I don’t ‘Home School’, or ‘Home Educate’ them as some call it. In fact, a few people have asked me, given our circumstances – why it is I haven’t taken this approach. Usually, after someone has whacked me really hard on the back and urged me to ‘get a hold of yourself woman’ and the hysteria has died down, I am forced to give them an honest answer as to why we haven’t gone down the Home Ed route.
Of course, the answer that I would normally give someone depends very much on a) whether I am in a ratty mood with the kids or b) how well I know the person.
But, I try to live an honest life most days (apart from when I lie to those sales call people and say ‘Oooh I don’t know about things like gas and electricity. My husband does all of the money things!!”) so I am going to list the reasons as to WHY we don’t do the Home Ed here….Just as a reminder for myself, the next time I am feeling guilty about not being an attentive enough parent.
They Seem To Be Learning Okay Elsewhere
‘OKAY’ being the definitive word here. I know that some people think that we should all only want The Absolute Best Learning and Education for our children. But I’m not sure that I belong to that brigade. I’m acutely aware that some of The Ofsted Outstanding Schools are so bloody obsessed with variety of curriculum, SATs scores, unauthorised absences and whether they have the Best Teachers…that they are missing the wood for the trees.
Our kids seem to be on a conveyor belt, every minute counts….no time for a bit of messing about or for ‘Let’s Discuss or Do Something That Isn’t On the Agenda Today’….the teachers look drained (some of these Best Teachers definitely look like they are about to snap, bless them). Parents are sick to death of all of the missives home ‘Stinky Hair Day Tomorrow! Bring £2 So you Can Contribute To An Unimaginative Humongous International Charity With Massive Overheads!’ etc….day in day out these little messages are discovered at the bottom of the school bags.
But despite our Overkill Schools – my children ARE still learning. I’m proud of the wee varmints. And maybe the state educational system isn’t perfectly honed for my own dearest little darlings particular learning needs. But hell. No-one even knew my brother’s name at school until he was 14 (and they only found that out because he punched the Deputy Head). So you can’t have it all, can you? Can we learn to settle for ‘OKAY’ at Home and at School? Is OKAY enough? I have real concerns that if we are pushing anyone (ourselves, our kids) for BRILLIANT – based on our own measurements, or the measurements of the State – we are somehow losing WHO are kids are and not letting them find out how to fairly measure themselves…
So no. I don’t think the State Ed system does what it says on the tin. But as you read more, you will discover why I don’t think that I can do any better myself…
My Children Are Different
I won’t go into details (because all of you who happen to have/have had kids will be thinking ‘Oh…that’s just NORMAL for a child of that age!’ and all of you without kids will say ‘Oh – Listen to her. Of course her kids are special and different. Yeah. Right.”)
But really. My kids are special and different. They could never learn at home. Their inability to sit still for more than 3 minutes, and their short attention span is legendary (unless there is an episode of Scooby Doo on – and there is only SO much you can learn from back to back viewing of Scooby Doo. Although having said that, my daughter decided that she was converting to Paganism ‘I am a Wiccan now!’ after a Scooby episode the other day – so that was some kind of educational awareness that most kids don’t have… I thought).
But I am NOT saying that they have any unusual ‘issues’ shall we say. But they….Oh Sod It. I’ll be honest. You really really have to have inordinate amounts of patience to teach my kids stuff. My near 8 yr old has a big problem with ever being wrong (she will argue that 7 plus 7 is 17 “YES IT IS YES IT IS YES IT IS!!” and then scream and cry and sulk.) So the very thought of teaching such a wilful child on her ‘off’ days strikes terror into my heart. She learns by stealth and high energy on the part of the parent. And my 4 year old is such a charmer that he would very soon have convinced us all that eating chocolate donuts and playing Batman and IronMan would be a fantastic way to spend 5 hours at home (it is of course. But don’t tell him that).
Put it this way. They are dynamite personalities, and I am not sure that I have enough spark in me to be able to ignite the old Fire of Education for them.
They Would Miss Out On Friendships
Yes – I know that parents who Home Ed have these network thingies going on whereby you can meet up with other families who are doing Home Ed. But that takes being organised. And I can’t even persuade my husband that the fridge doesn’t replenish itself magically and that socks don’t live on kitchen work surfaces. And what with working full time at home, writing, doing other mad stuff that I do….running round like a PA after him, plus the two kids…I lack the organisational capacity. I much prefer the fact that my boy will come home and say ‘Nay-fan wants me to go and wiv at his house.’ I reply ‘Who is Nathan?’. He says ‘He’s my Best Fwend!’ (It was Travis yesterday you see. So don’t have a go at me. It changes daily you know). So the next thing, I get a text off this Nathan’s mum asking my boy to tea (not to go and live with them, however.) I don’t know how this woman got my phone number. But do I care? It might be lazy parenting. But it works and requires very little in terms of logistics and friendship fostering.
