Dinner by the pool in Azille.

The last couple of days have been lovely and frustrating in roughly equal measure.

We are sitting in a great house amidst some beautiful rolling green countryside. We have proper showers, a range of breakfast cereal, a swimming pool, a walk to a boulangerie. All these things are good. The sun is shinning, flowers bloom, the vineyards that surround us are all bright green with leaves. All this is good. We have spread our things around a big house, we don’t need to pack again from another ten days, we can clean all our clothes. This too is good. We’ve swum, made sailing boats out of milk cartons, picnicked by a lake, waked by the Canal du Midi, played the game of Carcassonne near the town itself. All great experiences.

But the kids have been… Fractious. Maybe it’s because they had pinned their hopes on seeing our Canadian friends here. Maybe it’s just a couple of days of relative inactivity. Maybe it’s because Callum is nursing a sore leg. Maybe we’re not used to being inactive in the middle of nowhere. I’m not sure. But it’s been a bit difficult.

No surprise, but it’s schoolwork that sits at the core of the issue. It probably could be something else but the kids, strangely enough, don’t generally kick up at being told to read books or play games. The boys are generally fine with their schoolwork – sure they complain as every child would but it’s no big deal. The last couple of days, though, have seen more complaints, more tears, more serious parental voices.

It’s times like these that I see the attraction of the whole ‘unschooling’ approach which so many other long-term travelers take. It’d be so much easier just to let things go, or decide the kids could choose their own agenda. If nothing else neither Jennifer nor I would have to be the bad-guy forcing the kids to do something they don’t want to do.

Maths is the more straightforward issue for us. The nice Internet system we use means that there’s an external motivation. Callum  finished the year 6 course today; he’ll have to do the exam sometime in the next week or so when we can find the necessary resources. Declan is now 60 per cent through year 4. That’s wonderfully reassuring that they are on track. English is so, so much harder. It involves physically writing which neither boy likes; it involves being creative which can be difficult; and we’re doing it ourselves which involves all those conflicted parent / teacher roles.

Thinking about it as I write, I think part of the issue is that we’re more willing to compromise our teacher roles when the kids are doing and learning other things. Skipping maths while seeing a pyramid or visiting the Berlin Wall seems more acceptable. But sitting in a nice place in the countryside seems like the time, to us as parents, to knuckle down and do some work.

Somehow I doubt the equation is the same for the kids.