Written by Hazel Davis

Lifestyle

Hey! Teachers! I’ll leave my kids at home

Hazel Davis and her fella have decided to home-educate their kids. But just because she’s a home-edder doesn’t mean she’s an anarchist.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

So partly why we’re doing This Thing is to avoid the immense pressure primary school children seem to be put under (yes, I know some primary schools are lovely – I am reliably assured our local one is actually brilliant but it’s telling that people feel the need to point them out as exceptions or brave souls fighting against the tide).

I don’t believe that primary school children should have homework. I don’t believe parents who are already breaking their backs trying to juggle work with school hours should have to spend the rest of their precious evenings filling in forms and ticking/packing boxes for the next day and I really don’t believe in tests this early on.

But at the very same time I believe in discipline and boundaries and this puts me in a difficult position sometimes. You see, just because I am a home-edder doesn’t mean I am an anarchist. All of the home-ed groups we have tentatively joined have been really friendly and really welcoming and I am super-grateful for their presence. But at the same time, I feel at odds with the common goal, which sometimes seems to be ‘not ever getting anywhere on time’.

“My own childhood choir experiences taught me so much more than music. They taught me how to work as a team, how to listen properly and how to work hard (OK, I may have only taken in some of this).”

You should know, I am always on time. Ideally 20 minutes early. It drives most of my friends mad. My dear friend Alison, with whom I have travelled all over the world and, thus, made many timetable plans with, and thus stood outside her door drumming my fingers on it, says, “So, do you mean real 9am or a Hazel 9am, i.e., 08.50?”

Almost every home-ed group I have taken my children to has had a vague starting time of, say, 10am, which means that most people rock up at, say, midday, by which time my children have been there since 9.30am and are ready to go home.

You could say I should take the stick out of my arse and enjoy the fact that my children don’t have to be dragged out of the house by their plaits at the same time every day. You might be right. But as much as I think children shouldn’t be made to sit at a desk all day every day under hot lights with no fresh air in an itchy jumper, I believe they should also learn how to behave. I am educating what I hope will become useful, polite and helpful members of society, not mini-anarchists who refuse to participate in anything if it conflicts with their morning tantrum.

So I was bloody delighted to take Clem to her first choir meeting last week (squeal!). I have signed her up partly because I am a very keen choir singer myself and she seems to be quite into music, but also because I really love the idea of her going to something that requires a bit of proper discipline. My own childhood choir experiences taught me so much more than music. They taught me how to work as a team, how to listen properly and how to work hard (OK, I may have only taken in some of this).

“I am educating what I hope will become useful, polite and helpful members of society, not mini-anarchists who refuse to participate in anything if it conflicts with their morning tantrum.”

I wasn’t disappointed. The rehearsal was 30 minutes long and, while the conductor was really lovely, from the get-go there was absolutely no messing. Everyone had to stand up straight and look to the front. They were told off for talking among themselves and they were encouraged to listen. This is de rigeur in school, of course (I assume!), but something that I genuinely feared might be lost in a freeform, free-speaking, learning utopia.

It’s a tricky balance and one I imagine we will constantly struggle to maintain over the years. I want my girls to question everything. I want them to argue with relish. I want them to not accept the status quo if they believe the status quo is whack. But at the same time I don’t want them to hold the view that they can do exactly as they please when they please.

I want them to know that their actions impact on other people and I want them to learn the sheer joy in working hard at something they don’t want to work hard at and achieving something better than they could have imagined. And that sometimes means being yanked out of the house by your plaits.*

*This is a metaphor. No real plaits have been yanked in the writing of this column.

Read about all of Hazel’s home-edding experiences here.

@hazedavis

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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".