an expression of realisation passed his face as Richard is led away in defeat, and Bolingbroke understands then the extent of his rise against Richard's decline.

Cinematically, I don't want to complain about a bit of it. It was beautiful to look at. The framing, editing and focus were spot on: the shots of the impending joust, the long views of castles and water, Richard flailing about in the sea edge, all beautiful and perfect, with lovely set colours and costumes; the staff clearly had a great time working on them. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger particularly loved the costuming for the Welsh, what with the dead rats strapped to their heads, so we can all expect to see some remodelling of those round here for the Arseface sisters as their next choice of weekend clothing for Cardiff.

Well, you don't come here for up-to-the-minute television reviews, that's for sure. I last watched live television in 2004. So I'll say the gritlets watched too, and stayed completely engaged throughout, so thank you Beeb for providing our education today.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Film night

I tell the children, I have been wrestling with my soul over Family Fun Film Night.

Should it be the four hundredth screening of Ice Age? Hmm. Or, children, should it be Henry V (The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France (Dir. Laurence Olivier, 1944)?

I say it's a tough one, this call between what the children want (slumpish Friday night entertainment) and what mama wants (a dedication to her children's life-long erudition).

But you saw it coming, didn't you? The gritlets lose. Of course they do. I claim the final tip on the balance is The Hollow Crown starting tomorrow night on BBC2. I've already marked it as a must-watch and made Dig come home from Hong Kong early so he could make the incalcitrant TV behave. And I have tickets for the gritlets at the Globe to see Henry V on stage. I say that tilts my decision, too. Then I promise to compensate for the loss of Ice Age by my usual helpful injection of Co-op pancakes.

But to their credit (and my amazement) the mini grits stay the course with Olivier. I would like to claim it was not the Co-op pancakes but my 'One-hour introduction to Henry V' performed dramatically at the tea table before pressing play on the video recorder.

(Have I read it? No. Of course I haven't. But sometimes that ex-English teachery job comes in handy.)

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Evening walk

Dig is here before he changes his passports and heads off to Brazil for his pimping job. This is okay by me. It is good to have a co-parent to help out. He gives the little grits a lecture about pie charts, makes the television work, and hands me back a camera that now takes pictures.

Yippee! Here then, the wildlife walk through the SSSI, ancient woodland and lowland heath. We saw no adders, but we did see the fantastic hole in the ground, the one the local folk - against all evidence - defiantly call Dick Turpin's Cave. (Only works if Dick Turpin was a gnome, travelling 200 miles out of his way to find an obscure hole in the ground in the middle of a wood.)

(Yes, that last shot is Dick Turpin's Cave. Don't all rush to it, that's my advice.)

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Doing it for ourselves

The gritlets attend an art lesson. One of those lessons home educators will recognise. Someone in our local home ed group has a skill they can share, they tell everyone about it, they hire a hall, and invite the kids along.

The older the children are, the easier it is for the home educating parent unit to push off and do the shopping.

So that is what I do. I sign up Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to C's art, take them to the local community hall, leave them with the other eight kids, then I drive off. When I pick them up, they show me circles and spirals and boast about the things a pencil can do, then they say the session was good, C is fun and she does interesting things.

Yah boo sucks to the naysayers. Home education offers individual routes into experience, teaches children how to take control of their own learning, values the family input, draws on so many skills from so many different people, and actively uses the community facilities that are here. Really, it provides an educational model for the mainstream. It shouldn't be the exception.

But I believe the educational landscape in this country will change. It's inevitable. The Victorian factory model this country still employs - where you lock up kids, dress the girls like boys, and render pupils in black-and-white service uniforms while dividing them up into pass/fail - show that schools are fundamentally about social control rather than freedom to learn.

The fact that successive governments try to control various aspects of this system, seek to intimidate and covertly threaten teachers, then impose on parents a hierarchy of sanctioned knowledge from ever-earlier ages, using moral threats and fears of exclusion, these are all indicators to me that the structure is already feeling vulnerable. Good.

You can't stop learning. Whether it takes place down the high street, in the village hall, in a field or a front room. People out here are already taking learning away from the school setting and offering it widely. The options to take up an education entirely suited to the individual are all around us.

And if the naysayers bleat exams and certification, then that too is under erosion. When the universities are experimenting with accreditation, we can say it's only a matter of time before the breakdown of your Victorian system begins.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Early start

Look at me go! Awake by 5am! By 6.30am I have put on a cycle of laundry, tidied up the kitchen, laid out breakfast for the griblets, sent three email messages about rockwatching, drama and art, and picked up Dig from the airport.


(Please be impressed. Because by 9am I am home again and, thanks to the caffeine, have become one of the living dead, unable to live and unable to die, staring fixedly out the window wearing a glazed expression, possibly dribbling slightly. I stay like that until I topple sideways at 9pm when someone covers me up with an old coat.)

Monday, 25 June 2012

Count this a good day

Not a good start to the week. We have several outings cancelled. One, the weather has turned the site into a bog. Two, the speaker is having a nervous breakdown. Three, the geologist fell over and is now propped up on two crutches. Not only me then, having a run of bad luck.

On the upside, I have taken a telephone call from the National Trust. They have apologised to me. Me! Well, it was as close to an apology as I was going to get, although it didn't actually contain the words I'm sorry. But the spirit and the tone were definitely there! Can you hear them, in the words I can offer an explanation which I know will not suffice but may go towards explaining how this situation does not normally occur.

Okay, but I'm considering this a bit of a success. Normally they show no understanding or tolerance, they just tell me off, take my ball off me, and kick me out their houses. (It's alright. I get my own back. I creep round the back of their estates and wee in their hedges.)

But thanks to that, I shall say that today was a success. I have to find something. I am in absolute agony with my skin, resemble a burns victim, and have begun to think deeply uncharitable thoughts about comfortable fat people who can drink beer and eat bread.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Glory in the detail

As I see it, the benefit of a daily blog is that I can post the most monumental heap of trivia, yet I still feel satisfied that I am meeting that responsibility I have, of telling you about home education.

For it is exactly this. Education - life - is a routine of finding out. From all of the possibilities, options and choices, we discover what the day can be, what the learning can be, where we can go, what we can see, and how many points can you score on the dolphin tail flip game (4,560 if you are Shark).

