Hazel Davis and her fella have decided to home-educate their kids. This week, she goes a bit EastEnders – in that it’s all about faaaahmily.
This weekend on a long drive back from North Yorkshire I chanced upon a broadcast from the Hay Festival. Speaking was Tim Meek, who, along with his wife Kerry and two daughters, had decided to up sticks and travel around the UK for a year (or more).
The tone was a little smug in the way (this column included) the words of people who have given up on the perceived ‘rat race’ often are, but I was quickly hooked. The Meeks had sold their house, quit their jobs and embarked on what they call a family “edventure”, travelling around the UK in a caravan, camping out under the stars and generally communing with nature. It sounded brilliant. They are considerably poorer but time-happy. And they are all doing it together.
This is important. The Family Learning Festival, the biggest annual celebration of family learning in the UK, takes place from tomorrow to Sunday 1 November and aims to bring families together for informal, fun and inspiring learning. The idea is that learning is not always – or doesn’t have to be – a solitary activity.
“Making a cake together is learning (‘But WHY can’t I put garlic in banana bread?’); going for a walk is learning (‘Don’t eat the red ones!’).”
So often, home-educating can be viewed as something one parent takes on, or that one parent has to give up their work or life to be the teacher while the other brings home the bacon. It doesn’t always have to be the case. Home-educating, at least for us, isn’t about trying to replicate what goes on in school. It isn’t about trying to be a maths teacher in the morning and an English teacher in the afternoon. It’s about creating a learning environment that’s challenging and inspiring for everyone, not just the children.
As we try to ensure that our oldest (still four) is getting some dedicated one-to-one reading and writing time (“BUT I DON’T CARE WHAT A SENTENCE IS; I WANT TO WATCH LABYRINTH!”), we also make sure that we ‘count’ other family activities as learning. A visit to the National Railway Museum in York (OK, maybe a couple of hours in Bettys teashop with a passing glance at the museum) is learning. For sure it is! Making a cake together is learning (“But WHY can’t I put garlic in banana bread?”); going for a walk is learning (“Don’t eat the red ones!”).
Someone pointed out to me the other day that reception classes spend a good deal of time trying to recreate the home environment in school form, replicating cooking activities, shopping, role-playing etc; it’s not like they’re sitting down learning algebra from 9am. By embracing the idea that home-educating is a family activity, we can give our daily activities an educational slant, which, let’s face it, most of us do anyway.
And educating doesn’t have to be the sole preserve of the parents either. For my children, their education also comes in the form of things they do at the weekend, movies they’ve watched, things their grandmother has told them (usually that she’s met Jesus, but, hey, it’s all knowledge), a game they’ve played with their cousins, the things their Auntie Hattie tells them about plumbing, Auntie Alison’s photography lessons.
I remain grateful that my family has the opportunity to be on this journey. It’s certainly not always easy and I imagine it’s only going to get harder in some ways. We actually have no idea what we’re doing most of the time and could well be fucking them up for later life. We probably won’t know for sure until they write their memoirs (that’s if they’ve learned to write by then… Kidding!).
The obvious thing would be to get proper jobs, earn a shedload of money, send them to a really good school and arrange to spend some quality time with them when they’re 18. But for now we’re pretty psyched at the idea of learning together as a family, albeit a slightly worse-off, and sometimes cross, one.2363 Views
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".