We had always been under the radar and I liked it that way – why, I thought, jump through hoops when I don’t need to? But the move was causing me concern – we would be living on the edge of small village in a caravan on a field with our children obviously not going to school, I gave it about five minutes before a concerned neighbour rung up the local authority. I had a horror of being taken by surprise by some clipboard-wielding bureaucrat picking his way bad-temperedly over the mud – and therefore decided that a visit by an inspector while we had a flushing toilet, bookshelves and walls, might be a good plan.
We were blessed in the Cambridge area with an inspector who really understood home education. I wasn’t worried about the visit, but felt a little judicious coaching of the children the night before might be in order. ‘What are you going to talk to Trevor about,’ I asked the children brightly. ‘We could tell him about our lab,’ said Zena.
The children’s lab was a playhouse at the far end of the garden, in which they spent a goodly proportion of their time doing heaven knows what. ‘Good plan,’ I said. ‘What do you do in there anyway?’ ‘We eat flowers,’ supplied Matty. ‘Ah,’ I said, nodding wisely ‘best not mention that to Trevor.’ The conversation moved on to reading matter. ‘When Trevor asks what you are currently reading, could you perhaps show him something a little more erudite than The Simpsons Big Book of Bart,’ I suggested to Zena. ‘Of course,’ she replied.
Trevor turned out to be enormously likeable with a keen interest in working dogs. We discussed the merits of various training methods for a while and I felt that the visit was going swimmingly. That was until the children arrived. ‘We’ve got a lab,’ they obligingly informed him. I beamed fondly. ‘What do you do in your lab, then,’ asked Trevor. ‘We eat flowers,’ they chorused. They went on to discuss the merits of the dead nettle over that of the buttercup and dandelion. The buttercup, they informed the clearly taken-aback inspector, was somewhat spicy, while the dandelion was just disgusting. There followed a slight disagreement amongst themselves on this latter point, while I closed my eyes and wished it all away. ‘Why don’t you go upstairs and bring down some of the things you are up to,’ I said brightly. ‘I’m sure Trevor would be most interested.’ A minute later, Zena appeared happily waving – The Big Book of Bart.