And also – my daughter would quite happily be best friends with her stick insects if I let her. She is the friendliest little girl. Incredibly social. But prefers the company of adults if truth be told. So she is the kind of kid who needs to be in a big whirlpool of other kids so she can decide whom she likes as a friend (NB – often NOT the kids that us parents would choose. Ain’t that always the way!)
I Like My Quiet Time
A very honest friend of mine recently confided in me “I’m sick of people thinking that it must be really really tough going out to work full time. Is it buggery! It’s a bloody rest! I can actually have an adult conversation without some frigging interruption about what they can play on the computer or who broke whatever toy! I go to work for a sodding rest!! It’s bloody bliss!”
Yes, I can hear the sharp intake of breath from some of you on reading this – but this woman works her pants off at work and at home. She adores her kids, even though her language might not indivate this (Perhaps it’s a Northern thing folks. I’ve never understood why non-Northerners have a problem with me gently cuffing their kids around the ear when they’re misbehaving. We do the same with our dialect, our choice of language here. And anyway, I have toned my friend’s real words down somewhat in case younger readers access this blog). But in short, my pal is a great, fantastic – just honest – mum. Wish there were more of them.
And I agree with her. I LOVE my time at work (which is often at home). Even if its noisy, if the phone never stops, if its getting stressy…even if I am having to sprint at 50 miles an hour on the keyboard to meet a deadline. I definitely operate better after several hours without the small ones and their strange, often seemingly halluncinogenic parallel universe.
They Can Still Learn At Home Without Them Being Here All Day
And here is why, this summer holiday, I decided to dispense with the planning. My wise next door neighbour refuses to make her kids do any homework over the summer. And like her, I tend to think that I have higher priorities for my children than if they go to University, get an Oxbridge degree, achieve Grade 8 at playing the piano by their 8th birthday. Sure, I don’t want the little sods to think that their sole ambition in life is to be on some crap Reality TV Show or on Britain’s Got Shit For Brains – but I want them to be happy…to be stretched…to have fantastic experiences (yeah – those things that money can’t buy..remember them?) And yes – that involves TIME. TIME not being rushed from pillar to post…TIME where their parents aren’t snappy or bogged under with our own schedules. TIME to sit in the hideously overgrown and neglected garden and to crunch on snails (as one of them recently did) or harvest wood lice graveyards if that tickles their fancy. Sadly, kids can’t wander aimlessly around the streets going from one pal’s house to another, as I got to do as a child – but that loose structure is a pretty priceless – and fast dying out part of childhood.
But perhaps I am on a circular argument here. In danger of convincing myself to pull the kids out of school after all…
Some of the more liberated Home Educators have little structure to their learning – certainly not in the way that a formal school would meticulously plan it’s timetables. Hmmm. That sounds kind of lazy doesn’t it? But I am all for a bit of laziness and I think, I suspect – that their kids might well end up being the kind of children that I would prefer to have living with me.…rather than being set crazy targets and jumping through hoops – simply learning by default, experiment, curiousity, silliness, the availability of another adult’s time and sanity which is obviously the most crucial part of all.
I was going to write a long list of what my children have learned from this Down Time, Unplanned Summer. Spontaneous Art (‘Mummy! He’s drawn all over his cupboard! He’s a NAUGHTY little boy!!’), Spontaneous Geography (‘I told you you were only allowed to go next door! Don’t you ever wander off over a mile away again!!), Spontaneous Science (‘See – that’s what happens when you drink river water. Diarrhoea is horrible isn’t it?”), Spontaneous Conflict Resolution (“No – Batman and IronMan are equally as strong and talented. Stop thrashing her with that axe will you?!”) Spontaneous History (“Yes that’s right…Mummy and Daddy weren’t married when you were born. Clever you for working that one out!”), Spontaneous Biology (“…So yes…. you don’t HAVE to be married to make a baby…okay. If you must know this is what you have to do…”)
And the list could go on and on. It’s been great fun. Certainly more fun than when pushing the kids from one appointment or play date to another. But no my friends. Doing this every day of the year, as a Home Educator would not work for me. I think the nail in the coffin for that little idea happened after a Spontaneous Financial Management lesson in our local Co-op when I was inconvienced by the non-stop learning process of trying to Home Ed during the School Holidays….:
DAUGHTER: Here’s your change from £20 note Mummy. It was very expensive. I counted it out, see.
MOTHER: Thanks. But hang on a minute. I didn’t want that! You got the wrong thing…
DAUGHTER: Oh. Sorry. I couldn’t really remember the name properly and the man at the till had to guess when we were looking at the bottles.
MOTHER: Well, never mind. I suppose ‘Pimms’ does sound a bit like ‘Gin’ doesn’t it. Come on you…