Life and learning are now so intertwined for us in our ordinary day, threading through home, house, streets, shops, fields, woods, and the car park outside John Lewis, that I wonder if I can separate them, ever.

I don't think we're alone. The outings made by this family are much the same, sometimes tamer, as thousands of trips and visits taken by home educators on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis. The books we strip from the library shelves are from the same wide range. The groups we join are of a crowd. And the experiences we have - doubt, anxiety, loud bravado, quiet confidence, miseries and joys - are much of the same patterns too. I'd even guess that for some of us, the worksheets we stare at guiltily - before deciding to bake cake and recatalogue the limestone rock collection (yes, we all have one of those too) - are each pulled down from the same online education resource banks.

I know, to some, this choice must look like a life lived haphazardly, without rigour, discipline, or accountability. But from my point of view, standing in this mountain of ordinary everyday opportunity, pursuits for any direction, it's like being in a truly educational/living experience.

Out of this detail is one day thrown something that seems such a small, unremarkable moment, that you barely observe it passing. You can never know what's significant, or where the learning will come from. But that insignificant moment can grow to a large part of a child's interest; it may form their single-minded passion; then it will inspire them, put them into new, challenging contexts, change their social identity, cause them to rework their former ideas and assumptions, bring out strengths in their character, and give them the humility and awareness to confidently declare an ambition: sounding simple and clear as a bell, it is a route you know your child must take, regardless of all. One day, I'm going to make my living selling vacuum cleaners. That's it. No matter how bizarre. You know the route they discovered is theirs.

I think these thoughts as I drive to collect Shark from her weekend of woodland adventures. The skies have blasted this house with storms, gales, and rains, so I only wonder what bedraggled heap I will find when I locate her, sodden in a layby. Yes. Her gear is soaked and wild hair sparks round her face. Across her wind-pinched cheek is a smudge of tribal earth. She waves at me, smiles, heaves her stuff in the car, and falls into the passenger seat as if discovering for the first time what a cushion can do for one's rear. Then she says camping in the wind, storm and rain is fantastic. Just, fantastic.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

I did think about running around the house, naked

I strongly recommend the Woodcraft Folk to all home educators. Yes, it might involve driving a distance to your local group, plus a traffic jam through Dunstable, but believe me, it is entirely worth it.

I can come over all liberal, celebrate how there are no pointless brown uniforms, no stupid oaths of fealty to God, Queen or Country (yay for the Republican side of the brain), and no spinster Brown Owl to judge the state of your knots for your Weaver's Badge, but the truth of the WF's attraction for me is utterly straightforward. They take a kid off me at short notice, dump her in a wood, and let her get on with the co-operative, team-building challenges she must surely face if she is to ever get out of a difficult situation alive.

One of these challenges is to find your own food. I quite fancy the idea that all mini meat-eating Woodies will have to learn how to track, catch, kill, gut, skin and cook a rabbit (there would be a lot more vegetarians by Sunday night), but to their credit the WF are much more pragmatic even than this. They muster the kids into groups, bung them thirty quid, and drive them to Sainsbury's. The groups must then organise themselves to buy, cook and feed their clan for the entire weekend. If the group decides to blow the thirty quid in Cadbury's Creme Eggs, so be it. They'll trade Creme Eggs for cucumbers come morning (so the theory goes).

Shark is thrilled by this whole idea of dinner autonomy, which makes me wonder what restrictions she thinks she lives under round here (I suppose they do camp fire, while I do setting the tea towel on fire), but I am hugely grateful to the woodies for dreaming up this type of scheme and putting it into practice.

While Shark is doing that, I locate a Saturday morning wildlife group for my remaining children. This particular group has been remarkably coy about its location, activities and costs, so I hope they are up to something like hunt sabotage, or keying the cars of nest thieves and shoving shit through the letterboxes of bird poisoners. Anyhow, I find them, and they are doing no such thing. It is pond dipping (again).

But I am delighted to report that for the first time in what feels like a century I spend a large part of the day with no children to look after at all, no-one to watch over my actions, no-one grass me up to Social Services, and no-one to blab what I do down the Co-op. I'm not telling you, either.

Friday, 22 June 2012

City of Caves

I cannot make my camera take pictures, as cameras are supposed to do. No matter what I try, it claims it cannot remember anything more, then says it must go and lie down as it is tired.

I loudly press all its buttons, jiggle its brain, give it a good talking to, and slap it about a bit.

Nothing. So I have no pictures from the City of Caves attraction for you. Squirrel says I cannot photograph underground anyway. I beg to differ. This is Nott'm, city of ambition and enterprise. They can turn dark into light if they wish.

The City of Caves attraction is quite good; better than I was expecting after the sales talk from the desk (there are caves... you can't go down all the caves... the caves are private... well, we have a couple of caves... um, they are just caves, really). But the attraction is much more than that! The information on the walkie-talkie audio is dramatically and engagingly presented, and the caves are dressed up a bit to represent various historical periods. I enjoyed it. Although I became confused about where to stand and walk, which irritated the children, given there is only one way I could actually go.

This is our education, not just being on holiday, even if it looks like it. So here is the output. Squirrel said it was very good and she particularly liked the pebbles; Tiger declared she learned so many things she could not say exactly what; and Shark said, How many hours till five o'clock?

Sadly, we have to leave Nott'm and all the caves, private, or otherwise paid-for at attraction rates, because Shark is camping this weekend with the WF, in the wood at Thetford.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Hello, Nott'm!

Ah, Nottingham! Place of my 1960s childhood, fragile growth, and miserable school confinement!

Once the proud dwelling of Saxon Lord Snot; home to a fine Norman Castle; late battleground of Richard I and evil brother John; and the defiant site where the English Civil War began. What a heroic past you have!

Now you wear your twenty-first century triple glories as English city of gun crime, drug-dealing, and anti-social binge drinking. I am told I can see your city centre unveiled regularly on late night shock cop TV, but I spare your modesties. I have never looked.

Dear Nott'm, I am your exiled daughter! Gone to the fragrant shires I am, and never, in all likelihood, will return to dwell with you again. I know, for I see you today, maybe the first time in twenty years, and you are too big and urban and scary and the newspapers proclaim last night's murder behind the Pizza Express.

Although yes, despite your changes, you stay the same. It is a comfort to see your lions once more, looking as grim and menacing as they ever did. Which is a feat, considering they have King Tut-style manes. But I look at them fondly; they are a meeting place for ghosts.

