This last week has been a rather bitty one. On Monday and Tuesday Jenson had his usual tutoring sessions, for which we spent a good deal of time Monday morning doing a lovely project about The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Wednesday I had to work, so Wren went into nursery and Jenson joined me in the studio for a couple of shoots. On Thursday the children had a taster day at Miserden School and on Friday it was the dentist for Jenson followed by a radio interview with the BBC.
Coming back to Thursday though and it was the children's first taster session at Miserden School. They will be starting full time in January. This has not been an easy decision to make and one that I've yet to be convinced by. I am sceptical to say the very least but I'm willing to give it a go.
The school itself is a world away from Jenson's old school. One of the biggest differences are the number of children on role - there are just 38 pupils in total compared to over 400. The setting is also idyllic. The school grounds are surrounded by beautiful Cotswold countryside. There is no wire mesh fence to keep out any unwanted visitors, instead just a pretty dry stone wall. Life at the school seems very simple. A nice sized playing field with space for the children to run around and make up games at their will. There is nothing fancy to over stimulate the children. It seems they are encouraged to entertain themselves.
Open space and fresh air abound. Just standing in the playground one gets a real sense of one's environment - the light is beautiful, the wide open skies soar above your head, birds sing in the hedgerows and sheep graze in the gorgeous rolling fields. If my children have to go to school at least they can go somewhere that still enables them to feel a connection to nature.
The school itself doesn't seem too over achieving either. There doesn't seem to be too much expected from the children. The school day seems a little more easy going. I'm fully aware of the wretched curriculum the school has to follow but it seems they are able to interpret it in a much more relaxed way and at a pace more suited to each individual child.
When I dropped Jenson and Wren off at 9am both children had to be pulled off me. Jenson in particular had to be physically restrained. Wren on the other hand, not being quite so strong, was easier to wrangle apart. It was fairly harrowing and didn't instil any faith in me that this was by far the right thing to be doing. It's interesting when I talk to friends. School friends simply accept that pulling their child off them at the start of most school mornings, even now in Year 2, is normal behaviour. Home school friends take a different view. One friend in particular pointed out how ape babies cling to their mothers for practically the first eight years of their lives, so strong is the bond between mother and baby. Humans may have evolved into the dominant species but it seems the apes have got it right when it comes to this. I tend to agree with their approach of nurturing for longer to set their offspring up better later in their lives. Over the last 12 months Jenson has constantly told me that he doesn't want to go to school because he would miss me. The bottom line is that he has just flourished being under my care more. The difference in him is hugely noticeable by all those around us.
I'm pleased to report that when I picked Jenson and Wren up from Miserden at lunch time the story was a much happier one. When I arrived I spent a few minutes quietly watching the pair of them make a thank you paper chain together. The classroom was busy but not too noisy and they seemed settled and involved in the activity.
I took them to The Carpenter's Arms, the local pub in the village, as there was a rumour that it had an old fashioned sweet shop inside. This perhaps helped sell the school to the children! As we walked down the lane we watched some horses being led into their new pasture and passed sheep grazing. It was so peaceful and quiet. The winter light was stunning and the fields glistened in the sun. It felt very calm and so different to the setting of Jenson's old school.
As the children munched through their penny sweets they were kept fully entertained by the pub's cat who took a fancy to playing in the Christmas tree! There was a roaring log fire, twinkling festive lights and if you looked through the little wooden windows you just about see the beautiful fields outside. I asked Jenson how he had got on at the school and he said he had loved it! He said it was better than his old school because it was quieter and there were less children. He said he had made two friends and had helped Wren when she had been feeling shy.
The verdict is still very much out about whether this is the right decision, only time will tell. For now we are going to enjoy the Christmas holidays and have an enourmous amount of fabulously festive fun!