Back to school

I never particularly loved school, but I always looked forward to that start-again September energy. I liked to see my school uniform all ironed, my pencil case filled with shiny new things, my shoes polished ready for the big day. There was something organised and hopeful about the whole thing that gelled with my perfectionist nature. A couple of weeks into school and the newness had gone, leaving me often bored, and itching for the weekend to come.

We were in the UK at the beginning of September. Every children’s clothes shop and stationery shop was filled with Back to School! signs. I remember them from my childhood, suddenly appearing to announce that the fun was over and things were about to get serious again. One minute you were dashing out with your friends to catch the ice-cream van, and the next you were trying on sensible black shoes. And whilst the perfectionist in me embraced the opportunity to do things just right, there was always a part that just felt sad at the return of all that greyness.

Here in Spain, the back-to-school feeling is even more intense (though the lack of uniforms keep things more colourful). The school holidays begin mid-June, so there’s a heady sense of holiday mood for a good three months, with many people going away for the whole month of August or more. By mid-September, most people are ready to get back to normality.

It’s odd when school starts again. We’ve spent three sociable months loving that everyone else is free when we are. Now, the children’s friends are no longer available during the day, and their weekends and evenings are often determined by how much homework they have. I often have a little wobble around this time of year. I don’t wish they were at school, but I miss the companionship of being part of something.

The day that everyone went back to school, I was up early. Unusually that day, D, a night owl, was the first to come downstairs. He was carrying a book that he’d started reading when he can’t sleep. He hadn’t slept well because he couldn’t stop thinking about his micronation. This idea was inspired by an article he came across last year about a man who had established a micronation called Sealand. D’s been working on his own micronation since then. It has its own name and flag, system of governance and social systems. A huge amount of thought and discussion has gone into what makes a country equitable, and he wants everyone in this society to be entitled to a home and free healthcare. He has begun to write the constitution and we’ve talked about civil liberties, and people’s rights. He has thought about what his micronation produces and exports and considered different types of industry and tourism, and how they work. We’ve discussed different forms of taxation, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. He’s been looking into designing a military uniform and found some online design programmes that might work.

It was such a rich conversation. D was so animated by his project, and his ideas had been so carefully thought through. He had a wealth of information he’d come across while researching. If we were to follow a curriculum, we would quite easily have ticked off lots of things (some geography, some maths, some sociology etc etc etc).

I’m often amazed by the way children think and create. A curriculum can’t possibly harness the power of a child’s imagination and learning potential, when they are alive with their own ideas and creations. I thought how different things would be if that was our first day back at school too. Nope, no regrets.

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