But we are not here for me to reminisce before I die from an attack of the tortoise balloons.

No. I have maintained that our visit here to Nott'm is an educational undertaking for geological and geographical purposes. We are to stroke a sandstone escarpment, find contours on a map, and provide an excuse for me to deliver my interesting lectures on settlement, land use, communication patterns and physical environment.

Thus I have promised myself. I will not tour Nott'm excitedly pointing out the car window breathlessly exclaiming This is the park my mum took me to! and This is the hedge I was sick in after Goose Fair! although I do lapse a bit into burbling that, now and again. But the children egg me on to do so, something terrible, strangely on each occasion I begin to outline the Burgess urban land use model.

And in truth it is hard to stop. In the city centre, those Victorian buildings are every bit as impressive now as I recall years ago, except for the ones that have been knocked down for redevelopment, obviously. The Broadmarsh centre still lives on, as tacky and desolate as before. The Council House in the market square, that grandly conjured building, a show-off of a place, recklessly declaring the ever-lasting might and power of the Corporation, still stands! And the library where I wrote my fantastically erudite A-level essays! Not closed down! Hurrah for the people of Nottingham!

Okay, enough of that, otherwise the sandstone rock will be unexplored and Burgess sat alone forlorn.

The little grits eagerly tour the castle. (Where my mum took me!)

Delight at the secret tunnels. (Mortimer's Hole!)

Marvel at the world-famous Robin Hood statue. (My first story books!)

Admire the Trip cut into the rock! (Bad teenage angsty stage.)

And walk right past the doors in the walls. (Don't anyone ever tell me they are store rooms.)

Then, almost overwhelmed with excitement, I drive my little grits ceremoniously past my old school. (Knocked down, eliminated from all records, name removed from memory, gone; existing only in my scars.)

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


Today brings the sort of circumstance that can be brought to a conclusion only by standing in the middle of a wood picking a fight with a telephone answering machine.

It is the evening that I have booked in company with the National Trust.

As agreed by them and me, and at a cost they have already swiped out my bank account, I have driven here across the country (losing my sense of direction only once or twice), sacrificed my dinner of non-allergenic potatoes, and rearranged our forthcoming trip to Nottingham in order to deliver the little grits for a booked 7pm walk-and-talk about estate management, parkland history, and the beauty of the beech woods which make up the grand and glorious Ashridge Estate.

I have booked, and they haven't. I suspect something has gone wrong about five minutes before the walk is due to start. No-one else has turned up. It could be the vile weather and a preferable evening's entertainment of sex and violence on the TV, but I suspect the National Trust simply pitched it wrong with the words come and see our new fence.

We have booked, of course, because I am a home educating smarty pants who has made it her cause to get out the house everyday on a mission of outdoors exploration. And I have grandly proclaimed that this term we will look at the social and botanical history of gardens (large and small), from which I will not be thwarted.

Seven o'clock, and for sure it has gone bellyup. We are the only people except for a snogging couple of teenagers and a man in an anorak suspiciously walking his dog round in circles. None of them look to me like the sort of warden I would trust to provide me with a reliable guide to managing estate woodland. I clench my fists. I want a green National Trust waxed jacket, wellington boots and a credible expression of authority.

Five minutes past seven and I am stabbing at signs and photographing them in evidence for the prosecution.

Ten past seven and I am pacing about the visitor centre, muttering dark curses at the shuttered windows, feeling like an anti-social hoodie who would now be entirely justified in kicking the ruddy door down thanks to being alienated once more by the National Trust who clearly hate me and have it in for me.

Quarter past seven and I'm snap-snappy-snapping into my mobile phone at a woman on an answering machine. Bizarrely, (because I am English), I then apologise for being cross. The machine pings me off and I really, really hope I delivered those words I'm sorry I'm cross in a perfect tone of passive-aggressive.

Twenty past seven I have done with the effing and blinding.

Determined not to waste the journey, I march the little grits on a pleasant evening stroll round Ashridge. I make up the history of the parkland for myself, then add my own appropriate punishment by way of a story about a little National Trust ranger called Goggles who becomes lost in the wood, loses all his clothes, and has his bits nibbled by wolves.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012


I promise this is the last time I write about the facie horribilis, or the tortoise face of balloon doom.

If I go down that route - creating an online cross-referenced catalogue of what I ate, what I touched, how many antihistamines I can swallow, and the allergen potential of benzoic acid when combined with acetyl salicylic acid - then the lovely gritsday blog would cease to become a wondrous and ever-changing daily source of delight and educational inspiration. It would become a mind-numbing catalogue of medical misery of interest only to other dietary obsessives.

I would be seriously bored by that shit, as any sane person would be, and I need to hang on to sanity.

I have been down this road before, anyhow, and recognise some of the indicators. When I turned overnight into a hippy vegan (1986), hanging around with a lot of organic tie died dread heads, I quickly became bored out of my skull. Lengthy meetings, painfully sat cross-legged, conducted cooperatively over earthenware pitchers of hand-picked chamomile tea, always went the same way: Do bees feel the painful trauma and despairing emptiness of loss when their unique stored sustenance is cruelly stolen from them? Discuss.

I quickly realised that half an hour of that was enough to turn me into a pig-chomping meat-eater again unless I speedily worked out a personal route for myself and stopped attending the happy sharing hippy ring.

So it is with the the tortoise face of balloon doom. I am ditching most of Doctor Internet's advice and resigning myself to a lengthy period of self-experimentation and self-study, the details of which I will not share unless I chance upon the elixir of life, the fountain of eternal youth, or the philosopher's stone. Then you can be sure I will share the answer with you, by bottling it and flogging it for a reasonable price.

Now, in other (educationalish) news, it is Tuesday, which means Shark attends the Woodcraft Folk, a group which she adores.

(I shall have to watch her, and if she picks out a tie-died skirt with bells hanging off it as the key to a lovely summer outfit, I shall whisk her off and join her up to the Pig Fancier's Union.)

Monday, 18 June 2012


Yes, I have been neglecting matters of not much immediate concern, like education, children, and creating my multi-million dollar business from hand-crafted, wrap-around, pig-skin notebooks.

But I have an excuse. I have been busy, scrutinising every website in Planet Internet concerning balloon faces, swollen eyelids, and how to resolve peeling facial skin by sticking my face in a chlorine bath.

