5 Sep '13

News 5 things to do instead of the school run | Michael Moran

If you're facing down the desperate blank space where the school run used to be as your kids hit year 7, here's a few ideas

Bit of a niche one this. But it's a growing niche. You might be in it without even realising.

Two and a half million Britons have no regular employment. Four million work from home. That figure's up 24% since 2002. At that rate, by the middle of the century the only people who aren't at home during the day will be barristers and baristas.

For non-commuters with primary school-aged children their child's school run is the backbone of the day. Without it my life consists of peregrinations to the fridge (to see if anything interesting has miraculously appeared there) and back to the blank Word document on my computer (for much the same reason).

Like about 700,000 other families we've hit year 7. The school runs are no more. Without the corset of those twin half-hours my schedule now flops like a writer's midriff.

I need something to bring some structure to my life. And I'm going to share my deliberations with you in the hope that you might find them useful. Or, at least, to fill some of that oppressive free time.

1. A healthy exercise regime

There are significant cardiovascular benefits from a brisk walk halfway to school. Then back home for a forgotten lunchbox. Then halfway to school again only to remember it's Comic bloody Relief Day again so we've got to sprint home and find something red for her to wear.

Regular exercise might be the ideal replacement. Nothing outdoors obviously. It's already September. No point committing to jogging or cycling when I know I'll give up as soon as it gets cold. What about recommissioning the Wii Fit? Come to that, if video games can be exercise, does Call Of Duty count?

Practicality rating: 6/10

2. More ambitious personal grooming

For most of us there is a brief sartorial moment in the sun between our parents telling us we're not going out dressed like that and our children telling us exactly the same thing. Thus evolved le Style Anglais, a quietly conformist concatenation of tweeds and flannels that we like to think makes us look like Old Money but in fact evokes more vividly a skint 1970s art teacher.

Freed from the twin tyrannies of parent and child – and free too from the mad scramble to get out of the door by the time Thought For The Day comes on – you can now afford to spend a bit more time on your appearance. For my part, close reading of the Game Of Thrones books has left me with an ill-conceived yen to model my look on Tyroshi sellsword Daario, with his curly blue perm and matching trefoil beard.

Practicality rating: 4/10

3. Getting up to speed on your child's curriculum

Given that history and maths never change, and geography only very slowly, you might think that the stuff your child is being taught is much the same as the stuff you learned. But unfortunately each successive education secretary feels obliged, either through thrift, ideology or bloody-mindedness, to put their personal stamp on the school day.

The result is that the map of knowledge in your mind bears as much relation to the current status quo as Gondwanaland does to Pangea. Unfortunately the only way you'll get a real sense of how subjects are taught today is to re-enrol in high school. Unless you happen to live in a heart-warming 1990s Drew Barrymore romcom or a preposterous 1980s Rodney Dangerfield gag-fest that's not altogether practical.

Practicality rating: 2/10

4. Daytime TV

That way madness lies.

Practicality rating: 0/10

5. Worry how your child will fare now the training wheels have been taken off their school experience

You've seen Waterloo Road. There's a major fire every other day. Will they fall in with the school Zammo? Or run afoul of the resident Gripper Stebson?

There's a solid 50 minutes of worry a day to be had out of that, leaving 10 minutes for a coffee break. Yes, worry can be ageing: but if we're honest that boat has already sailed. Fretting will make the weight fall off in a way that "not quite getting around to jogging" never could. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a winner.

Practicality rating: 10/10

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