Hazel Davis and her fella have decided to home-educate their kids. This week, she’s treading the fine line between free range and wild.
One of the weirdest things about being a home-edder is that it can be hard to tell whether your children are little shits or not.
When I first started this journey I was actually quite sniffy about ‘free-range’ children and adamant that my own would have discipline and MANNERS. In fact, I think I still actually say the word MANNERS about 37 times a day.
I still care very deeply that my children are well-behaved and polite and nice to be around but I think what that actually means has started to blur a bit. Well-behaved and polite and cowed is a fine line. And it’s one we find ourselves delicately walking along.
We live on a street of fairly quiet people whose children are either grown up or softly spoken. I sometimes wonder whether we might be the unruly element. As I write this, the girls are shrieking AT THE TOPS OF THEIR VOICES upstairs with their father in the bath.
Earlier, they both hared down the garden singing a very loud song, stopping to scream at full volume that one of them (dunno which one, they both look the same to me) had tripped the other one up. They hared back in, sat down at the dinner table and proceeded to have an enormous and quite aggressive argument about fairies.
“School is practice for the real world. But at the same time it also puts a stop to staying out in the garden till 10pm and getting covered in paint.”
Last night we painted in the garden. I got the paints and brushes out and gently encouraged them to begin a picture. After a while I looked over at the youngest child, who had emptied ALL THE BLACK PAINT onto her canvas and smeared both hands in it. “Look mummy. Black gloves!” We’re still scrubbing the paint off now.
Had she had school the next day, we might have worried more about it or stopped her from doing it in the first place but the ‘free-range’ element of me thought, “Why not? Who’s she hurting?” We (me, the girls and a visiting friend) stayed in the garden for ages, painting and having fun. Then we realised it was nearly 10pm. On a school night! No, wait…
I still faintly worry about things like this. School offers a handy frame to hang disciplined behaviour upon. Getting up on time and going to bed in good time, being clean, being quiet when told to. It encourages cooperative behaviour. It’s practice for the real world. Sometimes that’s no bad thing.
But at the same time it also puts a stop to staying out in the garden till 10pm and getting covered in paint. It puts a stop to doing maths in your underpants (it also puts a stop to tripping off to Snowdonia for a week during term-time to draw the mountains – bye!).
I still want my children to be good citizens. I want them to know how to behave around people. I really don’t want them to screech through a cafe knocking things over or interrupt when I’m talking to someone. I don’t want them to be children who need to be appeased in public places. I want them to say please and thank you and excuse me.
But I also want them to argue the toss and argue it loudly. I want them to be having so much fun they can be heard all down the valley and I want them to spend their days covered in paint or wander round bleary-eyed and happy from staying up late at a music festival.
They need to know they are at once the most and sometimes the least important people in the world.
Like I said, it’s a fine line.
Read all of Hazel’s adventures in home-edding here.
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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".