I am still wrestling with the allergy/intolerance/whoknowot. I look frightful for most of the day, and probably the night as well, only that's okay, because no-one has to wake up to the hideous sight next to them. My face looks like a dessicated tortoise slept in it. My dainty morning beauty routine consists of a hammer, chisel, a vat of Vaseline, twenty-two pots of Sudocrem and a pneumatic drill.

And another thing. It is painful. Spiritually as well as practically, involving a depressed state of mind, an unenergetic disposition, and a need to stop everything just to check out another 23,000 pages on whether olive oil could possibly be the guilty allergen. Please no no no no no no.

I have now cut out all alcohol, wheat, dairy, most foodstuffs, and am coming closer to a bread and water diet without the bread. This is not a sustainable situation, even I can see that, so back I go to Doctor Internet who will probably prescribe the solution of thrashing myself nightly with stinging nettles while standing in a bucket of water. Soon that will seem like it's worth a try.

Well, of course I believe there are positive things to be found in every situation, even miserable medical ones!

Okay, I can't actually think of any right now. Give me a moment.

How about, this experience is bringing families closer together, because when I walk down the street, toddlers run fleeing to their mother's arms seeking comfort and reassurance thanks to the approaching alien balloon tortoise monster disguising themselves behind a pair of dark glasses and a muffler.

My own children of course are unaffected by the horror, mostly because having a withered head does not significantly impact on my ability to pour a pack of dried pasta into a saucepan and open a tin of tomatoes.

But it is not all misery in the day. I have found an excellent sub-aqua group for Shark, and I am very happy with it indeed. I handed over a wodge of cash with a cracked smile, so that's indicative of how good this club is. Kid-friendly, well-equipped, brilliantly organised and the chief of the squad never batted an eyelid when I asked if he could just move out the way so I could stick my face in his pool.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Saturday, 16 June 2012

At the time of living, did you consider yourself learning?

Have you ever been stopped by people in the street holding questionnaires?

I couldn't do that job. I would have to pull the right facial expression. Not desperate, like my day's pay or my career in street vox pop depends on you, stopping to answer. Not uptight, nor aggressive, not pleading. And my body language! Not ambushing you in your stride; not holding my clipboard like a cudgel to your face; and not unassuming either, like I'm inviting all-comers to vent their anger issues and grind me into the gutter.

And what type of person stops at the sight of a clipboard? I would worry about that. It's a self-selecting audience. Would the emotionally unstable seize the opportunity? I'm so glad you stopped me for a chat about your fifty per cent reduction on replacement windows. Does it show? How my husband walked out on me this morning? For that ugly uptight bitch! I'm so glad I can talk to you about it.

You see? Nothing can be right about the questionnaire process. Nothing. Not even when it's done for a bank of academic research rather than the sale of replacement windows.

2. At the time of learning at home where were (are) you living? (Please specify town and/or region) 

Well, I tried to answer this question, Charlotte. I DID. I made a promising start. Buckinghamshire

Plus a bit of Northumberland. 

Add Suffolk. And Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire. 

Except if living means sleeping and having a shower, in which case exclude Bedfordshire, but count Devon and Dorset. Add Hong Kong. We stayed with Soo in Dubai. The disastrous time we occupied a house with a glass-topped table in Sorrento?

Everything went downhill from there. Two hours in, and I was wrangling with Squirrel about the definition of alive. Is a tree alive? Is an apple alive? 

(We decided the apple was indeed alive, but only when it clung to the tree. Did we kill it when we plucked it or ate it? Did we conspire in murder when we bought six apples from Tesco home this morning? I can tell you, that discussion became disturbing.)

So you can see how question number 2 quickly became unwieldy. To answer, we had to agree not to unpick all the assumptions about time, learning, and location. And home, town, region - staying put, moving about - and, um, living.

Now, I'm glad you stopped me for a chat about home education! Does it show? How this choice can be so emotionally exhausting! Like swimming against the tide? We have to question everything when everyone questions us! As a way of life, it's hard to explain. Sometimes a sacrifice and sometimes a joy, and sometimes a damn great roller-coaster, it's thrown me about something rotten, fundamentally upheaved my own ideas on every belief I had about myself, other people, society, the world, the reason for a family, the idea of a partner, the choices I made, the space of my house, the role of a garden, the point of a car with sliding doors, and the logic of hanging on to an outdated video recorder just to play five hundred more reels of Ice Age 2

I don't know what you do when the world flips topsy-turvy, but I hold to the fixtures of life - these people I'm caring for - and I watch how they crumble soft soil into their fingers, how they inspect the grey line threaded on white paper by a simple pencil, and how they question a fleeting expression on a stranger's face. 

These experiences, if they can be learning, need active participation and wondering minds. Watching that has led me to believe how learning is a process intimately connected to time and place, yet simultaneously requiring imaginative leaps of thinking, transcending both. With an engaged and exploratory mind, an unhindered, unbound child can explore shifts in perspectives, discover fresh understandings, instigate new ideas, and create their learning from moments and places we never expected.

So to answer your question on time, location, and learning, we were living the moment we paused to choose one woodland track from another; the minutes we spent thinking about one word in all thousands; and the day we stopped to wonder what was behind that door in the wall.

Friday, 15 June 2012


It's summer! I can tell! Yes, by the hail, gales, and how I'm wearing my Snuggee thermal knicker set. But I also know it's summer because it's music festival time!

I wrap up the little grits cosy and warm for the English summer at maybe 10 degrees below freezing; I take a blankie, pull up my hood, and we sit ourselves happily down for free, to enjoy our local waterside music fest.


Thursday, 14 June 2012

Wild life

Wow, these are hives of activity, aren't they? Wildlife clubs for kids.

Sure to be one near you. RSPB, Wildlife Watch, woods or country park. Pack your summer diary with events from this lot; manage three a day if you're minded.

Good ones burst with rangers who have a glint in their eye for the wonders of the wild. They can tell the difference between a stoat and a stuffed frog and don't nervously clutch the Surgical Hand Spray should Tinkertop glance upon a dead leaf.

The brilliant ones boast practical rangers and can wrangle an elderly birder, botanist, or geologist to walk alongside a bunch of whooping kids, communicating an ancient love of their ancient stuff as they go.

