A Primal Sort of Education

This is probably a little bit tenuous but what the heck, let’s see where it goes! This post is part of a home education carnival my friend Jax is organising. 

My eldest children are coming up for 18 – gasps and gulps all round – and they have never been to school. The youngest two haven’t either, but I think 18 years of system avoidance is quite something, don’t you?

We fell, quite accidentally, into home education, never knowing it was legal until we happened upon the information by chance.

I wrote a collection of blog posts to celebrate International Freedom in Education Day a few years ago, when we were under a very black cloud (also known as the labour government) which threatened to remove home education as we had known it. It was a very close call, and the 16 months of campaigning and fighting tooth and nail, took its toll on my health and my family’s peace of mind. You can read those posts, starting at the very beginning (always makes me burst into my best Julie Andrew’s impression), and working your way forwards, if you so desire.

After the new government washed away the awful proposed legislation, we could breathe a little easier, but frankly our confidence in our country’s system of governance had been severely rocked, and we were keen to move away.

Things have a habit of not working out how you planned though, and instead we bought a motorhome and spent the best part of 2012 exploring our much maligned country and realising that it is a place of wonder and beauty and somewhere we refuse to be forced out of.

Packing up and going off travelling is one of those things that a lot of people say they wish they could do, but they always have a list of reasons why they can’t. We met a lot of people like that whilst we were in Miranda (we named our van after the character in our favourite TV show – such fun). The reason they offered most often was that they would have to wait until their children had finished school. Obviously it was pretty clear that our children weren’t in school, and we had some really great conversations with genuinely interested people who, like us way back when, hadn’t realised home education was a possibility.

Of course not everyone was keen to embrace the idea and there were plenty of people who showed real concern towards our children’s missing educational life! This never ceased to stun us – when did people start to believe that *real* education only happens in a school building? Obviously we’ve faced this sort of concern regularly over the years, but we foolishly thought that hearing about children who were travelling the length and breadth of the country, visiting places that would certainly be considered educational, were a school trip to be arranged  to them, would put the brakes on this kind of questioning. But no. I was always taught that travel broadens the mind – but perhaps that was a line that we military kids were spun to make us feel better about upping sticks every couple of years? (I don’t really believe that, in case you were wondering!)

Whilst we were living in Miranda we were eating a mostly primal diet, it wasn’t as hard as I had expected it to be – lots of one pot cooking and vast quantities of sauerkraut mixed (not literally, thankfully, although the youngest probably did) with copious pots of yogurt and a small cheese mountain saw us through. I even managed to make 3 lots of our beetroot brownies for birthday cakes in the teeny tiny oven! 

The thing that struck me most about the whole experience though was that this was probably as close as we were ever going to come to a primal way of living.

We went to bed when it got dark, got up when it got light. Our sleep patterns normalised after too many years of late nights in front of computer and tv screens – particularly during the dark days of Badman.

We walked. Miles. Every. Single. Day.

We were out in the fresh air for hours every day. If it rained we couldn’t just stay inside so we got out in torrential rain and we loved it! We heard the weather, we smelt the weather, we felt the weather; hour by hour, day by day. We saw every extreme from snow to heatwave, and oh so much rain! We couldn’t have chosen a wetter year to spend in a campervan!

We didn’t have national grid electricity, on tap gas and water or any of the other facilities that we take for granted in a house. It’s not fair to say that every day was a battle for our survival, of course it wasn’t, but we did have to spend large parts of our day considering these things. This brought a fresh appreciation for the wonders of hot showers, endlessly flushable toilets and clean clothes; broadband without limits; electricity that doesn’t have to be carefully rationed; and space.

We had to use our bodies to complete the daily chores – the toilet had to be emptied; the waste water had to be lugged to a drain, 5 litres at a time. We had muscles we didn’t know existed, and we lost quite a lot of weight through the sheer physical effort of existing. For me, washing the clothes was my biggest lesson; initially I resented the hours spent trying to keep on top of the laundry, but after a while it gave me a real sense of achievement and satisfaction that just can’t be gained through shoving a pile of clothes in a washing machine and coming back an hour or so later with it all done. Simplicity truly was pleasurable; if you put your mind to it.

Of course we are now back in a house, and life, as it has a habit of doing, has quickly reverted back to how it was – computer use has increased, bedtimes have extended, we tend not to go out in the rain, and we don’t walk or exert ourselves any thing like we did, or should.

We do at least eat a bit better though. 

And the children still don’t go to school.

Home education isn’t a bed of roses, at times it’s bloody hard going, but who said parenting was supposed to be easy? We’re not brave, or special; we don’t have degrees or teaching qualifications; we aren’t Rothschilds; we’re just us doing the best we can for our family, which is about as primal as it gets if you think about it.




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