• Justin Hannam

The Hunt

Last year in lockdown, for the first time, Liz and I discussed the possibility of a project such as The Other Path and I decided to have a go at writing something. Below is what I produced. I never thought of putting it out there, though after re-reading it this week I thought it would be good to share, mainly so it doesn’t sit forever creating an unread archive. I hope you enjoy!

I’m sat in a bush. A prickly gorse bush to be precise. My heart is pumping as the wolf howls start up from a collection of trees about two hundred meters away. I’m slightly concerned as the hiding spot I have chosen only has one entrance. If they discover me there’s no escape. Even though I have an urge to move to a safer spot I can’t, they will see me for sure. The intensity of the howling has increased. They have started searching for their prey. Unfortunately, that prey is me and two of my children. The howling is starting to make me feel uneasy. I can’t see my children, I just hope they have found somewhere better than this to hide.

Is this a typical day for me? possibly. Its hard to say what a typical day is. A lot of people would suggest it's not a typical day for most. For a start, a lot of people would believe that my children should be in school. After all it is 13.30 on a Friday, term time, and my children are twenty metres away up a tree, hiding from the howling. Hiding from their impending doom, desperate to stay alive for the next four minutes, when they could be in the safety of a class room celebrating their well earned golden time. You see, my children are home educated, a choice that my wife and I made as the prospect of school closed around our family life when my eldest was four. For us life was so good as a family, we didn’t see the need for it to change, not that bigger change anyhow. Our daughter seemed too small to cope with a full day’s work in our opinion. The friends we knew whose children attended school at the time would always say the same sentence somewhere in their speech about how little ‘Johnny’ was getting on in his first few years in formal education. They would often say lots of positives such as ‘he loves it’, ‘he’s made lots of friends’. But for me, the sentence that seems to stick which everyone says is ‘they get so tired, but I’m sure they are just adjusting’. This sentence never sat well with me, maybe because I am terrible at being tired, I have no finesse when it comes to being tired. I need to clarify that I have no issue with school, in fact I loved school as a child and if my children ever want to go then we will make sure that happens, but for now they are happy with life and that is what matters.

Back to my bush. How did we end up in this predicament of impending doom, hoping that we can survive just four minutes? The howling is getting closer. I’m starting to get goose bumps. The fear is kicking in. I don’t know if they have picked up our scent, but they are definitely heading in this direction. Why did I choose a spot with only one entrance?

The thing I have learnt over the last few years is that no approach to home education is the same. It is a tailor made fit for the child and the family. For me, there are two aspects that make the decision to home educate an easy one. Firstly, our family set up works well for it. I run a business with my brother in law which gives me a lot of flexibility about when I work my hours. This is why I’m sat uncomfortably in a gorse bush on a Friday. I am lucky enough to have a wife who dedicates one hundred percent of her time to the children, finding the time to work around them. I feel lucky to be in this situation. The second factor which gives me confidence about our home education lifestyle is GOOGLE. There is nothing that I can’t find the answer too within a few minutes. People often ask (more people than you can imagine), ‘do you need to be trained to home educate?’ My answer is always the same. Of course not, as long as you can GOOGLE there is nothing you can’t know.

For the last few weeks we have been looking into the stone age period as a family. We have rinsed the library of all children's books to do with this subject, we have visited Avebury stone circle and of course Stonehenge, we have made tools, campfires, read stories and built a mini stone age village and a mini Stonehenge out of clay. We have within reason immersed ourselves in the life of the stone age. I can’t say without testing what my children have learnt, but I know I have learnt a lot and enjoyed watching my children as they explore this topic with refreshing enthusiasm. It’s because of this topic we are now in the danger we find ourselves.

The howling is so close now that I feel surrounded. This was a terrible hiding spot. However, its my children who are discovered first, I hear both my son and daughter scream as they jump from their respective trees. They are going to make a run for it. To begin with my heart sinks for them, my natural instinct is for me to help, protect them. But I can’t. There is nothing I can do for them now. They are on their own. I wish them luck. Then I realise that I’m still safe and that’s all that matters. Better them than me I think. Relief.

I must say that home education is not the path I felt I was destined for. In fact, it had never entered my mind. My wife was the first to suggest the idea and looking back my reaction was not positive. I was too quick to judge. I didn’t know any children who home educate, and I certainly didn’t realise how many people do it. Until you start to look into the home educating community in some way, you can never know how popular it is, and it seems to be growing fast. Social media has allowed it to explode. For those who are thinking of it and are yet to make up their minds, I say give it ago. My family and I have no regrets. We take each day, week, month and year as it comes. We are on the adventure of life and loving it!

Back to the howling. I should clarify at this point that this is a game. My children aren’t about to be savaged by wolves. We are playing a stone age game (which we made up) with friends. Two of my children and I are the animals, I am a woolly mammoth. Not my choice, but my children and wife seem to think this title fits well, it must be the beard. My wife, our three-year-old and our friends are stone age hunters. They are surrounding us and howling like wolves to get us to move so they can catch and kill their dinner. My children and I each have a white piece of material hanging out of our pockets, if this is taken from us within four minutes the hunters will have succeeded. Judging by the sounds of excitement my children have been caught. I also know this as I hear my son say, ‘He’s in that bush!’. I assume he is pointing right at me. I look at my watch and I have a minute to survive. Not a problem. I’m an adult and these are mostly smallish children. I go for it. I jump up and run. I need to stay in the boundary of the game. The only option is to run straight at the hunters of which my two children have become. I run, I jump left, I jump right dodging the attempts made at the torn sheet that is hanging from my pocket, tempting the hunters. I even manage a spin. I’m wishing someone was filming this as I must look awesome in my run. A professional athlete comes to mind. I manage to pass all of the hunters untouched. I look at my watch. I’ve only been running fifteen seconds. Forty-five to go. I turn and shout out a remark over my shoulder, some arrogant comment I’m sure. It’s when I turn around to shout another witty comment that my luck runs out. I don’t want to go into details as its unnecessary. But it involves a fallen branch and my fifteen stone frame ending up on the floor. I was dinner.

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