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 they welcome some new personalities into the fold.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Our oldest appears to have a few different personalities. It’s nothing to worry about, for now. In fact, even if it is, I’m bloody loving it.

One of them, my favourite (we’ll call her ‘Sally’ because the real name is the same as a friend’s child and, well, it’s just embarrassing), absolutely LOVES reading and writing and can’t be torn away from her phonics.

“Come on, Clem!” I shouted this morning as we left the house to meet Grandma. “I’m not Clem, I’m Sally,” came the reply, “and I am busy writing. I need to finish this.” So we delayed a bit while she put the finishing touches to her beautifully written note to Grandma that Clem would have done under sufferance, or turned into a picture of a princess trapped in a cage.

Now, as regular readers will know, this is a new twist. The perfectly able Clem had taken to avoiding reading at all costs, unless somehow tricked. We weren’t that bothered as we’re pretty laid back about the pace of learning and confident that the building blocks are there and it’ll all come together soon enough.

It’s a completely normal part of development, pretending to be someone else entirely (no, shh, it is) but I can’t help thinking it’s also a really useful way to avoid failure. In fact, I am considering adopting it myself when I eventually foray into learning to paint properly later this year.

Instead of walking into the class and saying, “My name is Hazel. I’m 39 years old and I am absolutely terrified of being shit at painting”, I might don a black wig and introduce myself as Wendy. That way if my art is rubbish, it won’t be me who’s failing, it’ll be this other twat who can’t draw for toffee.

“Sally remained in character for a large part of the day until we had to ask Clem to return to eat her dinner. And back she came, as though nothing had happened.”

Perhaps Clem’s actually got the secret to success: pretend to be someone else until you’ve got it right. Fake it to make it, and all that. This Sally apparently has three children (Annabel, Gabriella and another name I can’t remember) and she’s quite self-consciously chattier than Clem in her natural state (which is quite contemplative and thoughtful – unless she’s singing The Lion King at the top of her voice). And she’s REALLY good at writing. Hmm. Interesting.

But, more seriously, role-playing is a very effective educational tool. Putting yourself in someone’s shoes is the best way to work out what their motives are, as anyone who’s ever had to write a “What would Elizabeth Bennet do at the roller disco?” essay knows only too well. It’s used in politics, economics, sociology, psychology, literature appreciation, drama. In fact, the word ‘empathy’ is more or less all I remember from GCSE history.

Anyway, Sally remained in character for a large part of the day until we had to ask Clem to return to eat her dinner. And back she came, as though nothing had happened. At which point her three-year-old sister announced, without much conviction if I’m honest, that she was now a boy and would be known as Blumen (*buys her a Manhattan bookshop in the 1940s*).

It’s all part of the rich world we entered when we decided to home-educate and we’re getting further and further away from the “By the time they’re five they’ll have read The Hobbit” attitude and more and more towards the “If standing on your head naked in wellies singing Price Tag is what gets you through the day, you go girl” kind of stance.

The fact is, Sally, Clem, Blumen, Princess Consuela Bananahammock, whatever, are all learning, every single day. Every song sung, every hat donned, every character inhabited, it’s all learning. That’s why we’re doing it and it’s actually bloody brilliant.

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".