This is not home education

Radio 4 are running a new series called ‘The Corona Chronicles’. This is my submission, but if it doesn’t get selected I thought I’d share it here anyway.

I’ve been home educating for over 6 years and I’ve heard every awed, shocked and concerned comment there is:

‘But what about their social lives?’

‘How can you be around them all day and not get fed up?’

‘I can’t even do homework with my kids, there’s no way I could do that.’

The list goes on.

Temporary home ed groups are appearing on facebook and I’m being approached for advice from families who previously scoffed at our lifestyle, and this makes me sad. Sad that they will think that this crazy, uncertain world of distancing and isolation represents home education.

This is not home education. 

Every home ed family is different, but ours is hardly ever at home. We have a full schedule of activities that keeps us out most days; break-dancing, singing, trampolining, fencing – my children’s curriculum is of their choosing, but they’re committed to it just like other families are committed to school.

This new normal has us reeling too. We feel cut off and scared. Our children are missing their friends and our lives feel like they’re on hold. The uncertainty of what will happen to us financially is almost crushing – I’m self-employed and have lost all of my work.

I’ve heard plenty of people saying ‘oh well it’s fine for you to just play all day’ but I’m balancing on the edge of devastating financial ruin, exploring every avenue to move my work online. I’ve gone from a job that I love to sitting at a computer 6 hours a day hoping that my children don’t kill each other – just like everybody else out there.

This is not home education. 

Gone are the days of collaborative learning, group outings to National Trust properties, educational factory visits and art classes with friends. Gone are our shared meals and laughter. Gone is our support network, our shoulders to cry on, our ‘laugh so hard it makes you cry’ moments.

I’m a single parent, utterly and completely alone with my children 24 hours a day. On my shoulders rests the responsibility for their health, their nutrition and the continued provision of a safe place to live. On my shoulders lies the responsibility for their emotional well-being, organising a Zoom birthday party (?!?) and trying to turn this scary nightmare into an adventure

This is not home education. We are each one of us adrift on a raging sea with unknown boundaries. Our little family is our only lifeline and also my biggest burden.

We will not start following a schedule, imposing timetabled learning, or worrying about anyone ‘falling behind’. We will laugh and play, sing and learn piano. We will bake and watch films. We will head out on walks and bike rides. We will move our friendships online and try to adjust to this new normal.

Please don’t think that what we’re all facing is home education. We home educators have never faced anything like this before either. We’re all walking into the unknown together.

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