I've been involved in many school nativity plays over the years, both as a participant when I was little and watching my little ones as a parent. Today's take on the birth of Jesus was by far the most original and inspiring.
It was an event I had dreamed up late one evening a few weeks ago. I thought it would be great for the kids to be able to interpret the birth of Christ in their own way: to think about what it means to them. When I put this to Jenson he said he would like to come as Captain America because he has big muscles that would have helped him to walk the long journey that the shepherds and wise men did. I asked him if there was any particular toy he would like to play the part of Jesus and he said, yes. He wanted to take his bunny because bunny is his most special friend. This was all fantastic stuff. This was Jenson's interpretation of the Christmas story and it was brilliant he was thinking about what it actually meant to him. Wren on the other hand decided she wanted to come as a rainbow princess and her Jesus took the form of The Gruffalo!
I knew there were three of us definitely coming and between us we had six children, a good number even if no one else turned up. Sadly one of the Mums contacted me a few hours before we were due to leave to say she could no longer come and so child numbers were cut to three. I stayed chipper and determined, despite the drizzle and dwindling numbers.
Turns out we weren't alone though. Just as our three were settling down on blankets with hot chocolates and cookies, ready for the story, another family turned up. Claire and Jez had made the journey with their two children; sisters, Louis and Maisie. What I've found particularly great since starting home ed are the characters you meet and the stories you hear: this family had a corker! Six months ago both parents quit their jobs, sold their house and donated all the belongings to charity. They bought a six berth caravan and are now travelling around the UK on their own home ed adventure, I was quite envious!
We settled all the children down and began the story, with baby Jesus snug on the rug in the middle. Ally recited a lovely traditional version, after which Jenson asked if we could lie bunny down next to the baby Jesus. I then recited a less well known version of the Christmas story: the birth of Bunny. There were a few chuckles as I read: "A long time ago Mary and Joseph had to go to the village of Bethlehem. Mary was expecting a bunny! Later that night Mary's bunny was born!" It was inevitable that Wren should then want the Gruffalo to take the lead role!
After the story we all got stuck in to building a den together. Wren wasn't keen, preferring instead to sit in a den, snuggled under a blanket with a box of biscuits and the nativity sticker book.
Jenson however got well into it. I've never seen him so comfortable, particularly around total strangers. What with the hairdressers last week and now today, I can only think he is feeling much happier in himself and therefore more confident around other people. He worked really hard with Jez, the only other chap in the group, to heave great big lumps of wood to form the walls of the den. It helped that Jez gave him great encouragement and talked to him like an adult, or rather Captain America! The home ed bunch really are a very nurturing lot, who treat other people's children with great sensitivity and understanding.
Despite the constant drizzle, it didn't dampen the mood. The kids all worked tirelessly together to build their own den and I thought they might like a photo with their new friends to keep for the future. I felt very proud of Jenson and the way he had bonded with these children.
After an hour or so of den building we tried to warm up with toasted marshmallows. The damp conditions weren't conducive for fire lighting, despite the pre-light charcoal bags I had packed! However, with a bit of perseverance we managed to get the charcoal burning just long enough for the children to toast a few. I even sampled one and it was yummy!
As I stood there in the drizzle my heart felt very warm and it wasn't from the fire in front of me. I was thinking back to this time last year when I was sat in the school hall watching Jenson perform a very inconspicuous part of an awkward shepherd. What a difference twelve months make. I wanted this home ed nativity to be a really positive experience for Jenson: it really was.
We had given Ally and Arabella a lift to Crickley Hill as Ally doesn't drive. As we climbed back in the car to go home, Jenson asked if Arabella could come and play at our house. He's only met this lovely little girl a handful of times at Lego Club, so I was really surprised that he should have taken to her so easily when he normally finds it very hard to open up to people.
The rest of the day was filled with puzzles, painting, play and craft. The children enjoyed playing Lego together and reading books. Jenson, whilst making a rocket water bottle, even asked Arabella if she would like to help him paint it! It felt like we had made some new friends. It felt really good. I can see how Jenson is feeling happier because I'm feeling it too. All day I was able to talk freely and openly to people I barely know and have never met but it was easy and I don't know why.
At 4pm I got the feeling the day was just getting going. We walked to the Bath road with Ally and Arabella, where they got the bus home. The hunt was then on for a birthday present for bunny after Jenson had decided that it was bunny's birthday and he needed to have a birthday tea!
This evening has been filled with rather a lot of activities: paper chain making, role play birthday tea, real birthday tea, balloons, cake making, present wrapping and birthday party all in honour of bunny's birthday! Jenson's imagination is like a rollercoaster and it's going wild! I know I keep saying it but he really is a completely different child to the one at school just six weeks ago.
Finally, there was just enough time to light bunny's birthday cake and sing him happy birthday before Jenson made a wish for him. Jenson wouldn't tell me what the wish was but I've a sneaky feeling it might have been along the lines of: I wish I never have to go back to school ever again. That wish may well come true.