[Not posed, I promise.]
The first reactions from the girls when we told them in March about this trip:
Cesca: I’m sad I’m going to miss my friends.
Lola: YES! Does this mean I’m missing half a term of school?
Yes, we explain, but you’ll have to do school work on the trip.
How much? She shoots back.
Er, good question. I look at Luce, she looks at me and, bearing in mind the period for setting the ground rules is critical, we say “About an hour a day, every day.”
Somehow this have proved about right.
Getting the girls to do the work
To their credit they have been great. Lola understands that this is the price she must pay. In her more lucid moments she also realises that she does not want to get behind with school. So we make it habit, after breakfast each day, plus we have a BIG carrot waiting in the UK for her if ‘work is done throughout the trip’. If that is broken then the big bribe will not arrive.
Cesca gets an easier deal, being only 7, and often her work somehow turns into drawing or colouring.
Of course not every day is easy. Mysterious stomach aches arrive just as we get the books out, or leg aches or head aches. Or shoulder aches, which is novel for 7 and 9 year olds, perhaps I should shut up about my frozen shoulder.
This morning Cesca just pulled out the fail safe I’M TIRED excuse, not that Luce seemed to notice:
Lola tries with the excuses. ‘Dad my ankle hurts.’ She obviously doesn’t know me. Her mother is loving and nurturing, I am a taskmaster. That ankle needs to have an open fracture before it stops us doing the work.
Are they learning anything?
I’m not sure. I love doing the maths yet become all too aware of my shortcomings as a teacher. Luce is brilliant at coaching the reading and, in our better moments, we use the Mrs Wordsmith cards and learn some new words at meal times. At the least they are ticking over, and that may be our definition for success of this trip.
Why don’t you just forget school and enjoy the moment?
Good question. The main point is that even for a 9 (about to be 10) year old, doing no work for 3 months is dangerous. We have seen the girls forget much of the previous year over the summer holidays and we don’t want them to have a tough September. We figure that an hour a day is enough to keep some of the main bits of English and Maths current. We are less focused on content (geography, history) as they are picking up knowledge from the trip, even if 90% of it is how to order waffles in Spanish.
So there is a little experiment going on here which may be interesting to those of you with school-age children and boring for everyone else:
Is an hour a day of school work for 13 weeks better than 6 weeks of school + 8 weeks of nothing?