This was something that was easy in theory but a nightmare in practice.
Because we were moving house at the same time – changing educational authorities – we did not have to go through the negotiation about keeping places open at the boys’ school (one of the main challenges when taking children travelling for long periods).
On the other hand, there was a surprising lack of interest in what was going to happen to the kids’ education. The school we were leaving notified the local authority, and with a chirpy ‘bon voyage’ said they’d forward the boys’ records when they were settled at a new school. And that was it. No one asked what we were doing in terms of keeping them educated or for any form of assessment. I found it most odd, but there we are.
So although no one formally cared, we felt we had to do our best to make sure Sonny and Jam didn’t turn up on day 1 at their new schools having totally forgotten how to string a sentence together or do anything else other than identify venomous snakes. So, to keep Sonny on a par with his friends we lugged with us a large amount of revision books for the 11+ exam (which thankfully he’s not doing). For Jam we got a set of off-the-shelf school books for 7-9 year olds on language and maths etc (Collins ‘easy learning’ Ha!). In optimism I even sent some extras to New Zealand for us to pick up half way.
What a farce.
If you read travel blogs by other families you’ll see references to a different breed of children that work for 3, 4 or 5 hours a day. Many use online resources (but that would have conflicted with our earnest attempts to be screen free, and would anyway have been a hopeless endeavour in Africa (and Western Australia for that matter)). We may well have spent 3+ hours on the topic of homework some days, but 2 hours 45 minutes of that was typically spent persuading, cajoling, bribing and crying (adults and children both), before, through gritted teeth, they’d spend 15 minutes stabbing pencils at their books and wondering out loud (had they no shame?) what 3 times 8 might possibly be.
We sank to the lowest of lows on our camper van road trip in New Zealand, where the boys spent hours sitting at a table in the van while we drove along in the rain and which should have served as the perfect opportunity to get ahead. Unfortunately, as we rattled along the drizzly roads with the cutlery drawers flying open on tight bends, the boys would respond to my suggestion from the front seat that they use this time on their homework with a protracted phase of total astonishment (“What? Homework? Oh my Godddddd! Why are you doing this to us??!!”), which would then be followed by the more compliant one (usually Sonny) getting his books out, then the usual period of pencil stabbing until one child actually stabbed the other, at which point I would have to go nuclear, unstrap myself, stagger back into the van, shove a child along a seat, restrap us all, and step by excruciating step, taking each child in turn, work our way through the relevant calculation.
It was hellish, and aside from a red letter day last week when we woke up to find Jam had already done some homework before breakfast (it turned out he was preparing to negotiate a long session on Roblox), it has not improved one jot.
Both boys are now registered for schools in our new home (a rather stressful process from the southern hemisphere), but until they rock up on day 1 in September, we’ll not really know how much we’ve failed them. We’ll just have to hope for extensive show-and-tells on the topic of snakes. Sorry chaps.