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, it’s all about learning while cuddling.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

So I was watching the fantastic Chelsea Does the other night. It was the one where Chelsea Handler is in Silicon Valley (or Silicone, as she thought it was called). In it, she attends a session for people wanting to disconnect from technology. (Don’t worry, that is most definitely NOT where I am heading with this – phew.) But the guy leading the session says, almost as a throwaway comment, “Our teachers used to give us hugs. Now they can’t.”

His words stayed with me and have been rolling around in my head, along with one of the most delightful things I have ever heard anyone say, also in passing. This one happened the other day when some home-edding friends came round for dinner (yes, we now have ‘friends’ and ‘home-edding friends’).

We were chatting about reading and books and stuff and ‘the dad’ said, “You know, I just love that we can sit and read a whole book while also cuddling. Learning while cuddling.”

Learning while cuddling. How amazing is that? And wouldn’t we all learn better if we could have a cuddle at the same time? Next time a client wants me to go through some slides demonstrating the efficacy of their product, I am going to ask if we can do it side by side on a settee, perhaps with a hot water bottle. I am 99 per cent certain that the information would go in better if I also got a little tickle while I was asking questions about the supply chain process.

But there is a wider point here. Teachers did used to touch more. I must be clear that I have been assured by some friends that some of their primary school teachers are very affectionate (though this is often in response to upset rather than just spontaneously). However, other teacher friends say they are allowed no physical contact at all. Comforting small children aside, teachers did used to be able to be more physical in the learning environment than they are.

“As my friend suggested, there’s nothing nicer than administering a squeeze halfway through Bumpus Jumpus Dinosaurumpus. Surely it helps the words sink in!”

I totally understand why this contact needs to be monitored and I understand that it’s important to have appropriate boundaries between teachers and students BUT, BUT… I also know that I have two quite physically demonstrative children who learn through touch and feel and who respond really well to cuddles (who doesn’t?) outside of a feeling-upset scenario.

Last week my other half was teaching our oldest how to knit using a knitting loom. She’s delighted about it and intends to knit her sister a scarf (her sister may have other ideas when it arrives but it’s the thought that counts). It’s a simple but fiddly process and one which QUITE CLEARLY could not be learned without someone holding her hand and physically manipulating her fingers until she got the feel of it.

Both she and I are tactile learners. We are people who cannot read simple instructions and translate that into the real world (it’s a curse, believe me). We need to actually physically DO it to work it out.

We need to watch someone, we need to then know we’re doing it properly and, ideally, we need that someone prodding our arm in the right direction. If we could, we’d strap ourselves to them with Velcro so we could mimic their body movements. BUT APPARENTLY THAT’S NOT ALLOWED WHEN YOU’RE TRYING TO LEARN WORDPRESS.

How on earth, I wondered, could a ‘normal’ teacher teach this sort of thing? But then I remembered that they are too busy trying to reach unattainable standards and tick boxes that don’t need to be ticked to bother with useful life-skills like learning how to make things, and anyway it’s not on the curriculum. As my friend suggested, there’s nothing nicer than administering a squeeze halfway through Bumpus Jumpus Dinosaurumpus. Surely it helps the words sink in!

Aside from any other reservations I might have about school, the idea of sending my child to a place where the person telling them pretty much everything they need to know about life and learning all day every day isn’t allowed to lay a finger on them unless they are crying, is fairly sad.


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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".