The second term of school started with extra-curricular activities at the heart of it. I guess this is really reassuring considering just how academically able the children there are, and echoes what parents before have said about it not being some sort of hot house for results.
Firstly he was lucky enough to get a space at climbing club. Apparently it is a lot of information about doing the correct knots – I guess so that they could then do it outside and not just on a climbing wall. It is the sort of thing he has wanted to do for ages but so far all the climbing things we came up against weren’t really at that level. It runs after school until relatively late so we organised that I picked up his brother early (which actually coincided with another sports activity our home educated son does) and their dad stayed on late at work and collected him after climbing club. A few of the weeks it just wasn’t on; our son wasn’t the only one not to know this and so there were quite a few young children just stranded at school. I contacted the admin person for this and she pointed me to the website which has the dates on it. He didn’t actually get to climb that much and especially with the price I can’t see him doing it again. One of the most annoying things is it clashed with a rugby match which didn’t go down well – and that it turned out was actually one of the weeks it wasn’t even on! Then they went to great lengths to rearrange climbing club so that everyone could go to a film evening – but that was then cancelled due to the corona virus.
As I say he has really got into rugby with the school, and this term it saw him having more matches to play including weekends. Last term he had his trip to Twickenham to watch the Varsity match, and this term saw him needing a deposit and first instalment for the year 8 trip. Unfortunately he soon managed to lose an unnamed rugby sock (I couldn’t see how to label them realistically). Luckily his friend lent him a pair and I ordered some more (£7.99 a pair!). Next he lost his PE top (sigh) and had to order another of those (around £21!) – this of course has turned up as soon as they have stopped going to school. It turns out that rugby socks are only £1 second hand in the school shop. If your child is starting at this school I really recommend you trying the second hand shop as early as you can to get spares of things. Not only if they lose them but because they need washing so often. Before they broke up he should have needed his rugby kit on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday (for photos) and Friday! There is a waiting list for rugby kit in the school second hand shop too. We also discovered that the school trousers that can be put on after rugby are really useful if they are getting straight into your car whilst being all muddy.
I cannot believe the swimming gala came around so quickly – as we had watched parts of it last year after his brother’s home education swimming lessons. Taking part in the school house swimming gala isn’t compulsory but he (thankfully) did want to take part. Although no-one was keen to take on the butterfly race (I think that is thanks to the whole incident and why he left swimming club) – but one of the strongest swimmers in his class (reluctantly) offered to do it (who was awesome and got rewarded for being best in the year overall). The great thing is parents can go and watch and so we made a whole day of it. I had assumed that loads of children would be constantly at the vending machines like we had seen last year – but it turns out that it was mainly the non-swimmers who came later who did this. We had taken loads of goodies with us (our son was hoping to sell some) but as no-one had any money we just gave them away: Besides another parent had bought all the boys cookies at an away rugby match so it was only fair that it was our turn. Our son got into the finals for all of his races and did really well. His house won overall as well. This is actually one of the few occasions we are not allowed to take photos of the children so this photo is not from that event.
He also carried on his usual swimming lessons which he started after leaving swimming club. I asked him if he wanted to switch to skiing with his brothers but he didn’t (it wasn’t logistically possible to take him to skiing and get to swimming on time). This meant that he was left at school until his dad finished work, so that I could pick up his older brother and take him straight to skiing. But it turns out the school closes at the end of the school day on Fridays and so he was left alone outside of school! Luckily he has a phone and I knew of a safe place he could go. His dad changed his shifts after that so he could pick him up immediately after school.
Although we received e-mails from his head of year and the head of school weekly some things still didn’t seem as clear as that first term when we were given a list of key dates of things happening; the second term things seemed to be just thrown at us (with quite short notice for those who have to work shifts). It looks like if there’s ever an open day it always has an inset by it. For one of his inset days we moved a home education breakfast meet to that day so he could come too – which meant he got to catch up with some of his friends.
Talking of friends things seem to be going really well on that front at school. Not only has he forged new friendships with people in his form, but those in rugby and even a few from other classes. The one thing which was a bit scary was when he arranged to stay overnight at his friend’s house over the holidays. They had arranged it themselves (there was another lad staying too) and he was so organised that he got my number to pass on to the boy’s parents who then contacted me. As it is a grammar school the pupils do not often live near the school which is the case here and what we did end up doing is meeting at a central location. I actually just dropped our son off at a services off the motorway and let him go with a stranger. I was trying not to be anxious as his friend was there when he went off with them but it was hard, especially when he didn’t reply to me on WhatsApp (he is usually glued to his phone). This boy seems a really good influence as they were hardly on screens at all! The boy’s mother also sent me a photo of the three boys enjoying their dinner which was reassuring too. She brought him back home for me the next day because our other son had to go to hospital for an operation following his skiing accident.
Other things that happened this term are that he grew loads. He was already really tall but he just kept getting bigger. In fact I had just replaced his shoes and trainers (plus new football boots) because of this growing and he is now a size 8 (typically he isn’t using them apart from one pair of the trainers as no school!). School reports were good and he had been telling us how well he had been getting on in tests. He had made a few parents evening appointments but it felt like priority was given for those not doing so well. Again this was all cancelled due to covid-19.
All this was going on whilst caring for his bearded dragon – who we all worried about because he went into brumation. The beardie had to be tempted to get up with his live food and would be back lying under leaves by 10am. We read so much about dragon behaviour and as new owners were worried as people were telling us that they shouldn’t do it. Then as the seasons changed to spring he just stopped doing it and is more active than ever!
Of course the term has ended by not being allowed to go to school. The information on the corona virus changed so quickly and I had already made the decision not to attend our regular home education groups because our youngest son has had a lot of problems with breathing in the past. I don’t think he is greatly at risk but wanted to minimise his social interaction because I could. However, at this point the schools were still open and I sent the middle two to school. One day, not long before educational establishments were told to close, our son was told that he shouldn’t be in school in order to protect his brother. He couldn’t get hold of the person he was told to ask about it in person so he had sent her an e-mail.
Since the schools have closed I have let him organise himself in regards to getting his work done. The school had told us to let them be independent and I think he is more than capable. He did ask at first if he could have breaks and things but I told him to make his own decisions (within reason). He doesn’t seem to have much work set and easily getting through that which he does. He has made lots of cakes and biscuits, reluctantly joined in with some art with his brother, got plenty of exercise and even some Spanish. It seems strange that he has so quickly returned to home education but I am so glad that he is used to it as I think it is making now much easier.
You may be interested in reading Starting Grammar School After Home Education