The transition from professional jabberer to full time home educator has been one dotted with bear traps. Today I lead a concerted effort to play catch up on outstanding deadlines for Cerberus’ teacher Mrs E. Despite operating in the belief I know my way round the online learning portal, I was gravely mistaken.
It turned out there is, tied to each task set by school, a button whereby you indicate whether one is complete; all being child-led. Unfortunately for our boy, the completion of these missions result in the accumulation of points. By my reckoning, until today Cerberus’ only points were for a deranged artwork, totally unrelated to useful or set tasks. We haven’t recorded one.
On this third day of the school week, therefore, I valiantly lead the charge by submitting as many pieces of work within credible bounds, with short notes attached outlining how I personally may require treatment in an asylum as they’d gone unnoticed ’til now. ‘Please forgive my son’ read the undercurrent. ‘I’ve no wish for my stupidity to result in Cerberus remaining in his year forever’ read the actual text.
Net result; our boy would appear to his teacher to be a crammer before deadlines. He is five years old. I know we’ve been rumbled. In fact I’ve admitted it. I just hope Mrs E doesn’t take punitive action by reporting us to whoever it is that pelts turnips incapable parents’ way at the Mercat Cross.
With unbridled panic racing through my veins I insisted Cerberus complete a project himself. Oddly he complied. The only reason for this can be he has fed our pet rabbit dishwasher tablets and is focusing on school in order to avoid the crime scene. I check on the bunny and he appears watery eyed. No change.
Later I drag both Cerberus and Medusa for a 3.5 hour forest walk. Mrs M has a lengthy work call, as I do most days, so we cut her some slack. The children of this household behave towards their mother as flies do to those blue buzzing lights in the fishmonger that electrocute on impact. I daren’t ask Mrs M but one suspects she’d be happy to zap the children when they come within three feet. I google ‘stun guns’.
This means that whilst I can run phone and video calls with clients in the study facing only minimal interruption, she cannot. They would be smashing down the door with a hatchet and poker.
Bracing myself for a bleak afternoon I hustle the pair out the door with five minutes to spare before Mrs M starts pulling my fingernails out with pliers.
We route straight for the motor and then on to a particularly long ramble. It snows incessantly; vast morasses of mud, slime and snow are everywhere and I insist we walk for ninety minutes before we turn about. Knowing that preparation is everything I’ve brought a single Mars Bar, which I deal out at intervals using my penknife to slice off tiny pieces. It occurs to me that with the same blade I chopped up bird food but reason if its good enough for twitterers its good enough for the lesser evolved.
Medusa gets painfully cold on the backward leg. I have brought the binoculars today and spy two jittery Roe Deer but little else. A buzzard swoops perilously close to our heads at one point, clearly considering snatching the girl from the ground. It swivels away when it spots her blotched face. I’m sure I heard it say ‘Fuck that. I’ll pick up a hare’.
My parents call halfway from journey’s end and for something to do I answer the summons. We are in a deep glen so the signal keeps cutting out. I hold the screen in front of Cerberus and Medusa and their erupting faces tell the whole story.
By the time we return to our crippled Land Rover Medusa has continually screamed for around 45 minutes. My boss then calls and I don’t pick up. I check messages while the shrimps roar all around me and it’s an urgent work case. Needs dealt with yesterday. Checking my watch I pick the time when I can feasibly return, hand over children, make coffee and be back at the desk.
I spend the rest of the day racing through multiple work calls and I smash the deadline. Straight after it’s bathing supervision and incessant storytelling before I return to the study.
I finish at 2am. Our days are always long now. An Ogden Nash ditty saunters across my mind;
“May I join you in the Doghouse, Rover? / I wish to retire till the party’s over.”