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 get down and dirty in The Great Outdoors (aka their back garden).

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

The last few weeks have mainly been about being outside. The weather’s turned (very much touching wood, as I have been doing all week) and it’s been allowing us all to indulge our love of the outdoors a bit more.

My children like trees. My youngest child’s middle name is a tree. Hell, MY name is a tree. Wait, the oldest is a fruit! We were basically all born to be in the wilderness, is the upshot.

Luckily we have a massive garden. I’m not boasting (well I am a little bit). It’s one of the perks of not needing – or wanting – to live anywhere near That London. We did also strike lucky in that a very unprepossessing end-of-terrace came attached to a super-long garden with trees in it that you simply wouldn’t know about if you didn’t know about it.

We know about it, alright. We’ve cleared the scrub enough times. But it’s only really been this year when we could all be out in it all at once without the youngest needing a nappy change or to be supervised up a steep bit. Some might argue that, at three, she still should be but hey, she’s got to learn. Baby goats manage.

“Teach them safety early on. That is not rocket science, surely? Moreover, the sooner they learn, the sooner they can go out and chop the firewood.”

When we bought the house children weren’t really on the horizon. Maybe an extra dog at best. Looking back, it seems it would have been a terrible waste. Maybe we had children BECAUSE of the garden.

Anyway, there are myriad of lessons to be learned from looking out of our kitchen window, let alone actually getting out and dirty in the mud.

We’re building me an office in the garden for starters. And when I say “we”, bar the little bit of trench digging I have done already, my involvement will be mainly complaining about the WiFi and texting the house for coffee to be brought out.

And we’re dead keen to exploit all this for educational good. I’ve even got a couple of books on the go; one of them, The Den Book by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield, has some really great ideas for maximising The Outdoors educationally.

Danks and Schofield’s other books embrace the fact that wild space (and it definitely is wild up there) teaches us to judge risk, find out about ecosystems and learn to live in our environments. The Den Book offers tips on how to build, waterproof and furnish outdoor (and indoor) camps, something we’ve already started doing (look!).

The new playhouse.

The new playhouse: educational from start to finish.

Building the ‘playhouse’ out of pallets was an education from start to finish. My kids learned about reusing old materials, they learned about standing out in the garden in the pissing rain for two days in a row working hard at something (a lesson for me, too) and they learned how to use tools.

Something we are both passionate about is teaching them very early on how to safely use tools; there is absolutely no value in keeping children away from ‘dangerous’ things until they’re old enough to know how to use them (it’s pointless in our house because there are hammers and axes practically EVERYWHERE).

Teach them safety early on. That is not rocket science, surely? Moreover, the sooner they learn, the sooner they can go out and chop the firewood.

Seriously though, this stuff is actually educational gold. Rather than some overpriced and ugly plastic shit that will blow over in a storm, the playhouse is a solid, free (apart from the screws) structure that the kids have had a say in creating.

They know where the materials are from, they know why it’s the shape it is, they know how many pieces of wood have gone into it, they know how it stays together, they’ve got physical investment in it and they know why Mummy’s shoulder hurts.

What could be more of a lesson than that?

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".