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 a struggle, but the capital letter in Monday looks beautiful.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

OK, I give up. It’s HARD. This week, at least, home-schooling is HARD!

I’m not usually the sort to admit this sort of thing to others OR myself so you’re pretty privileged to be sharing in my pain.

Teaching someone to read is easy. I specialised in English language to mid-PhD (yeah, shhh) level. I’ve read books about it. I like to think I know something about the learning process.

Teaching techniques work. I know they do. They work on my three-year-old – because she WANTS to learn. She actually can’t wait. She seems to be counting (literally) the days until she’s old enough to read the dictionary from front to back. “What does that spell?” she asks 100 times a day. She’s a dream. But she’s only three.

The 4.5-year-old (THE ONE WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BE FOCUSING ON RIGHT NOW), on the other hand, obviously knows her letters, picks out a word when it suits her, writes a carefully crafted letter to her father saying, “I am going to be 5 on my next birthday. Can I have a tiara?” (that really happened), but two-thirds of the time if she gets an indication that Formal Teaching Might Be Happening, she’s off. At least at the moment.

It’s tough because from the age of about five I was never seen without a book in my hand. I naively believed that any child of mine would be reading by 18 months and writing her own at five. (Maths, on the other hand – “I will NEVER do maths,” Clem said quite confidently the other day – I can empathise with.)

She loves stories. Her world would end if we didn’t read her at least two every night. She loves books. So long as she’s taking a passive role in their enjoyment. “Why don’t you read this one Clem?” “But I CAN’T READ!” “Well, why don’t you sit down for three minutes and frigging well listen while we teach you HOW?” and so on.

“My other half, who’s read ALL THE BOOKS IN THE WORLD, didn’t learn to read until he was seven, so he believes Clem will learn when she’s ready.”

However, stick a felt-tip in her hand and she’ll spend an hour creating a piece of art worthy of a seven-year-old, to the point where someone accused her of being advanced the other day (she’s not; she just spends ALL HER TIME drawing).

We’ve had a few tense conversations about it. “Maybe she’s going to be an artist,” we’ll joke, reassuring ourselves. She also knows all the words and all the tunes to all the songs so either that or she’s destined for a career in the West End. Both sensible, easy stable jobs to choose (oh god).

In fact, the last couple of weeks’ stress has been mitigated somewhat by all my other friends tearing their hair at suddenly having kids underfoot for half term. We, on the other side, have been revelling in a (half-) empty house as our junior Ethel Merman attends a holiday song-and-dance camp.

After some minor angst we’ve decided not to stress it so much. We’re not that worried. No, seriously. Seriously. She learns. Of course she does. She’s picking stuff up all the time. My other half, who’s read ALL THE BOOKS IN THE WORLD, didn’t learn to read until he was seven, so he believes she’ll learn when she’s ready. She’s a tool… I mean she’s got the tools. She’ll be reet.

So what if, when asked to write the days of the week she’ll spend all day decorating the (perfectly fine as it was) M of Monday? So what if letters get turned into faces? They’re good faces! (*resolves to call Tracey Emin and check what she was doing at this age* *reads her autobiography. Doesn’t call her*) When she’s ready to learn, we’ll be there, waiting. WITH ALL THE MATHS.

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".