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‘Home-Schooling’ in a time of pestilence (or ‘Don’t let them kill each other’)

I will preface this with the fact that I won’t use any references. I won’t cite anything proper. I’m just going to have a bit of a ramble.

Lots of people on my Facebook (old grump here!) and Twitter feeds are talking about home-schooling their kids. And they’re finding it hard. And I’m not surprised. Schooling people is not easy, particularly when you are trying to do your own, regular job as well. But it’s not the difficulty I’m thinking of, it’s the assumptions that go behind it.

On Friday last week (20th March, 2020), schools closed their doors to most students for the foreseeable future; I will add here that many schools are still open to kids and staff are working their bums off. And with that started the unwitting ‘craze’ of home-schooling. I say craze, but that’s a cynical, flippant way to describe it.

Home classrooms apparently sprung up over the weekend, parents were pedagogy experts, who were going to teach their cherubic children. The children would be eager to learn in the mornings, do character-building activities in the afternoons and come out of the other side of lock-down as fully rounded individuals. They would access learning online resources, and have multi-coloured glue sticks and blue pen in 10 different hues. They would meet all their age-related expectations or achieving GCSEs grade 9s, be fluent in Mandarin, versed in the classics and grade 8 musicians as well. Or at least that seems to be what discourse and noises coming out of parts of the internet expects.

For some this may be so, but for many others, this just isn’t true. The internet access assumed by schools won’t materialise. The pens and paper needed for working are a stretch for the family budget. The home-classroom just isn’t an option because there isn’t a spare room or space in the house. Parents may be keyworkers or may have other jobs/children or commitments that mean they just can’t ‘do home-schooling’.

The assumptions behind the ‘gold-standard’ of home-schooling are those based in a white, middle-class reality that looks like a 1950s Kellogg’s advert. The assumption, yet again around education, is that everyone has middle-class values and if they don’t their culture is lacking. 

Bourdieu’s cultural capital theories raise their head again! When the cultural expectations around education are middle-class and white, other groups are diminished, undermined and belittled. Their efforts and their values are not valued. Instead they’re ‘those parents’: the ones that didn’t bother to work with their children; the ones that can’t be arsed; the ones who hold back their own kids.

Never before have I been so struck, so quickly of the oppressive nature surrounding our education system at material, pedagogical and financial levels.

And it makes me so, so sad.

At this point in time, surely if our kids are fed, washed, watered and loved, then what more do we want. Over the coming weeks, then yeah, sure, do some reading, writing or whatever schoolwork lurks. It shouldn’t be about ‘doing’ home-school, it should be about educating and raising our kids.

They’re not necessarily synonymous.

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