I spent my last year of primary school boarding. In those far off days, before mobile phones and e-mail, we were required to write home once a week. In the junior school said letter had to be handed in to matron unsealed. Once we got to the secondary part of the school we only had to produce the envelope and show a letter before sealing it up and handing it over, and by the third year you just handed over a sealed envelope. But as a 10/11 year old my letters were read. Mother replied weekly with her news. Legend has it that she still has my letters; I’m sad to report that I didn’t keep her newsy everyday chats, though I kept Father’s as he wrote very rare, often sentimental missives.
At weekends we were always taken for walks, and sometimes these involved a trip on a bus to somewhere. On one memorable occasion we were taken on a coach trip to a pine wood and given permission to roam. When it came time to go back to school a number of girls were unable to be found. I do not recall (more than forty years on!) whether they were genuinely lost or behaving badly, but I do know that teacher’s stayed behind while we were sent back to school and they were found. I have no doubt that it frightened the life out of the teachers and that we all found it very exciting! So, of course, my letter home included this adventure. It was the first and only time that I was summoned to account for myself to the Housemistress’ study. The relevant pages had to be rewritten before my letter could be sent home. Generally I enjoyed writing letters and wrote detailed, decorated pages. On this occasion it must have been clear to my parents that my letter had been altered, and I’ve no doubt that I told them all about the missing girls when I next saw them, but I expect it was right not to worry them.
So it is with a certain hesitation that I commit the following account to the ether: please don’t decide your children cannot be allowed to go on school trips, it is character forming and terrific for their independence (and they will dine out on the stories for years!). And, for the record, no one was actually out of range of teaching assistance, the teachers just weren’t interfering.
You may remember that Husband had to go and learn how to camp and map read so that he could help out with DofE at school (and that 30 years in the Army didn’t count). Well, he’s been on his first adventure - after several weeks of preparation after school for the children (and teachers). He went off on Friday evening with a rucksack full of kit and rations. A phone call from the comfort of his tent that night says the whole thing was a hoot: the children (from14 up) had to walk a mile and a half then set up camp and eat their supper. It took one of the groups 3 hours to do the walk as their map reading didn’t go well; and the food brought didn’t necessarily lend itself to camp cooking conditions. (I have clearly been very lucky to have the combined knowledge of a camping Husband and Brownie/Guide experience to help inform what I have sent on Dof E camp!) It was a practice, not the assessment, and the whole point is to check what they don’t know and then help them get sorted for the real thing. For instance, one group hadn’t turned up for the session on how to put up a tent. While this event is not about leaving them to suffer, on the assessment the teachers are not allowed to help. Ditto the lad who couldn’t work the tin opener to get at his supper, and the girl who had never struck a match…. On the Saturday they trekked with all their kit, and this too had issues re map reading. Of the nine groups taking part six managed to achieve their goal. They all have some work to do before the Bronze assessment!
Youngest has also been off camping. She went for two nights away with her Switzerland crew practicing camping and walking (and bonding) for their trip in August. There are eleven of them; the three in charge are late teens and early twenties, leading for the first time. She came home tired but happy and the only real information I got was that she’d had porridge for breakfast both days and was very much looking forward to a pain au chocolat on Monday!
In their absence Eldest and I did rather more playing on the internet (her chess, me surfing) and fighting (nicely) over whose turn it was to play Mahjong on Husband’s new computer (we don’t have it on ours) than was perhaps appropriate. She’s revising for her AS levels and I expect I was doing something useful around the house or gardening really…
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