And the totally fantastic ones do everything with my kids, so I don't have to but can pretend I do.

Take today. I drive Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to a wildlife club which could provide me with perfect cover should I want it. They make it easy for me to appear like an impressively involved parent, when in reality I have done nothing more than escort the offspring to a well-organised kiddy wildlife club, dumped them with the wizened elders, then quietly sloped off for a cup of gin.

Except I don't slope off for the gin. I am still too dim to have actually developed my exit strategy, unlike all the other canny mamas. While other parents make their escape, I walk round in the drizzle for two hours with  the little grits, the geologist, and the big kiddy club.

I console myself. I don't have anywhere else to go, and no-one to go with. But I'm sure this evening walk with the kid's group makes me a top-drawer mama, also somehow morally virtuous. Albeit one steaming gently with drizzle, and wondering how useful is that knowledge about soil sampling with a twizzle stick.

It's all admirable. And, secretly, I enjoyed the walk in the woods. It was pitched about my age-12 level. But I'm sure I never had such a thing as a wildlife club when I grew up. No wise rangers, no sand experts, no stuffed teaching stoat.

Possibly there were such clubs, but my parents couldn't be arsed (likely), or there was simply no need for them. The default assumption in my loosely-hanging 1960s primary school days was that we kids would spend all our valuable evenings and weekends kicking up outdoors, experientially teaching ourselves what we needed to know while we grubbed around in mud, hopefully not with the neighbourhood moggy as experiment A.

Adults left us alone. They knew by instinct the dubious activities that might come under the name of playing, and they didn't want to see them. They wanted us as far away from human sight as possible - falling short of actual abandonment - because they knew playing would make any sensible adult recoil in shock and horror. They were possibly my best years ever.

So while I feel undoubtedly virtuous, top-drawer mama material, joining in with the busy wildlife club, traipsing round the woods with a pack of kids, learning about sand and soil, a little bit of me also wants to feel confident that I can do as my own mother did. Tip the kids out of doors, lost and gone, then three hours later yell the adventurers back home, simply by sounding out that one magic word. Dinner.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

What would you do?

We join a local home-school group on an outing to Stratford-on-Avon.

I wasn't particularly looking for a spot of alternative provision, but you have to believe me, this was timely.

We were watching I, Claudius on Youtube (I can pretend it's Latin studies), just hours after I'd checked the prices for Julius Caesar by the RSC. Then an invitation pinged at me.

Do you want to come to Stratford? Includes Falstaff Experience; town walk with Shakespeare; workshop at the RSC; evening performance of Julius Caesar. Spare seats on the coach.

What would you do? Some home educators wouldn't go within a mile of this offer, no matter how seductive it was, even if delivery was with naked bodies and tumbling clowns. I know other home educators who would leap at the chance.

For those happy readers in a state of blissful ignorance who don't know what fuss could possibly be made about here, it's in the words, alternative provision.

Alternative provision is an education guided by the requirements of the local authority. The kids might not go into school every day, and they might receive an education off-site, but they'll probably be signed in somewhere to follow the National Curriculum or take a bag of GCSEs. The kids must be assessed and monitored (and maybe the parents, too) so the effectiveness of the scheme can be measured. Join up to an alternative provision model, and you receive certain cost benefits, but there are costs on your freedom, too.

Whatever your opinions, it's undeniable that alternative provision works for some children, especially if the daily, grinding uniform of school short-fuses their brains. Alternative provision also works for some parents who need a structured, supported, recognisable route; better one that can be provided within a framework that doesn't bludgeon them to death with all the heavy-duty structures of a conventional school.

Anyway, me and the little grits tagged along - eyes, ears, minds open - and it was a good day. Stratford is a charming come-hither town, is it not? The Falstaff Experience was fun; the RSC drama workshop was outstanding, and the evening production, superb. The setting of Julius Caesar in Nigeria is a bull's eye for the director. The setting and casting chime perfectly with the themes of the play. I recommend it.

Of course the day trip made me consider again the advantages and disadvantages of the alternative provision model for us. I always wonder, Would a flexischool system work for me and the little grits?

On the plus side, by signing them up to such a scheme for their GCSE years, I could duck out from the weight of a lonely and heavy sense of responsibility. On the minus side, I'd be taking on other, more widely accountable responsibilities in an agenda set ultimately by someone else. And I'd have to manoeuvre Shark, Squirrel and Tiger into attending sessions and lessons they might not want to do. Could I shoehorn that into my philosophy? Tricky.

I don't have any answers for us right now, although I probably know intuitively what our answer would be.

What about yours? Would you say yes to alternative provision?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Naming Day

Squirrel declares today her Naming Day. This day is a bit like the joker in the pack.

In this household you can suddenly declare Today is My Naming Day! Then the entire household must run around making you a sudden focus of attention; organising presents, creating cakes, blowing up the balloon from the science kit, and generally making up a great fuss.

Don't begin the Naming Day joker, that's my advice. 

I never took anyone's advice about anything, which might account for a few of my life problems. But I began the Naming Day because I have triplets, so have put myself beyond advice, except from the other outnumbered parents who are in the same boat as me. 

Well, obviously, triplets share the same birthday, which pisses them off. To make sure each child knew for sure they were special, unique, and treasured as an individual rather than one part of a three-part set, I began the Naming Day.

It has been the bane of my life ever since. It is usually declared in the most awkward of times, allows for very little planning or preparation, and involves much running about trying to please everyone.

The consolation for me is that each child can pull it only once a year.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Glib smug bastard

I want to help Charlotte. I really do! But I can't answer her questions. They are too hard. Seriously.

Q1. What year did you begin (and finish) learning at home?

Me? The kids? At home? Learning? Begin? Finish? It's so confusing. So I'll say learning begins the moment you live and stops the moment you die.

See? NO HELP AT ALL. With such a glib and annoying answer like that, Charlotte might now fairly conclude I am a smug picky-fighty little bastard deserving to be clipboarded in public on my own doorstep by a local authority staff member, twenty years my junior, who believes he commands respect when he wears his polyester two-piece from BHS.

But! If I answer those questions more carefully, I can only answer in anecdote! Then I think there is a hope at least to convey some of the nuances and complexities that make up lives of home education.

Hmm. You see, this is why grit's day exists, Charlotte. People ask such difficult questions!

