Home Education Should Make You Uncomfortable
"You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” *
I am all for encouraging parents to choose the red pill and embrace home education, but the Morpheus in me also feels obliged to warn you about the likely side effects before you swallow it.
Home education appeared on my life’s road map somewhere after choosing to breastfeed, co-sleep and use washable nappies, but before becoming a vegan and switching to reusable menstrual products. I’m fully aware that my last sentence may have caused you to heave and write me off immediately as a grass-eating treehugger, but please stay with me. My point is that once I had broken free from one conventional idea to which I had previously given little thought, I felt compelled to re-examine other aspects of my life under a magnifying glass, and use the new evidence I found to re-make other decisions that I had made on autopilot in my earlier adult life.
Once I was committed to home educating my children, it naturally followed that I became more concerned about the planet that was to become their classroom. I could no longer ignore a fishing industry that decimates the ocean floor and kills all sea life indiscriminately, just so that I could eat fish and chips. Being complicit in the routine physical, emotional and sexual abuse of farm animals became too high a price to pay for a chicken curry, or milk in my tea. Using so-called “disposable” nappies and sanitary products that take hundreds of years to rot in landfill felt selfish, given that I could only hope to live on the planet for five or six more decades at best. After the World Health Organisation linked processed and red meat to colorectal cancer, I became even keener to reap the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and swallowed my vegan red pill.
“There’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.” *
There are days though, when a tiny part of me longs to plug back into the matrix and go out for a cheeky Nandos, or order my old favourite Lamb dish from the Indian takeaway. Sometimes I still buy “disposable” nappies when they are on offer in the supermarket, I guess because they are cheap and don’t need to be changed as often, and sometimes I feel too lazy to wash, dry and reassemble the cloth nappies that I spent good money on when I was first pregnant and very enthusiastic. (I’m hoping that seeing my many excuses written here in black and white will give me the kick up the backside I need to get back on track with the cloth nappies). We all know the easier way isn't necessarily the best way for us. “Just because everyone else is doing it”, our mums used to say, “doesn’t mean you have to”. Same goes for home education: no doubt it would be easier for us in some ways to swim with the tide- to do what the vast majority of people do and send our children to school when they are four years old, passing the weight of responsibility for their education on to someone else. Despite being outspoken about the liberating flexibility and anthropological legitimacy of home education, in the quiet moments I still fight against the urge to ensure the kids “keep up” with what their age mates are doing/ reading/ writing, and they aren’t even of school age yet!
When I feel like this - however briefly - I find it helps to remember our reasons for choosing home education. When hubby and I first played with the idea of home education, we started with WHY. Why do we want them to be educated? Why is modern society’s default option to send children to school? Why are schools set up as they are? Why do we think we are/ are not the best people to support and facilitate their learning? Why, why why?
When you start with why, the answers you come up with may surprise you, and sometimes make you wish you had never asked the questions at all, because you may have no choice but to make some drastic changes! You may need to cut ties with someone because the relationship is toxic. You may need to prioritise your health and finally get serious about your level of fitness. You may need to admit to yourself that you can no longer afford your car and sell it (ahem… this is me right now). I would encourage you to be brave: open up that box tucked away in the corner of your mind marked “important stuff to think about one day in the future”. Re-examine some old decisions, make new ones if you need to, and if you choose the red pill, prepare for a bumpy (but awesome) ride!
“I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.” *
*If you have no idea where these quotes came from, stop what you are doing right now and go watch The Matrix. It’s a game-changer.