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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > September 2017 > The school of mum and dad

The school of mum and dad

Homeschooling forces us to confront the question, “what is education?”
© GRAPHICAARTIS/GETTY IMAGES

This September my eldest daughter starts secondary school, a prospect that, like many parents, I regard with a mixture of excitement, pride and trepidation. But when she heads off, it will be a bigger change for my partner and I than for many others— because for the past two years we have been schooling her and her sister ourselves.

When I tell people that we have been home-educating my children, a common response is: “I could never do that!” It’s pitched somewhere between an awestruck, “I could never imagine being able to do that!” and a horrified, “I would never do that!” Homeschooling is generally perceived to be both hard and risky.

I won’t pretend it’s easy. My partner and I were constantly juggling schedules so that one of us was free, if not to be “teaching” then to be ferrying the children between activities. And practicalities aside, there’s a constant inner voice: “Do you really know what you’re doing?” (Answer: of course not.) But having had previous experience of several schools, both state and independent, I know that many of the worries about children’s education—Are the kids happy? Do they have friends? Are they keeping up?—are the same, whether they are taught at home or in a school. The difference is that we have more chance of doing something about it.

Anxieties about children’s education and well-being have become pathological for many parents, and the school system is a big part of the cause. The fixation on choice and constant assessment has created a mad scramble to get to the top of the pile, without, to my mind, any overall improvement in education— possibly quite the reverse. Instead, the results are insecurity for parents and institutions alike—panic, constant tinkering with curricula and teaching methodologies, and an obsession with ranking and tests. These are not just interfering with education but subverting its purpose.

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In Prospect’s September issue: Emily Andrews, Andrew Brown and Tom Clark assess what the reign of King Charles might look like. Andrews profiles Charles and questions whether he will be able to keep his opinions to himself. Andrew Brown look at the coronation—the world is a very different place now from when the last one took place. Tom Clark explains the results of our poll, conducted by ICM, into people’s view on Charles taking the throne—it turns out fewer people than ever before want the heir to become our monarch. Elsewhere in the issue Nick Cohen details his battle with the bottle and shows that Britain has a problem with drink that it doesn’t want to talk about, and Toni Morrison Also in this issue: Toni Morrison on America’s stubborn race divide, Brian Klaas on how Europe should deal with Trump and Jessica Abrahams explains everything you need to know about fourth wave feminism
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