We move through our life looking for opportunities, smelling the path that we’re on. Things appear and disappear before us. Some of them we can grab, other things stay behind glass. We can see them but we can’t hold them. Then there are the voices. Voices behind corners, in the darkness. We can follow them but where are they? They are nowhere. They are gone.
Lulu’s voice floats through the living room on a sunny autumn morning. ‘InterHigh is for posh kids whose parents can’t really afford proper private school.’
I put the hoover down and look at Lulu, murmuring from her computer screen. Is she talking to me? Is she talking to herself? Has she gone crazy?
‘How do you know that Lu?’ I try to say as calmly as I can.
She beckons me over to the computer screen and points to the list of students. ‘Have you seen all the double-barrelled names? William Horwood-Pitt, Miles Jupiter-Hewley, Margaret Loosely-Smith.’
My eyes run over them. ‘Oh yeah. You may have a point there, Lu.’
Her laugh is cursory and ever so slightly bitter. ‘Yeah. And none of them ever laugh at my jokes.’
I’ve said it before but I haven’t tired of it yet. Lulu’s school InterHigh is great for studying. For learning without distraction. In fact, as soon as a pupil gets disruptive in the class, their microphone is disabled, their chat facility is turned off so the rest of the class won’t suffer. Oh dear. When I write it like that, it comes across a little creepy. Online Big Brother-ish. But the truth is, I’ve heard InterHigh in my house, on my boat and in my car for two-and-half years now. And I’ve never heard such happy, relaxed teachers before. Lulu’s Spanish teacher for example, is a source of actual joy in our lives. I’ll never tire of him saying ‘chelf’ when he’s talking about furniture. Or ‘chopping’ when they’re learning about shops. And, besides accent-based humour and easy-going Castilian ways, there is kindness. Lots of kindness and encouragement for his pupils. Especially for one called Lulu. This fact makes me particularly happy.
So compared to an often stressed-out, traditional classroom-based teaching style, this way of learning is not too bad at all. And under this online school system, we’ve seen Lulu blossom academically over the last couple of years. It’s true that she doesn’t do more practical disciplines like D&T and PE, but she studies French and Spanish and flourishes doing Film Studies. So what’s not to love? Oh yeah. In this world of increasing opinion, overshare and elbow poking, you can turn that other kid’s online chat off. My kid is learning.
You have to remember the craic though. I’ve said it before; Lulu loves the craic. The craic for her is gossip and jokes and drama. The craic of a 13-year old being the pursuits of love and friendship. And whether I like it or not, the best place for Lu’s craic is not in our living room. It’s not in the sand dunes or at theatre club, or watching the sun go down. For my pink and perfect Lulu, the craic is in an actual real school.