Written by Hazel Davis


Hey! Teachers! I’ll leave my kids at home

Hazel Davis and her fella have decided to home-educate their kids. This week, they’re hoeing their own row – with a little help from the internet.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Years ago a friend described me as “a peculiar sort of space-age Luddite”. It was mainly because I didn’t have a microwave, TV or even a plug-in kettle, yet I had a MacBook and an iPod. I think.

He had a point though. I spend my days completely in the thrall of the internet. Everything I do revolves around email and I panic if my phone starts to lose charge. Yet at the same time, electronic devices make me angry and fearful. Massive tellies make me suspicious and children’s toys that emit noises make me want to leave home.

Of course SOME of this is snobbery. Of course I like the look of a whistling kettle more than a plug-in one and plastic makes me heave. But mostly it’s that I like to be in control of my environment and I like to have played a part in creating it. To that end, our house is the most homemade house ever.

Can’t afford the dream kitchen? We couldn’t. No matter, said my intrepid other half, I’ll make it. So he did. The whole shebang, piece by piece, nail by nail, with the finishing touches (paint) by me.

When we had children our kitchen table got too small. We couldn’t find a cheap one big enough that we liked so he knocked one up out of scaffolding and an eBayed science lab worktop. Our wardrobes are homemade, as are all of our beds. In fact, pretty much everything we have has some rough edges or a nail sticking out somewhere.

“An observer might think, ‘Poor little shit. She’d probably much rather be inside watching Peppa Pig,’ but her shining eyes when I got home, leading me down the garden to show me what they’d built told a different story.”

And, at the moment, it’s paying dividends in the girls’ education. Last month my other half had to build a tent in the back garden (oh it’s a long story). Instead of dashing home from work to knock it together after hours, he and our eldest went out day after day, measuring, bashing, hoiking and huffing and between them they erected a fabulous construction.

An observer might think, “Poor little shit. She’d probably much rather be inside watching Peppa Pig,” but her shining eyes when I got home, leading me down the garden to show me what they’d built told a different story. During the process she learned how to use a ruler, how to hammer a nail in safely and quite possibly a load of new swearwords.

Being part of a creative process from start to finish like this is invaluable. Seeing something go from being a lump of wood to a fully functioning usable thing is an education in itself. I can’t help but feel that teaching my children to build their own kitchen, make their own banana bread and light their own fires is a far better use of our time as educators, not to mention probably Kacey Musgraves’ new single.

For us, this summer is all about making. Making fires, knitting scarves, building bird boxes, sewing clothes. But tech will still play a crucial part in it all. When I was at school, if there had been a YouTube video for the things I needed to know, I’d be prime minister by now.

I’ve never been great at taking the written word and translating it into actions. The other way around, sure, but I really like to see something happen before I attempt it. YouTube is great for this and it’s already been invaluable for home-edding. My oldest will happily sit through a drawing demonstration on YouTube and the other day we looked up how to make an easel, deciding that we didn’t want to buy a new one (HOW EXPENSIVE ARE EASELS?!), but that we were also sick of dogs’ tails joyfully swiping wet works of art.

So if you need us this summer, we’ll be in the garden with our tin mugs and wooden rulers, looking stuff up on YouTube.

Read all of Hazel’s adventures in home-edding here.


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Written by Hazel Davis

Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".