It's been a while since my last blog but there has been plenty going on, not least our epic trip to Plymouth this week to look at a school.
As with all our adventures, it was all very last minute. I'd only phoned Holbeton Primary School on Monday. On Tuesday we headed down to our holiday home in North Devon and on Wednesday we drove to South Devon to this little village school by the sea. When I say little, I mean 34 children on the whole school role. Jenson isn't fond on school and has said if he does go back he only wants to be in a class with three other children. This one ticked that box but also had lots of other things going for it. Its own outdoor swimming pool was the biggest wow factor for Jenson, (the children get to go in it every day during the Summer and Autumn terms) but its school garden, greenhouse, outdoor classroom and weekly forest school sessions for the whole school pushed my buttons.
Despite all this, I couldn't help but have reservations. I didn't have to dig very deep to find out that homework is still set every week on top of which the children are expected to plough through three books too. There was our good old friend phonics and Jenson spied a brain numbing Biff, Chip and Kipper book - if that's not enough to put a child off reading I don't know what is. I couldn't help but feel we would be taking all the problems we had faced with Jenson's old school and be shifting them 200 miles south.
The reason we were even looking around a school was down to the pressure I've been feeling to stop Jenson from falling behind; it's very hard to keep positive energy flowing when it feels as if the tide is always against you. The irony is that if we lived in Scandinavia, what I am doing with the children would be the total norm. We wouldn't be in the minority, Jenson wouldn't be at school and he wouldn't be regarded as being behind. I certainly don't regard him in that way, but rather, children his age are being pushed too hard. Asking a six year old to perform reading, writing and arithmetic exercises for an 8 year old, isn't education, it's a lesson in how to kill self-confidence. Despite what others may think, I know Jenson is exactly where he should be for his age.
After the visit to the school we checked out the local beach and very nice it was too. The beaches in South Devon have a real Famous Five feel to them - they are very different to their rugged North Devon counterparts.
We also checked out Plymouth. I remember now why we don't go abroad with the children - apart from my dislike of flying, just doing anything with them that is unfamiliar border lines a nightmare. As always, the photo paints a perfect picture but not the devastation in between. Plymouth itself is very nice, it has a very European flavour particularly down by the harbour. Certainly somewhere for Simon and I to come back to - without the children.
We returned that evening to our holiday house and headed straight for the beach - having spent some time on a bit of South Devon sand I felt like I'd cheated on our beloved Woolacombe beach! Sitting there watching the two of them play together made me realise just how necessary it is for Jenson in particular to grow up by the coast. There is no where else and, dare I say it, no other beach, that can give him the space he needs to express himself. It is an environment that can soothe even the most troubled soul.
Home school affords us many luxuries so it had been a while since we'd had to share the beach with anyone. We quickly discovered the best time of day to play on the beach during the school holidays is in the evening, once all the families have packed up and left. I was however aghast at the amount of rubbish they had left in their wake. The state the beach was in, many families should have been banned from returning. Below is just a small portion of litter the children and I collected from the vicinity directly around us.
I don't know if school is an option for us yet. Until I can find somewhere that makes me believe the education they give is for the benefit of the children then I'm not sure what we can do. Scandinavia beckons!