Well, anyway, today I put myself in Squirrel's bad books. I moved a bookcase from her bedroom. She was FURIOUS.

In my defence, we have several thousand books and sometimes I would like to pick them up from the floor. (Bookcases are useful, no?)

Example: squillions of rocks, and squillions of books about rocks, heaped about the hall. Could I not move a bookcase from A to B, resolve the quarry and create a space in Squirrel's room to install a new lovely storage solution? So that's what I do.

Hence Squirrel's problem. I moved her squirrelling stuff without permission.

I learned lessons here, from this day, and so did Squirrel. By bedtime was done, I had apologised for not respecting her squirrelling holes, she had apologised for over-reacting about the bookcase, we had both visited Ikea to replace the missing shelves, and we had chosen a battered leather sofa in Help the Aged warehouse for Squirrel lounging purposes. Sum: another step on the way to the eyeliner years when she thinks painting the bedrooms black is an original idea.

And I claim it's our education.

We made a better solution by working together, albeit one that made me poorer, and one reached from a rocky start of squealy-shouts, bad grace, and a little intemperate door slamming.

The solution also involved showing respect for each other; taking responsibility for our actions; solving problems; becoming resourceful; speculating on solutions, scenarios, consequences; negotiating; seeking consensus; and finding a course of action and living that results in the maximum achieveable household happiness.

If you're looking for disciplines, Squirrel measured the shelves and sofa, calculated floor areas, took a books:shelves ratio, estimated weights, calculated the budget of her child benefit, and project planned the practical management needed to get the new sofa in and the old toys out, involving her diary and a timetable.

In my way of seeing, this is learning. There is no start, except that of life, and there is no end, except that of death. We are learning all the time; we are learning how to be.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Maybe I was born in 1872

I pick up my baby from her camping experience with the deluded gypsies, aka the Woodcraft Folk.

She had a thoroughly wonderful time. On the way home she regaled us with happy tales of disappearing badgers and little birds with tufty wings tweeting their glorious welcome to the dawn in a great chorus of celebration.

I almost wished I was aged twelve again. Then I could still anticipate the wonder of crawling in and out of holes in the ground, sleeping with the badgers and waking with the birds.

But I am forced to reconcile myself to certain truths of age. Now I am a beat up croaking and aching old woman whose daily status as an upright human being feels, on some Mondays, on a par with the miracle of the resurrection. The minimum my ancient legs now require is a decent bed, a morning injection of black coffee x2, a warm room, cosy end toes, and a hot shower where the detergent doesn't smell like lavatory cleaner.

Shark is not impressed. She equates this need of age with some sort of lack in my moral framework. If only I could see the world with the generosity that she can! She snorts a little, like I shall get my just deserts. Then smugly says that I will have a difficult time of it, seeing that I have booked the four of us on a tenting experience with the rest of the feral home educators at the back end of July.

(Hmm. I don't tell her, for that particular camping trip, I have already quietly negotiated a bed for myself, midweek.)

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Proper England this is

Take Squirrel and Tiger to see Can you keep a secret? by Mikron Theatre.

Shark is not with us. She remains intoxicated in a field, whispering to badgers and singing sweetly to dormice. I suppose I only have myself to blame for the way she has turned out.

Well, Mikron Theatre is excellent, and you must go out of your way to see them. Here they are. They will be travelling this summer by road, canal, into your waterside spaces, at your pub, through your community halls, on your village green. Go and find out where they are playing, watch them, applaud, and give them your money. Otherwise they're broke.

Mikron Theatre are indefatigable, which is one reason why I love them. They are also fantastically English. With entirely traditional forms - pub drama, song, rhyme, dance, story narrative, rousing catchphrase, political allusion - they bring alive the people who have made local, social history: the working class, labouring, crafting, rebellious and dissenting workers in the agrarian and industrial revolutions who toiled in coal, canal, soil, industry and brick back yard. People who have shaped the place we live in, and whose ordinary lives have been lived passionately and fully.

I love 'em. And the Yorkshire accents. I love those, too. Go and see if you agree.

Friday, 8 June 2012

I might become a hippie myself

I take my baby and give her to the demented gypsies, aka the Woodcraft Folk.

My baby in question is Shark. Never mind she now stands eye-to-eye level with me, is two stone heavier, packs a punch that would send a lesser mortal reeling, and clips a phrase that makes me wonder when I ever could have said such things. She is still my baby.

When time comes to hand her over at the coach stop to the brain-noddled gypsies, aka the Woodcraft Folk, so they can whisk her away to their fun weekend of camping and bushcraft (whatever that is) I have unconsciously attached myself to her arm and am weeping softly, whispering my baby my baby. She tries beating me off with a tent pole, but it only makes me grip her more maternally.

Maybe it is the fearful weather. We are barely able to stand amidst the whirling, wretched storms and terrible, ferocious gales after a frightful, storm-tossed night. I am surprised not to witness Macbeth's bearded witches dancing maniacally upon the heath. And amongst all this elemental chaos, here are the deluded gypsies, aka the Woodcraft Folk, gaily taking away my baby to trip off into a field where they will set up their cheerful camp, light happy campfires and cook vegan sausages on sticks, unaware all the time of the force 10 gale.

They are completely insane, if I haven't said so already. I can barely keep my feet on the ground in this storm, and here they are, gripped by mass hallucination, singing The sun has got his hat on.

I wonder if there is some industrial-strength drug they are all taking, which causes them to experience some incurable chipper disposition, undamped by storm, unswept by gale, undented by reality.

As Shark unhooks me and sends me packing while she eagerly climbs in the coach to head to tented nirvana in a field, her big smile beaming, I wave my sorrowful farewell, and I confess I am ever so very quietly impressed.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Let's watch a film!

I have resurrected Family Fun Film Night.

For any nosy-parker sitting at a desk in the local council, this is our version of a media education, so there is no need to read further. Simply tick your box and go, happy to know how this conscientious home educating parent has offered another day's well-rounded instruction to her delighted offspring.

For everyone else, you may as well know that Family Fun Film Night is where I put myself beyond mortal help.

I kick off the day's joy by declaring it a day of Film Studies, greeted by universal groaning. Then I deliver an extended leaden lecture on something irrelevant, like whether Orcs are woolly or hairless. By tea-time I have spent five hours looking for the right video. I conclude the evening's entertainment by standing in front of the TV set alternatively cursing it and pathetically pleading with it to work, sometimes actually negotiating compromises with the heap of junk, like, Please work and I will never call you a dumb arsed bastard ever again.

