I paid the external candidate fees in hard cash. A lesson in itself. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger can see education working, and I take perverse pleasure in reducing the business to its bare basics, calling a spade a bloody shovel, while watching the exams officer count out tenners. She got her revenge. She said watch out, because next year the fees for external candidates are going to soar.
Not surprisingly, after ten years of home edukating what we like, I am mostly turned off by the whole exam-approach. Your exam today tests the candidate in this exact stuff. Not that other stuff, and nothing of wisdoms over there. Just one list of prescribed information to be repeated in this same order.
As a measure of wide world knowledge or your wit to apply it, this system lacks a good deal. Exams seem to me to be primarily gate-keeping devices, dividing up people who take them as 'good at exams' or 'not good at exams'.
Anyway, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are driven by the curiosity of what is an exam? so are giving it a go. I do not know whether to anticipate triumph or disaster. I am preparing for both.
2. Government policy on education.
Gove is forever in the news, isn't he? Did we have a Gove-free day? Continuously hammering away at something will have an impact, whether we like it or not. Cultural change is taking place. Yesterday I saw a sign for a local nursery touting for the business of your two-year old. The word play was removed and the words educational activities written in.
But better than Gove, is second-hand furniture. This has been guiding my life in the last few weeks. I am weak for a shapely wooden leg, this is true, and I already have a lecturn with nowhere to go, but I recently fell in love with an art nouveau music cabinet. I slapped my name and contact details all over it, went off with a tape measure, and by the time I returned, they'd sold it. Bastards.
Falling in love with inappropriate bits of furniture.
Like the lecturn. If Dig tidied up the office, I could put it in there.
4. The letter F.
The letter F on my keyboard is causing me no small trouble. I now have to whack it extra hard, and expect it soon to crumble altogether. Like every other letter we have, its absence will be noticed. Especially in emails which come back to me, where I look with horror at my intention to say I'd love the workshop, but I'll have to shift myself earlier to do it.
5. Film Family Fun Night.
I love these evenings, especially since Dig mended the TV so it now turns on. I have cuddled up to the kids for a great education in film history with some fine showings, among them, Frankenstein (1931), Night Of The Demon (1957) and Branagh's Hamlet (1996).
6. The MOOCs.
If I slow down any more I shall meet the next set of students coming round on their revisit. My glacial progress is basically because I must scurry down every rabbit hole looking at the amazing links other students put out. As a consequence, I can now tell you a thing or two about bone density of females aged 25-30 c. 1452.
That family ambition to see every Shakespeare play before the offspring leave me in about two years' time is coming along well. Just let me count the live screening in Cineworld of Coriolanus with Tom Hiddleston at the Donmar. It's a brilliant interpretation, isn't it? Menacing, but feeling surprisingly relevant. Otherwise, I paid the equivalent of a small car for tickets in April to see Simon Russell Beale as King Lear at the National. From now until I'm in the black again, we are eating large quantities of Everyday Value Pasta (29p for a family dinner).
8. Country pursuits.
Rambling, mostly, with the elderly terrorists who have names like Jim and Frank. I like walking with these people, I truly do; even through 9 miles of swamp and a blister. These people have wisdoms to impart and experiences to share, and it is a source of delight to me to hear Shark, Squirrel and Tiger walk alongside them, listening to tales of outhouses and policing strategies from 1952.
9. Speaking of which.
Storytelling. Knicker Drawers is a gift, obviously, as the books are a perfect partner for creative writing scholars, writing students, and storytellers. (See what trouble it causes? I had to go back there, and put in the letter f.)
10. Local politics.
Shark, Tiger and Squirrel are being encouraged by me to be nuisances, busy-bodies, and local trouble-makers. I consider this to be a citizen's duty. I took them to a public meeting on the future of a local arts charity, run from a much-loved building. The meeting was a little hostile, and maybe the trustees deserved everything they got, but it is good to see the measure of support a tiny charity and an old building can rouse. I dare not say any more about it on a public forum, thanks to the legal teams the trustees employ and the techniques they use to threaten critics.
11. Educational outings.
Science lecture on car collisions; English session on Dickens; Latin lesson with Lingua Latina; etc etc. Not so many, thanks to Shark recently being off with the papa to live in a cupboard in HK.
But she has returned! Consequently we've notched up a good morning's arable and beef farming* with practical advice about break crops, wheat storage, and government payments to keep your drains in order. Very useful stuff, so it probably won't make it into the Geography exam.
*Overheard at the farm: the home ed mama chiding the home ed child, Be gentle with the bull.