First off, an apology to my wife. She will not appreciate me writing an article on home-schooling, as I am not the one doing it. It’s like getting Miriam Margolyes to write an article about being a professional footballer, or Ant and Dec to discuss the best way to perform brain surgery. But she can’t write the article herself, as she is busy, well, home-schooling. We could probably swap roles – I’ve no doubt she could do a bang-up job writing – but that would involve me getting more involved in the home-schooling. The problem with that is, well, I really don’t want to.
Normally, I sit at my desk upstairs, and allow the dulcet tones of my family all shouting at each other to drift up the stairs and wash over me. But occasionally, when the cacophony becomes too loud to ignore, I decide to wander downstairs and defuse the situation, like an affable headmaster going in to ruffle a few heads and boost morale. Ten seconds in, I’m shouting louder than anyone. It all ends up with a massive tantrum, and someone running out of the room in floods of tears, shouting “I hate you.” Generally me.
It wasn’t meant to be this way. At the start of all of this, my wife and I discussed what a rewarding experience it would be. We’d get to hang out with our kids a bit more, we’d develop a greater understanding of their educational needs, and we’d all come out of it enriched both intellectually and emotionally.
Unfortunately, we’d failed to factor in one key component: Children are dicks.
It’s fair to say, we are struggling. Actually, struggling seems to indicate at least a degree of success. My wife is struggling. I am failing.
I mean, they are wonderful, life-affirming, hilarious, adorable, affectionate, incredible, gorgeous creatures. But they are also, indisputably, absolute dicks.
They will do anything to avoid work. If you ask my son to fetch a pencil from the other end of the table, you will find him half-an-hour later, dressed as Iron Man, playing with the dog at the bottom of the garden. My daughter, normally of the sunniest disposition, will fly into an almost psychotic rage at the mere mention of maths, and reacts to the tiniest setback with the kind of emotional meltdown not seen outside of The Joker.
It wouldn’t be entirely fair to blame the whole thing on them, though, dicks as they may be. Their parents are also dicks. Dicks who really seem to want to stay in their beds every day. We started off doing Joe Wicks every morning. Well, for two mornings. Then I pulled a hamstring. (I might sue. Nation’s PE Teacher my arse.) Then we started to lie in a bit more, so the school day’s start moved from 9am to 9:30, and then to 10am. It’s now 10:30am. Depending on how long this home-schooling lark lasts, they may end up doing evening classes. Somehow, in ordinary life we are able to deposit our children, scrubbed, dressed and fed, at their respective schools by 8:45am each day, yet we cannot stumble down to the kitchen before 10:30am during lockdown.
It’s fair to say, we are struggling. Actually, struggling seems to indicate at least a degree of success. My wife is struggling. I am failing. And here’s the clincher. We are just about perfectly positioned to nail this. I am only working part-time. My wife was a primary school teacher for over a decade. She taught in some of Scotland’s most deprived areas, and had classes of 30 kids eating out of her hands. (This, admittedly, was because the school couldn’t afford plates, but there it is).
And yet we continue to stuff this like a vine leaf. (That may be the most middle class sentence ever written). Teaching your own kids is a very, very different story. And there, actually, is the root of the whole problem. Children aren’t intrinsically dicks. They are just dicks to their parents.
The point of all of this is… well, admittedly, part of the point of all this is that I get to have a bloody good rant about home education and aggravating kids. But perhaps the more constructive point is that nobody is getting this right. If my wife – my clever, experienced, boundlessly kind wife – is finding this almost insurmountably tough going, then anybody will. If this applies to you, don’t beat yourself up. Your kids aren’t going to turn to you two decades from now and say “If only I’d learned more in summer 2020, I’d be a lawyer by now.” If you get through this whole shitshow with both family and faculties intact, pat yourself on the back on a job well done.