Written by Hazel Davis


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

Hazel Davis and her fella are home-educating their kids. This week, she’s loving living in the past.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

I can categorically tell you the best thing about home-edding. Are you ready?

It’s sitting in a cafe with your two children on a chilly Tuesday morning with mugs of frothy milk learning about the Victorians from a Horrible Histories book.

If you’re not familiar, Horrible Histories is, quite simply, the best thing ever created. I mean, I know that technically anyone who goes to school can read/watch it but it’s like it was designed specifically for home-edders.

It’s the literary embodiment of what we’re all striving for: real, proper learning made exciting. It’s “history with the nasty bits left in”. It’s subversive, clever, funny, exciting and educational all at the same time.

We’ve pretty much decided on a no-holds barred approach to our children’s learning. I mean, we’re not actively going to worry them about spontaneous combustion (like one good friend’s primary school teacher famously did – and she’s still panicky about it now) but we see no point in skirting round awkward subjects when they arise.

It’s for this reason that the five-year-old’s (and maybe mine a bit. Oh god I fancy Matt Smith as Prince Phillip SO MUCH) current other obsession is Netflix series The Crown. Apart from the death-by-lung-disease and unexpected C-bomb in the first episode, I’d say it’s totally brillz for teaching – OK, slightly fictionalised – history to small children.

“If you want to give a child an incentive to read, there is nothing greater than offering her the chance to find out what cruel punishments were dished out to Victorian youngsters.”

My girls currently can’t get enough history. As a jumping off point into, well, everything, it’s great. History teaches us where we’ve come from, how we got here, why we speak the way we do, why we look the way we do… EVERYTHING (apart from not to vote for despots, apparently).

Learning about periods in history is like learning about whole other worlds. The very idea of Henry VIII having six wives is so utterly thrilling to my children that, though granted, they’re not learning the nuances of those alliances just yet, all the while they’re chanting, “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived” (which they do, a lot), they’re picking up all sorts of other nuggets of knowledge about dress, domestic life and war.

It’s alluringly easy to stuff party-trick names and dates into small children. “Go on, tell Grandma what year Queen Victoria came to the throne, go on…” The olds LOVE it.

Moreover, if you want to give a child an incentive to read, there is nothing greater than offering her the chance to find out what cruel punishments were dished out to Victorian youngsters. In 1801 a boy of 13 was hanged for breaking into a house and stealing a spoon. Margaret Cowan, 11, from Islay was sent to prison for 40 days and reform school in Glasgow for three years – for stealing a pair of trousers (which she exchanged for biscuits). Think on, shorties.

We’ve learned about (and played) Victorian games, we’ve learned about (and counted out) Victorian money, we’ve discussed medical progress, we’ve drawn pictures of people being hanged (yeah that was a bit embarrassing in a cafe) and we’ve even crammed in Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade. We’ve basically managed to cover a bumper crop of curriculum objectives in one or two Terry Deary (marry me, Terry) books.

And I totally don’t read them myself in bed either. Nope.

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".