Sometimes the evening has irredeemably ended when I declare Family Fun Film night finished for the week, the month, make it for ever. Then I can sink to my knees in front of the box in a parody of worship to bang my head on the floor.

I do not know what is the matter with the TV, apart from it doesn't work when I come near it. It has a little display that flashes up the mystical L1 and nothing else. Then there are more buttons and knobs than I can manage. And the remote control (not that I can ever find it) is like a panel ripped from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Half the buttons can be operated only if you have the knowledge of Scotty and the other half have long been melted into the plastic by a child wielding what may have been a heated iron bar, so the chance the volume presser will ever press again is zero.

When I finally make the damn technology come alive (it was bought c1985 so you can see what I'm dealing with), then I must face the task of reassembling the dispersed cinema audience. The audience has gone into hiding, fearful of the unreasonable shouting and whining coming from the front room. But I have found appeasing buckets of popcorn and Co-op pancakes are a sure and winning allure, plus the promise that no-one has to get out of bed in the morning before ten o'clock after a night's Film Studies.

At last we can begin! Tonight's screening is the first in the trilogy of The Lord of the Rings (the Orcs now make terrible sense, as does my horrible dramatisation of Anglo Saxon grammar from Sweet's Anglo Saxon Primer).

We watched. Or tried to. I thought it was very dark. Literally, not metaphorically. After an hour I wondered aloud whether Peter Jackson had any lighting at all. Shark said she thought it was a setting on our TV, and she hadn't said anything because she was happy not to see hairless Orcs before bedtime. Trying to interpret their speech as Anglo Saxon grammar was enough.

But blow me down, she is right! Do you know, the girl is educated in the ways of media technology. There is a little turny knob on the TV, the one to the left of the blue plasticine (put there to remind myself which one was the volume), and if I turn it, I scatter the darkness and bring forth bright!

Well I never. But I think this not only shows how home education is a complete project in cooperative family learning, it demonstrates how media studies in particular is an excellent vehicle by which the child can take on the role and mantle of the expert.

Because we can all agree that mother's totally crap at it.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Consider it a coming of age

The Hat called on us today. She is like sunshine flooding in. She brought smiles and hugs and cherry candies and ice creams.

The sweetie-treats were received, a tad too eagerly I thought, by the gritlets. Handing them straight into their gullets, they gave the appearance of having been starved of sunshine and sweet delights, probably since the last time the Hat called.

But every reader here knows how this is not true! Shark, Squirrel and Tiger have the most wonderfully stimulating education!

Just as a precaution, I reminded the assembled party of all our educational achievements. And I told the Hat not to listen if Shark started on her tale about how I sent her up the chimney when she was aged three.

(I say now, as I did then, it was a fun learning experience only to realise nineteenth century living conditions. Also, the chimney sweep could not come that year.)

But I need not have worried. The gritlets showed her themselves the exciting educational lives they lead by demonstrating how they could stab wolves with arrows.

Tiger said they had got the idea from Michelle Paver. In the absence of an actual wolf they were using the wooden badger we keep in the garden.

Well, that led to the Hat sharing with us her recent cultural experiences. She is hot from Hay and filled with opinions about Harry Belafonte's political activism and whether James Watson is nuts or whether he is just plain rude, as anyone can be if they have letters after their name.

Then she began to gaily anticipate all her other festival dates throughout the summer, from Aldeburgh to Womad.

It made me insanely jealous. Especially since my upcoming diary events include a field outside Newport Pagnell and a hedge in Grafton Regis.

Now the Hat has turned my head. I think it is time. I plan to join her cultural diary. And next year my little grits will be teens. Old enough to mob their favourite authors. Michelle Paver, Michael Morpurgo, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (Do not tell them he is dead.)

I plan to release the growing gritlets into the world of the opinionated literati, the musical elite and the intellectual scholars of the present age. I need to offer Shark, Squirrel and Tiger the opportunity to put down their home-made arsenal; to sit them in the audiences of scholarly debates, cultural slanging matches, political questioning and in amongst the crowds of the despairing and eager-to-please new writers with books to flog.

So, in the sunny aftermath of ice cream and cherry candy, I am studying the diary, pencilling in a few festival dates, picking the Hat's brain and plotting a Travelodge in Hereford.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Not an extended essay on cultural reproduction

These days, come a long weekend, you can barely reach the Co-op without tripping over a Civil War reenactment or a medieval living history encampment. Every stately home, National Trust and English Heritage property, garden, hedge and field - anywhere that's anywhere - must have an attendant retinue of amateurs in costume enthusiastically performing a period show.

I swear you could find everything of the common man down your local big house on a bank holiday. A punch-up, a line up. Marching, swaggering, swooning. Acting drunk, sober, bad and virtuous. Tall tales with moral endings and just deserts. Dubious jokes, bawdy references. Drinking and dressing up.

It's like the troubadours and travelling players never died; they just came to live in the National Trust.

I'm sure there are academic questions to ask about what form of history we are being invited to watch, and why we seek to represent history the way we do. But do you know? Put a beer in my hand and leave me in a field to applaud the dashing arrival of the hero on horseback, enter into the spirit of the boos and the cheers, and gasp at the enthusiastic unmasking of the villain in the orangery, then I'm happy to leave the theoretical deliberations on anthropology to the professional profs, the national commentators, and Melvyn Bragg. They can deliberate on intangible forms of cultural representation. I'm busy, invited to join in the playing of an appropriate seventeenth century ditty, Over the Hills and Far Away.

I love this twenty-first century way of  reenacting a vulgar history. So I would be utterly duff as a critical commentator. I would have to maintain a detached intellectual distance. When really, I want to drink the beer, hiss, boo, cheer, and join in.

Thank you, Wrest Park Georgians, for dressing up, talking rubbish, and keeping us laughing, despite the wind and rain.

Monday, 4 June 2012

But Col Mustard deserved it

I simply had loads of exciting diary options to choose from on this particular bank holiday Monday.

Oh, I don't know. Let's say Ant hunting to Zebra taunting.

But reader, we did none of them.

I don't know what the weather was like round your way, but here the skies poured down grease-piss rain all day long. All outdoors adventures were off. But still, I wanted to spend the holiday together. La famille Grit, doing something we all would enjoy. Indoors.

