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 there’s an experiment that sees four-year-old Clem take control of what she’s up to every Monday.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

This week saw a little experiment take place. Clem (four-and-a-half) has decided she’s actually too old for nursery and she’s BORED. She may well be. She’s been continuing to go for one day a week, despite the fact her friends have all moved up to school. Nursery (who are lovely) had said, quite reasonably, that all the while it was free and she wasn’t going to school, she could carry on one day a week and we said, OK then.

But there have been signs she was outgrowing it. What she was doing at home understandably didn’t quite tally up to what her peers were up to there. Some of them (including her sister) are only two, after all. So she was going from being allowed to bake a cake practically by herself to being congratulated for clapping. I’d be bored if I was her.

In a rash moment I said to her, “Well if you leave and hang out with me on Mondays you’ll basically have to look after yourself sometimes while I work.” I never go far on Mondays. I have to do the nursery drop-off and collection anyway so I tend to reserve other days in the week for trips further afield. So my day is always punctuated by a school-run of sorts. But I still usually have lots to do (I traditionally reserve a lot of phone interviews for Mondays). Then I come home and blast through the rest of my work once they are in bed, burning the midnight oil.

This works well (unless there’s a disturbing late programme on Radio 4 and then I don’t sleep until Wednesday). But I told her she could leave and be with me on Mondays and after several explanations that sometimes I might be on an hour-long conference call or pulling my hair out over lost case studies, she insisted she was happy “just doing her own thing”.

To other parents of four-year-olds this might seem bonkers. In fact a friend of mine who has two children himself and also freelances explained it quite succinctly: “Fucking hell,” he said, “What the fuck?” And if it was her sister I would not be entertaining such a scheme. But Clem’s always been a fairly ‘concentrate-y’ child. When she was a baby she would sit and look at picture books quietly and she frequently spends hours drawing. When she’s not having the world’s biggest tantrum about the fact her porridge is slightly the wrong shade, she’s a self-directed dream.

“Suddenly I remembered a WHOLE ARTICLE I should have written up and so I abandoned the poor little sod for another 45 minutes on the promise of us going to buy a leopard-print pencil case as a reward. It’s not bribery, it’s motivation.”

And so we skipped off to drop her sister at nursery this Monday, with all the vitality of a couple of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. I had one of the aforementioned conference calls so we spread out our stuff on a large table downstairs at our favourite cafe, loaded up with flat whites and frothy milk (the word ‘babyccino’ makes me gag) and started work.

And it worked. It totally did. I set her up with some basic maths challenges and hit the Skype. Halfway through she mouthed at me dramatically that she needed a wee and off she went by herself, jazz hands all the way. We’d packed loads of pens, several different books and a drawing pad and she busied herself for the duration of the call.

I congratulated us and said we would do some reading together… until I suddenly remembered a WHOLE ARTICLE I should have written up and so I abandoned the poor little sod for another 45 minutes on the promise of us going to buy a leopard-print pencil case as a reward (it’s not bribery, it’s motivation).

Anyway I have read up on it and ACTUALLY what she was doing was what the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) describes as “self-initiated activity”, that is, “an activity wholly decided on by the child and is the result of an intrinsic motivation to explore a project, or express an idea. In doing this the child may make use of a variety of resources and demonstrate a complex range of knowledge, skills and understanding.”

So… Shhh.

All in all, though, the experiment worked a treat and has set us up for unrealistic expectations/certain disappointment. Watch this space.

Read all of Hazel’s home-edding experiences 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".