Home Schooling: Would You Have The Patience And The Answers?

10/03/2015 12:35 | Updated 20 May 2015

home schooling

There are times when I hate school. The early mornings, the vicious playground politics, the bullies, the smattering of incompetent, or downright insane, teachers, the homework, the whines, moans and complaints of my children every morning when I drop them off at the gates. So I can't say there aren't days when home schooling doesn't hold its appeal.

When I, like actor Greg Wise, husband to Emma Thompson, think 'Yeah, why not take the kids out of school? Sounds like a great plan' and yank my child out of boring old school in favour of the wisdom I could impart at home.

Add to that the fact that all the children I have ever known who were home schooled are genius level bright, incredibly high achievers and have social skills my lumpen offspring could only dream of. Really it is a no brainer. Children learn about things they are interested in at their own pace and are socialised by civilised adults who love them, rather than by the feral jungle that is a class full of their peers.

There is just one problem with this idyllic picture of children studiously picking up the basics of astrophysics, before stopping for a break with a few pages of Tolstoy all from the comfort of their own home. That problem is me.

When it comes to my children I have the patience of a two-year-old waiting to be handed an ice cream. If they don't pick up the basics of any academic theory instantly I turn into a rather more hormonal version of Alan Sugar handing out scathing advice to hapless apprentice wannabes. 'What do you mean you don't know what that word says? It's CAT - how hard can it be?' I yell at my six-year-old who is taking his time to master the art of reading.

I know I am not alone in this feeling of utter inadequacy in the face of any attempt to educate my child. One friend, Maz, who has two children, one at primary school and the other in her first year at secondary, had this to say on the question of home education: "The whole idea fills me with shuddering horror. Taking on one hundred percent of the responsibility not only for their academic education but their social education as well seems something you would only do under extreme circumstances or if you were a complete megalomaniac," she declares.

But there's also the fact that I don't really understand most of the work they are doing at school. I still feel a bit red faced when I think about the time I pulled myself up mid rant at my nine-year-old for getting his maths wrong, as it dawned on me that it was actually my rusty arithmetic that was at fault.

And don't get me started on pseudo words and digraphs - I frequently have to ask my Year 1 twins what exactly it is that they are talking about, so the very idea of me attempting to teach them this stuff is laughable.

Of course there are plenty of parents who swear by home schooling. Keris Stainton, who has two sons, both of primary school age, has educated them herself for the last three years. "The decision to home educate wasn't so much about disliking school than wanting something different for us as a family. I had a few problems with some aspects of school, of course (most parents do, don't they?), but for us it was really a positive decision," she explains.

The motivation was that her oldest son was finding the curriculum at school was moving to fast for his curious mind. "He'd be enjoying learning about something and wanted to learn more, but they'd already moved on. I thought it was a shame that when he was so enthusiastic about learning, there wasn't the space or time for him to really get into it," she explains.

Now the family practices what Stainton calls 'unschooling'. "We don't do any formal education, the children just learn whatever and whenever they want," she explains.

I take my hat off to her as I am convinced that if I were to allow my sons to dictate what they learned about, I would have to cross my fingers very hard that they would be able to base their future careers on an encyclopedic knowledge of either Minecraft or Pokemon cards.

Also I am in awe that Stainton hasn't gone completely insane with no respite from her offspring. While I might not like the school run at 8:30am every morning, I do adore that moment at 9am, when the school gates clang shut and my four children are safely locked inside with professionals who, on the whole, know what they are doing. I dash away, my heart filled with joy at the prospect of seven hours of freedom, before I have to pick up where I left off shouting at my children.

So while I have the utmost admiration for any parent brave (or foolish) enough to home school their brood, I think it is probably safer for all involved that I never, ever attempt to take the place of school when it comes to the education of my boys.

What do you think? Have you ever considered home schooling?

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