When my son started in Nursery class aged 3 and half it was so hard to imagine the time that he’d be experiencing a school residential for the first time. Even thinking of him being in Key Stage Two seemed like a lifetime away. But before we knew it he was in Year Four and we were getting ready for his first time away from home for more than a couple of days. The longest he’s ever been away before was last year when he spent two night at a local Cub Camp. This was going to be a whole new experience for us both, with him being away for three nights and four days, and nowhere near to home.
I paid for the trip months ago and we talked about it often so that it didn’t seem quite so scary. He asked for us to mark the dates on the kitchen calendar and I noticed he’d also added it to the one in his bedroom. He would be staying on a farm in Devon and leaving us on the Tuesday morning until Friday afternoon.
We got a few last minute things the week before last that he needed and I got him to help me pack over the weekend. That way, hopefully, he’d remember what he’d taken. Everything was labelled, thanks to my old Stamptastic stamps.
Last Monday it was almost like Christmas here, he was so excited and there was no chance of him going to sleep early. When Tuesday morning arrived he was up bright and early and couldn’t wait to get going, I was so proud of him. He insisted that he carried his own case all the way to school and he just could not wait to get on the coach.
I had expected some tears but there were none, just lots of smiles and waves as the coach pulled away. It really did take me by surprise. In a good way. What a relief.
And that was it, he was off and I was left wondering if he’d be okay at the other end. There really wasn’t any need to worry, he was going to surprise me from beginning to end. Our first update came at lunchtime with a photo of all the children on the beach, where they stopped to have lunch. So far so good. Sometime later we had a message to let us know that the kids had arrived and were finding their way around the farm. By then it was time for me to relax a little and pack my own bags for my own adventure the next day.
I wasn’t quite prepared me for the message I got later that evening. I saw a message request from one of the teachers on Facebook and started to panic wondering what might have gone wrong, what was the matter, why did she need to get hold of me? I accepted the message and there in front of my eyes was one photo of my son holding a chicken and one of him holding an owl!
This is the boy that never even wanted to hold a chick before. There was a smiling little boy staring at the screen holding a big chicken.
The concentration on his face when he was holding the owl was just lovely and I knew that he had found his happy place, that he’d be fine and I could go on my own break and not worry about him. He’d made such a big step forward and I was so proud of him already.
Before the kids went away we had been given a brief outline of what they were doing each day so I had rough idea of what was going on and I knew that he’d have lots and lots of fun. They went to Morwellham Quay and I wondered whether they’d be able to persuade him to get dressed up in Victorian attire. Let’s face it, we all know that my son doesn’t really do dressing up, so would he join in with everyone on the trip? Yes he was going to surprise me once again and there he was in the group photo hiding behind others admittedly, but he was wearing a top hat. After he returned home I was sent a photo of him in his full regalia and he was very proud of himself just as he should be.
He spent ages telling me about how you can tell the status of somebody by what they wore in the Victorian age. He’d clearly taken it all in and had enjoyed the experience. He’d been looking forward to taking a trip on the mine train before he went away, but I was a little concerned he might struggle in the dark. How wrong was I, he loved every second of it apparently.
They also got to mine for copper and make chocolate lollies, basically he was in heaven. There was also a trip to the swimming pool where they had a fun swim, ate marshmallows around the camp fire and spent lots of time playing with the animals back on the farm.
Whilst he liked the chicks and the guinea pigs, he’s come home wanting a dog. That’s not going to happen, but it’s lovely to see that he’s overcome a few fears while he’s been away.
They also got to visit the National Marine Aquarium near Plymouth, which is the largest in the country, and he got to see some big sharks.
I have a rather fussy eater and I’d decided to just not think about what he would or wouldn’t eat while he was away. I knew they’d have pizza one evening, he could have cheese sandwiches for his packed lunches and hoped he’d find something he liked. It seems he ate a lot of bread and butter but did actually eat a jacket potato. He isn’t a fan of potato or chips really so that was a big thing. He has told me that he won’t be eating another one though!
There were chores to be completed and the kids took turns in serving at mealtimes, which it seems he took very seriously.
I spent a few days staying with my best friend when my son was away experiencing a school residential for the first time, which meant I kept myself busy. It gave me some much-needed time for myself, which I rarely get and the house was so quiet without him I was glad of the change of scenery. I got home Friday lunchtime and then it was a case of waiting and watching the clock for the coach to get back to school.
He was still full of smiles and I got the biggest hug when I found him in the school hall. He looked shattered so I was glad we’d got a quiet weekend planned. I cancelled the one thing I’d wanted to do on Saturday and hoped that he’d have a lie in to catch up on some sleep. He didn’t, but he did enjoy just playing with his toys and telling me all about his adventures.
He’d had an amazing time, one of his socks appears to have stayed away, but I can live with that. His next opportunity to go on a school residential will be early on in Year Six. It’s a very outdoors activity based experience from what I’ve heard and at the moment he doesn’t want to go. Of course, things might change, but it’s far less his idea of fun at the moment. A lot can change in two years so who knows whether he’ll decide to go nearer the time.
For now we’ll just enjoy the results of experiencing a school residential for the first time. The image of him holding an owl is going to stay with me for a very long time!