What about school?

This is probably the question we get asked most often. We’ve got four children, they’re all in mainstream state education. How on earth are we getting away with taking them out of school for six months without getting fined, imprisoned or (at the very least) bringing them back functionally illiterate?

When we told them they were going to miss six months of school

It’s taking some clever, and, in some cases, entirely accidental planning…

Geography

The first thing we did (and this was absolutely nothing to do with the trip planning itself) was move to Scotland. The law on education in Scotland is not the same as in England and, crucially, there are no fines (or anything else) for parents whose children are absent from school. That’s not to say that schools are terribly keen on it (fierce letters home for those who book holidays to Disneyland in the cheap weeks) but just that there’s no official sanction.

We have, of course we have, discussed the trip with the schools. I think I first mentioned it to the primary school about four years ago, and the high school were told before Lucy even started there. Both schools have been hugely supportive and positive about what we’re doing. In fact, I’ve yet to meet a teacher who hasn’t thought it was a brilliant idea. The schools do, naturally, have absence figures to submit and I don’t think anyone would be happy with recording six months of unauthorised absence for four children, but somehow (and I suspect there’s some bureaucratic fudge in here about which I have not enquired too deeply) all our kids are being allowed to go away and come back as though nothing has happened. We don’t (officially) need to home school during that time and nor will we, crucially, lose our school places.

S1 science. Every day’s a school day. Probably for me too.

That’s another lucky bit of non-planning. We live in a small town. It has two primary schools and one high school. There is, effectively, no parent choice. (You can choose one primary school over the other, but most people don’t bother, and unless you move away or go private, everyone ends up at the same high school). There’s also no pressure on places. There is space for our kids in the schools and there will be space when we come back. They will (administratively at least) just slot back in.

Time and space

We’ve been lucky with timing too. The children are currently in S1 (first year of high school), P7 (last year of primary) and P4 (somewhere in the middle). So while their education is important (especially to us!), they are not missing anything key. We’re not at the stage of exams – no dreaded SATs in Scotland – and syllabuses (Syllabi? Syllabodes?) and anything that they miss this year will be covered and re-covered in the years to come.

In addition (that’s maths, that is) they’re not actually missing that much school. We leave on 10th February, 3 weeks today (almost to the minute, as I type). Half term starts the end of that week, so they’re only missing half of this term and all of the next. The Scottish Summer term (like the Scottish Summer) is short, finishing at the end of June, so in all it’s about 12 weeks of school they’ll miss, some at least of which will be Sports Days and trips out (and, sadly, high school transition for Sophie and Aurora) and the like.

Support for learning

I am relieved to report I can just about manage Primary 4 maths

None of which is to say that they’re going to get away with learning nothing while we’re away. We’re rather hoping (expecting) that the trip itself will be an education (we won’t be able to get away from languages, geography, history, music and art – even “are we nearly there yet” can be turned into maths, cooking supper (and shopping for it) is home economics and walking up Mount Fuji is definitely PE) but we’ve also been pestering the schools for support so that we can be sure that when we come back the children will have covered everything that they would have done had they been sitting in their classrooms here. Lucy’s teachers have given us the syllabuses (I’m going with that one) for the year, and although I might struggle to explain a covalent bond, Ben handily has a biochemistry degree and a past life as a biology teacher, so I think we’ll be ok. The head teacher of the primary school has handed over precious maths text books so that we can make sure that all of that is covered too (No 239,356,548 on my to do list is revise long division…).

PE. Obviously.

And of course in the age of the internet and phones, there’s an app for everything. One very lovely teacher has signed us up to various recommended programmes, and as I’ve already mentioned this blog is just homework in disguise. (I’m told Because, But, So, is the structure to to aim for – look out for it).

Will it be enough? Who knows?

And if you know – or if you have any suggestions – comment below!

Harriet

Why blog (or tweet, or ‘gram)?

Why, with 20-something days to go (and 833,492,756 things still remaining on the to do list) am I blogging? Why have I joined twitter (which I always said I wouldn’t). Why does Aurora delight in telling me she has more followers on her (private) instagram account than we do on our family (public) one?

In short, why not just take our family on the trip of a lifetime and enjoy it?

When we first started talking about this trip, people we talked to (and yes, there was more than one) got very over-excited about how with the right social media this could be massive and how we could change our lives and write books and be the stars in the films of our lives and I may now be slightly exaggerating, but you know what I mean.

Is there nowhere we can get away from social media?

And of course, they are right, sort of, and of course that would be lovely (and so if you are a book editor reading this then don’t let us stop you being in touch) but when we thought about it, we realised that that would be an awful lot of hard work. It’s not that we are afraid of hard work (we suspect bits of this trip might be a little tricky from time to time, and don’t get me started on the intricacies of getting visas for some of the places we’re going), but we didn’t, really didn’t, want blogging or any other sort of social media to become the point of the trip. The point of the trip is the trip, and anything that comes out of it is a bonus…

So then, why blog at all? Well for us, in the end, it’s threefold:

These are the actual diaries. And the actual airmail letters my parents wrote to me every week. Separately.
  1. This is our diary, our journal and our record of the trip. When I went travelling in my teens I wrote a journal every day. Bits of it are excruciating to read back (what teenage journal isn’t?) but it’s real and it’s really important to me still to have those memories. I have an idea that when we get back I am (somehow) going to turn these words and the pictures on instagram and the witticisms and whinges on twitter into a book for each of us to keep. And to bore our grandchildren with.
  2. This is our postcard home. Of course there will be real postcards home (I have the idea that each of my godchildren will get a postcard from each country we visit – fortunately there are only two of them) but this is how we let our Mummies know where we are and what we are up to. We’re even hoping some of our friends will want to find out too.
  3. This is (part of) the children’s education. Again, it’s a substitute diary, in some ways, but hopefully it will keep them writing, they’ll take pictures, they’ll want to find out where we’ve been and tell the world about it. The idea is that without noticing it, somewhere along the way they’ll learn something…

And it’s with that third one that you come in, because I know that the more people they think are interested, the more followers and likes they have, the more comments they get, the more they will want to write and draw and describe. So please, do comment or like, share or retweet, and if you have thoughts or hints and tips on anything they (or I, or Ben) put up on here or anywhere else do let us know – and we will shamelessly use it to make our trip better, for all of us.

And when we write a book, we’ll mention you all in the acknowledgements. Promise.

Harriet

New name

Newsflash! (Warning, it’s pretty exciting so you may want to be sitting down).

We have a new Instagram name and are now @tweedtotokyo to match our shiny new Twitter account and this blog. If you’re not already following us we’d love it if you did.

As a separate thing I’ve been mulling over the whys of blogging/instagramming (is that really a verb?)/ twittering this trip. Why bother? Who are we doing it for? Come back for my musings soon….

Harriet