I have come under fire a little for my decision to homeschool Hat. From friends, mostly: friends with kids who articulate concern over my choice because, they say, Hat will miss out ”socially”.
I appreciate what they mean. To a point. But question how genuine their concern is: are they really worried Hat’s life will be socially compromised (no children’s birthday parties where we are, no ballet lessons, no tennis coaching)? Or do they object to somebody breaking the conventional mould, somebody not sending their child to school? Or does my decision – amongst those friends with children Hat’s age at boarding school – conjure an uncomfortable guilt? It doesn’t matter. As Husband, who is irritatingly Font of all Knowledge but thankfully also Font of Wisdom, notes: people are going to criticise whatever decision parents make vis a vis choices of education for their children.
But to my own. We have moved to an Outpost 500 miles from where we used to live. And where Hat used to go to school. There are no suitable schools where we are now. When we made the decision to move, I put the question of ”school” to each of my children. The eldest two vetoed Homeschool. Partly because – at almost 16 and 13 – frienships with their peer groups are established and important. Partly because they were concerned about their mother, who can’t add up the contents of shopping basket (not even here in Outpost), teaching them IGCSE Maths. But Hat, who was adamant she didn’t want to go to boarding school for a number of fairly sound reasons, including the fact she would only see her mother once a month and her father once a term, opted for home school.
We researched various choices of school and dismissed several on assorted grounds: too ‘Christian’ (we live in a community of myriad religions – Christian, Muslim, Hindu – it seemed appropriate that ‘school’ reflect this); too expensive; too narrow in scope, too devoid of colour. The books arrived and Hat unpacked them with glee. We have dipped into them since. On recce. Navigating our way around the lessons in advance of the real thing: when ‘term’ begins, when her older siblings return to ‘proper’ school. We have made lists of the things we need to buy: poster paints, pencils, pads of white paper.
But Hat’s ‘school’ will not be limited to a classroom at home, it will not be rigidly designed around an academic calendar. Her father’s job means extensive travel throughout Tanzania, to remote places on the map hundreds of miles away. His work will take him to the shores of Lake Tanganyika, to the Southern Highlands, to the dry interior around the Ruaha National Park. Must Hat and I remain here in solitary splendour whilst he explores a country Hat has lived in all her life just so that we can do ‘school’?
No. I don’t believe so. Hat doesn’t either. Already she is demanding her own map of the country so that,”I can tick off all the places I’ve been to”. Must we stay home alone and dryly turn the pages of geography books when we could be living the geography, absorbing the history, collecting treasures for a nature table, taking pictures for a collage? No.
Why? Because life’s too short to lose opportunities for adventure. And I want Hat to understand that as much as I want her to understand fractions and the rudiments of grammer. More, maybe. Because she’s going to spend so much of her life incarcerated in educational institutions, what’s a year or two picking up knowledge in the bush? Because I really, really want my children to know that sometimes bending rules, sometimes not conforming, is more rewarding than being straight-jacketed into Normal. Education is imperative. I’m not convinced school is.
I know that the opportunity to have Hat at home with me this year, next, even the one after, on the pretext of teaching her is a gift. I know that. I just hope that in five or ten or twenty years time, Hat will remember it as one too.