The other day Eleanor made a triceratops mask.
She was terribly proud of it and declared that she wanted to wear it to the library, to show it to the library ladies.
So off we set, Eleanor in her mask and wellingtons*, me wearing Phoebe and hauling the bag of books, all of us stopping to talk about anything that struck us as interesting, and I thought: "Ye gods, we're a home-ed stereotype".
It was about half past three, so as we walked we passed several groups of uniformed children, all making their way home from school.
I felt as if I might as well have been carrying a banner that read "Home Educating Crazies", the contrast between them with their regulation hair and shoes and us with our whatever-came-out-of-the-drawer fashion statements, seemed so intense I was sure we must stand out for miles.
Then we got to the library and the first thing the librarian said was "Did you make that mask at school?"
The fact is that you can't identify a Home Educating family by sight**.
That girl wandering through the park in her bee costume, picking up worms?
The kid in the television character t-shirt being dragged round the shops?
The girl in the ballet school t-shirt and jeans practising pliés in the lobby.
The child who bumped a knee coming off the slide and cried for exactly eleven and a half seconds before climbing straight back up and doing it again.
The girl with the sensible plaits and "nice" coat who looks like she just stepped out of an old children's book***
That kid coming back from the park covered head to toe with mud.
All Home Educated.
In fact, in this case, all Eleanor.
I imagine that any of these might be somebody's idea of a typical home educated child, and I know there are many more: a quick scan of modern media presents the scary children from Cougar Town, the Christian boy from Glee, scholarly warrior Carter Kane from the Kane chronicles****, and many more.
And the thing that really stands out about them all is this: they're all different.
Even the worst stereotypes of sheltered religious children***** with no idea of how normal kids should behave differ wildly from one place to another.
Which makes perfect sense to me.
Because Home Educated children differ so widely that, really, you can't pin them down, you can't stereotype them because there is no typical "type" to start from.
The only thing they have in common is parents who, for whatever reason, don't send their children to school.
Apart from that, really they're as different as any other kids.
They're no different to any other kids
You probably pass home-edded children all the time and don't even notice them: on the bus, at the library, outside the cinema when you thought they should be in school.
We're like a bodysnatching alien invasion from the nineteen fifties: we're everywhere, we could be anybody, we look just like you.
Which is ok really, because, really, we are.
*It wasn't raining, she says she just wanted to make her feet all stompy.
** Unless they're all wearing T-shirts that say Free-Range Kids or something anyway.
***Five Children and It, or The Secret Garden, you know, something with lots of fresh air and knitted underthings.
****Yes, I read children's books.
Because they're good.
***** I know no children like this.
I do know Christian children who are home edded, and Muslim children, and Pagans, Jews, Atheists, and a bunch of others who may or may not believe in something or other but don't think it's worth talking about.