At last, school’s out for summer — although this might be a strange concept for children who have not set foot in a classroom for months. If social media is anything to go by, home-schooling is hell. Since March, the internet has been awash with panicked parents sharing mock timetables with slots for ‘mum quits’ and ‘dad starts drinking’. And who’s to say the madness will end after the summer? A recent survey showed that a quarter of parents don’t intend to send their children back to the classroom in September, and one in ten of those plans to home-school permanently — which at least offers certainty. It can also offer much more than that. And I speak from experience.
When I was 13, I tried home-schooling for the same reason millions have been forced to do it now: not because of any ideological, religious or educational imperative, but because of a virus. A particularly nasty bout of glandular fever forced me to miss months of school. My virus didn’t seem to be going away, and my parents were paying fees for a school I wasn’t attending. But I’d been keeping up with work at home — perhaps it was better to focus on that? We’d just try it for a little while, we thought. So, soon afterwards, I began home-schooling. I didn’t attend classes again until I started university.
My parents aren’t teachers, and they certainly didn’t sit me down at the kitchen table and try to teach me (I’m not sure any of us could have thought of anything worse). Instead, they became facilitators — making sure I had the resources and support to teach myself. Groups such as Education Otherwise provided valuable guidance, and we fell into a schedule where each term my dad and I would discuss what subjects I would cover and what my goals were, then work out what I needed to achieve them.