It was going swimmingly. Our first day. Actually it wasn’t their first day of home learning; it was my first being home with them.
Elsie was kneeling in front of the fire balancing her computer on her knees. Maeve had set herself up at the kitchen table. Perhaps tomorrow we could set up something a bit more comfortable, a little more permanent. The day after, maybe we could all be dressed by 9am.
As if they’d plotted it.
Counted to three before speaking in unison.
‘Mum, could you please help me with this?’
I stood at the sink and looked from one to the other.
I took off my rubber gloves.
‘Wait… What… How do I… How does a…’
So that’s what it’s like to stand in a classroom with 25 other people’s kids. And you can only help one. So you choose. And while you’re helping the chosen one, the other 24 have pulled the ink part out of their pens and chewed up tiny bits of torn paper and they’re spitting them through the pens at each other, and God forbid, your backside as you’re bent over trying to guess which of the statements on a Grade 4 worksheet is a preposition phrase.
The afternoon was sunny and we went on a bike ride. I leaned back on my bike and sighed. Physical education? Check.
I’ve got this.
Up ahead by the fence we could see something strange.
Later on, the girls jostled to tell Anthony that Elsie wondered if it was a coconut, while I thought it was a ball of rusty wire. But as we got close enough, Maeve yelled, ‘It’s an echidna!’
And apparently, as we all raced to get off our bikes to take a look, I yelled, ‘Look, it’s a hedgehog! It’s a hedgehog!’
But they had to help each other finish that part of the story because they were clutching their bellies and couldn’t speak.
At the time, back on the roadside, we all bent down to look at the porcupine.
“It’s just what came out my mouth. I know it wasn’t actually a…’
But my explanation fell on deaf ears as the girls ran to look at two snake skins a couple of metres away.
I looked skyward; an echidna and now, two actual snake skins.
It was like home learning opportunities were being handed to me on a platter. On a school excursion.
Or an incursion, I giggled, since we hadn’t actually left the farm.
I climbed onto my bike.
‘Hey, when we get home, you could Google why snakes shed their skin.’
I sat tall.
‘I already know,’ Elsie said as we took off on our bikes. ‘It’s because as they grow, their skin doesn’t grow with them.’
My foot slipped off the pedal.
‘Yeah, I know!’ I called.
The girls rode ahead.
‘I know. I knew that.’