I found it really quite traumatic. My throat felt like it was being held in a vice. I felt thirsty and dry but I could hardly swallow. The conformity! The ‘Good morning, Miss Brown’ by hundreds of singsong voices. Then ‘a song with a message’ again delivered in unison. The way the kids sat on hard benches if they were older, or on the cold hard floor if they were younger, whilst the teachers and parents were on comfortable chairs – how comfortable your bottom was demonstrating a definite hierarchical pecking order. I saw a child sitting a little removed from the rest of his class, looking rather dejected, rejected. He was definitely geekier looking than the rest, less comfortable in his own skin. My heart reached out to him. But not more than to my own son, who had come back to his old school today to receive an award of Distinction for a Drama examination, judged by a lady all the way from London, which had taken place some weeks ago, before we’d even thought about homeschooling. It seemed like another lifetime ago!
I was really unsure whether going back to his old school was a good idea for Edward. We’d only been sure we were allowed to yesterday afternoon so hadn’t, admittedly, had long to think about it. But Edward wanted to, because he was looking forward to getting up in front of everyone and receiving his certificate. He loves that sort of public acclaim. He’s not shy! He was only disappointed that he couldn’t perform his piece in front of everyone, but that was left to a few older kids. He wouldn’t have been fazed by that at all, unlike one poor boy who ran off the stage after only introducing his piece. My heart really broke for him. So the fact that Edward, age 7, would have happily performed in front of rows and rows of faces is one of the many unusual, special things about him.
Edward was the only child not dressed in school uniform. We had talked about him wearing it, just for today, so he could ‘blend in’ with the other kids. But he didn’t want to and I was proud of him. He was happy to be exceptional and he dressed beautifully with shirt, tie and jacket, corduroy trousers and trainers with his long hair curling around his collar and his floppy fringe almost obscuring his eyes – very rock star! The other kids seemed happy to see him. One said, “Wow! You’ve really grown, man!” Perhaps taking on the vernacular of the rock star to match Edward’s appearance! I’m not sure if he has literally grown an inch or two in the last couple of months but I think he has psychologically. He was happy and confident amongst his old schoolmates, enjoying the attention. Yet he hasn’t asked to have a playdate with any of them, so I know he’s not missing them too much which certainly helps with the home educating decision!
Whilst I was busy worrying about how Edward was managing this return to his old school – which we’d left mid-term, under a bit of a cloud because we’d put the school’s nose out of joint by not feeling the need to ask their advice before making the decision, mmmm, asking a school about home educating, we could just imagine what they’d say, we thought we could manage that decision all by our very-grown-up selves – I should have been more worried about how I was going to cope! Whilst Edward seemed thankfully fine, I was being assaulted on every side by the old rudeness of some of the parents and teachers there. As soon as we arrived, I had the misfortune to lock eyes with the teacher-I-can’t-stand-the-most-in-the-world. She did a double-take when she saw us and couldn’t hide a look of shock and disgust on her face. Literally. I just hope it was from seeing me, not my son. Unless she’s a mind-reader, what on earth I actually did to deserve this look I don’t know! Then I saw a parent, who I had been emailing and texting for a couple of weeks asking for a tailor’s phone number. She sneered at me and refused to divulge it! It seemed that at every turn the people, the place, the practices were screaming at me, “You don’t belong!” And inside I was screaming back, “I don’t WANT to belong to this! This is not for us! We are different and proud of it! You wait and see how we turn out!” But of course, a part of you always wants to belong, when you‘re the only outsider, which only makes you despise yourself. We weren’t there for even an hour but it felt like days. I could not wait to leave, to breathe free air instead of air you have to deliver a part of your soul to breathe. Thank goodness I had lucked out and sat next to a sympathetic friend whilst surrounded by a sea of sharks. It helped me keep it all together!
The emotional bombing raid finished on a high note though when I picked up Edward’s ‘Leaving Report’. Actually, it’s called a ‘Transfer Report’ since of course 99.9% of kids go on to another school. I had a giggle about that, the thought of Edward being ‘transferred’ to me! It was all very, very ‘good’ in that he’d met or exceeded the schools requirements, not something that I am of course concerned about. But the best bit, the last sentence, was the comment that his “maturity and his natural curiosity to learn will stand him in good stead in the future.” As a home educator, this was the most beautiful music to my ears. His old class teacher is a nice man. He’d given Edward everything he could.
In the end, seeing how relaxed Edward was, I felt better about the visit. But I was interested , and relieved, that he was also happy not to linger, happy to get home, to get changed and relax a bit, doing a nice bit of ‘Life of Fred’ Maths together which always summons a bit of a chuckle! We learned things today that he would never have been able to learn at school. We learned Maths using a really wacky approach, we visited the Louvre’s website to listen to a ‘guided tour’ of the ‘Mona Lisa’ including a look at the BACK of the painting and how it had been structurally restored over the years, we read more about Leonardo da Vinci’s life. These were all things Edward was happy to learn and/or asked to learn and are definitely not on any kind of curriculum for 7 year olds. What he’s interested in never ceases to amaze me. We feel content. If we never go back to school, it won’t be soon enough for me! The early morning wake up, hasty breakfast, stressed shouts of ‘Hurry Up! Hurry Up!’ and rush for the door alone was enough for me! NO MORE SCHOOL!
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