I can't understand the television, so it's no use suggesting watching the Queen sailing up the Thames. And no-one wanted to listen to me read Physical Geography in Diagrams, so I suggested we play a board game.

This is something of a novelty: board games and la famille Grit.

We have had some close shaves with A&E after a turn at Hop&Pop. And Monopoly usually comes to a premature end with someone (Squirrel) screaming in a filthy temper over the injustices committed upon her at Liverpool Street Station by some smug-faced opponent who's asking for it (Shark), so much indeed that the board is upended, the top hat furiously hurled at an innocent bystander's head (Tiger's) and then I conclude the day's banking business by having a big yell and slamming the kitchen door in a huff.

But not today!

I have some success to report. We managed to sit on the floor and batter Prof Plum to death with the dumb-bells and, this time, probably for the very first time ever, Cluedo did not end in actual bloodied violence.

In fact, everyone behaved impressively well.

Things were going so well at one point that I suggested we give the next game a celebratory turn. Say, renaming the murderers and victims as ER, Charles, Camilla, Andrew, and so on. Then we could set about them with candlesticks and ropes in a macabre jubilee twist. (Plus I rather liked the idea that Camilla had done it in the observatory with an axe.) But the children wanted to stick with the formula, so I let them.

And I was having fun. The children are quite good at Cluedo. They get to the solution well before me. They are also, mysteriously, much more inventive with murder weapons: Shark went into some detail about how you could kill someone with a rosemary bush and a door.

So, while the rain beat down outside, the day passed pleasantly indoors at Grit's with a little light bludgeoning, a small hanging, a few more cupcakes, and some minor dressing up as Miss Scarlet in a hat.

And I deduce that we are growing up. No-one takes a board game too seriously. There are fewer arguments, less wounding, more compromises, and vague amusement on a wet bank holiday Monday. There was even a faint promise of accord to come, with the departing words, I enjoyed that. Even when I lost.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Party time, Campbell Park

I admit. I TRICKED my daughter for that last shot. It's so wrong. (But it's so right.)

Saturday, 2 June 2012

All join in

We are joining in with the nation's movement. Yes, the home educators in this house are showing the world that we are not outside your normal society, but we too can conjure with cup cakes and go joobly joobly joobly.

To show my devotion to the national mood, and how happily I can join in to sit in a wet park with an umbrella, this morning I gaily contributed my Queen-headed pounds to Sainsbury's profit sheet and I bought squirty pink plastic cake topping and 200 silver sugar balls. Then I set Squirrel onto the celebratory cake-making ceremony.

 Apart from the spoon-throwing grumpty bit when I had to scrape splattered cake blood off the floor, she joined in extremely well and I have awarded her a gold star for National Mood Joining In.

Of course making cup cakes and enjoying the bunting down Gas Street does not make me a monarchist. But I am not a republican either. I want both. Perhaps a monarchy with a small house and M&S clothing, plus a part-time lady president who does pomp and ceremony and has a heraldic shield.

I know this is very confused thinking. Maybe it is like wanting to keep the Archbishop of Canterbury but without the religion (come to think of it, I want that too). However, this chaotic confusion in my head is alright by me.

In fact, I will defend my indefensible arguments and irreconcilable impulses.

With this mess, I can egg on the children to the joobly celebrations and encourage them in celebrating the consequences of a Norman invasion in 1066, while simultaneously reminding them that all monarchs throughout history all over the world are excellent role models for greed, indolence, arrogance, envy, deceit, amoral political manipulation, and demonstrations of sociopathic behaviour. While we're at it, let's add fratricide, betrayal, misplaced loyalties and all the faults of a hereditary system.

Then I start on the presidents.

(Don't you want to join Grit's celebratory joobly party now, eh?)

At the nub of it, I defend confusion. Both the monarchists and the republicans scare me. Any dedicated ideological purity scares me. Even in home ed land.

When Baronness Deech graced the home ed blogs to label them an ideological mish-mash, I would have given her a big smackeroo had she been in grabbing distance. Ideological mish-mash sounds perfect. It's just what I want. I want a lovely mix of mess where I can make shifty compromises, lie effectively to myself, present arguments I don't believe in, evade capture, and make Union Jack peanut butter cupcakes with dried fruit.

I am mish-mash. That is why I am proud to be English. British.

Friday, 1 June 2012

All bases covered

See, I said we would be unstoppable once I clutched that Friends to Historic Royal Palaces ticket between my scabby claws.

We take the Hampton Court Palace Gardens tour, led by a lovely lady who knew her laurel from her yew and her pelargoniums from her geraniums.

With a behind-the-scenes tour of the nursery.

I hope this is good research for Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. I have handed summer responsibility for the garden over to them (PSE/Citizenship).

The little grits are each to tend a shade patch and sun patch, and they must introduce a design into it over the summer (D&T). Shark is digging ponds (Marine biology), Squirrel is going to position reading seats for fairies (Lunacy), and Tiger is building a killer dinosaur zombie death zone with sound effects and lighting (Film studies).

Of course the idea that a Friends ticket would save us money never works. Nearly twenty quid was sucked out of my purse in the tea shop (Business studies).

But I forgave them. Hampton Court Maze outwitted us, of course, even with Shark's compass (Geography.)

Sadly, I suspect that we are stupid, rather than the maze is clever. We were looking for an exit that wasn't there. We used the logic of mazes to find our way out (Maths), but it took us several times of reaching the entrance before we realised that the entrance is also the exit. (And I thought those people leaving by the front were cheating. Duh.)

We sat in the wilderness too, with a picnic, while I read the appropriate extracts from Three Men in a Boat (Eng. Lit.)

And we spent some time touring the formal grounds, noting the symmetry (Geometry) and trying to resist the urge to steal the gilded gates (Art appreciation).

But I couldn't make Shark, Squirrel and Tiger visit the nudey ladies exhibition, even though we all watched the lovely Lucy Worsley present Harlots, Housewives and Heroines on the iplayer (History) and I had to explain dildo and bugger thanks to Radio 4's News quiz (Awkward).

But a lovely day out, leaving us geared up for a complete education soon to be had at the Tower of London.

Of course the other great thing about spending time with your secondary age girls in their education is that you get to steal their glitter plimsolls.