There is an increasing movement, amongst home educators, to celebrate beginning the school year outside of school, by means of a Not Back To School picnic. It started last September, when we were fighting for our survival in the face of blank and unyielding government intrusion, and this year it’s gained some momentum, as a way of celebrating, and advertising, the fact that There Is Another Way. Because there is. And not everyone realises it.
We haven’t done any Not Back To School picnics with a group, as yet, but we have been celebrating in our own way. Last year, we went to the Museum, with some friends, and this year, we went to the zoo.
It was a little disappointing, in one way – we thought we were going to find the place deserted, because the local schools had gone back, but the zoo attracts visitors from a much wider area than the Museum does, and it turns out that some areas started their autumn term up to a week later than I was expecting. So the zoo wasn’t heaving, but neither was it entirely empty.
We nudged Kevin into taking a day off to join us (I don’t much fancy a day at the zoo with two under sixes by myself, since you mention it), and we had a lovely, lovely time. Daisy made me especially proud when she wandered up to the zoo-keeper man, and asked him intelligent questions about his table of stuff (animal bones, antlers, feathers, and the like). She came away able to tell me that antlers and rhino horns are made of the same stuff as our hair and nails – it was news to me that hair and nails are the same as each other, so there was education happening all round.
We each chose one animal that we definitely wanted to see, and then looked at all the other things that we passed on the way. Henry wanted to see giraffes, and will tell you that they were his favourite, but he was actually entranced by the penguins, and spent ages running up and down in front of the glass, watching them swim, and talking to them. Daisy had wanted to see the penguins, but when we got there, was getting too tired and grumpy to enjoy them properly. I wanted to see zebras, but for some reason, they were enclosed in an area right at the back of their paddock, so we walked miles to them, then couldn’t see them very well at all.
Other successes included monkeys, bats, cheetahs, tigers, rhinos, meerkats and elephants. The weather was lovely, but not too hot, and we had a great day.