Hazel Davis and her partner are home-edding their kids. This week, Hazel can see your hand up at the back and yes, she can tell you how it works. Kind of.
I thought I would answer the ‘How does it work?’ question. As best I can anyway.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think teachers do a fabulous job in the confines of a restrictive system. Some schools are undoubtedly brilliant and some children thrive in them. Maybe ours would. Anyway, that’s not the point.
I spend my days fielding the question, ‘BUT HOW DOES IT WORK?’ The answer is, home-edding is different for everyone. And that’s what makes it good. Probably a lot of people who home-ed don’t like labels much. I know I don’t. I resent the idea that all people who decide to home-educate are all the same. This is just as ridiculous as saying that everyone who sends their children to school is the same.
I know what we’re not though. We’re not unschoolers. Unschoolers, broadly (I am sure they will be along to say otherwise), are people who believe in ‘learning through living’ and as such, they don’t focus on any formal learning. Radical unschoolers (which is an actual thing, with actual initials, RA) believe that children thrive when given complete autonomy over their lives. I know some who are doing it and it’s working out brilliantly for them but I know it’s not for me.
Though many of my outward signals are a bit lentilly, in my heart I’m a bit of a conformist. That is, I never want a 9-5 job or a neat lawn or a power suit, but I like to think I could have it IF I wanted it (which I don’t). So I love the idea of having two feral children who know more about lighting fires than they do about calculus, but at the same time, if suddenly everything went tits up and they had to go back into school, I’d want them to be equipped.
“Charlotte Mason rightly believed that spending too long at their desk working on hard lessons was bad for children, but at the same time she believed in obedience, truthfulness, neatness, kindness, respect and punctuality.”
A few folk I know like the Charlotte Mason method, or at least something akin to it. This is centred on the idea that children learn better in short bursts. Victorian educationalist Mason also believed that children shouldn’t start formal education until they’re six; she’s probably right but our desire to get ours reading has nipped this in the bud.
Mason’s method suggests switching topic when the child gets bored (this is just common sense). And she’s very big on ‘living books’, that is, ditching condescending textbooks aimed at children and instead learning from a book aimed at any age but imbued with sufficient passion to be inspired by it (again, common sense). She favoured using narrative methods to allow children to organise their learnings.
She was also very big on the arts and thought that children should spend as much time as possible outdoors. Whoop to that. Our main hobbies are being outside and gawping at paintings.
Ultimately, Mason’s ethos is summed up in this quote: “The question is not, how much does the youth know when he has finished his education, but how much does he care?” (She, Charlotte, she.)
The thing that resonates most with me about the Charlotte Mason method is that she was a firm believer in good habits. She rightly believed that spending too long at their desk working on hard lessons was bad for children, but at the same time she believed in obedience, truthfulness, neatness, kindness, respect and punctuality and this appeals to me. I want to raise well-rounded, unfettered children but I also want them to be able to queue properly.
I think so far, we’re what the literature defines as ‘eclectic home-schoolers’: a little bit Charlotte Mason (Biblical references aside), a little bit unschooly (in that our children rarely brush their hair), a little bit Steiner (in that we like wood but we’re not so keen on the rhythmic dancing and alleged Nazi associations), and a little bit Montessori (in that we like to leave them to it a bit but don’t really believe that everything has its place, unless that place is crammed on a high shelf when people come to visit).
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".