My oldest daughter recently went away for a week-long residential trip with school. She's been away quite a bit by herself before--two nights away with school a couple of years ago, a few nights staying with her grandparents every summer holiday--but this was the longest period away by herself to date.
We went through the welter of preparations that were required in advance of the trip. Packing a huge suitcase filled with numerous sets of clothing suitable for outdoor activities. All of which had to be labelled, of course. Gathering together a mammoth-sized picnic for the three-hour coach journey. Providing any necessary medications to the class teacher. And then we dropped our daughter off very early on Monday morning, in time to catch the coach. We had to say our goodbyes at home beforehand, because no self-respecting ten-year-old will deign to kiss their parents in public, even if they won't be seeing them for a whole week.
And then she was there. Since the children aren't allowed to ring their parents (one of the aims of the trip is to increase their independence), all information comes via email from the school. We received a daily update telling us what the children had done the previous day and what was planned for the day ahead. The things they got up to were quite amazing--caving, canoeing, high ropes, mountain walking...
She arrived back late on Friday evening, having had a fantastic time and bursting with stories to tell us. We had missed her, but I'm not sure she had missed us, or not as much -- although she did say that she was pleased to be home.
All this excitement made me think back to my own school days, many moons ago. And it occurred to me that schools simply didn't provide these kinds of opportunities back then, especially not primaries. The best that I got was a French exchange trip at age fifteen. Things have certainly changed over the years...
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