I was musing at how ironic it is to feel continually out of step with the rest of the world, as I heard a radio DJ giving a supportive ‘shout out to all the home schoolers heroically doing their bit’. My own home-schooling days (or home education as we preferred to call it) are only just over (two kids for twenty years) and I always felt a bit disapproved of and certainly never got called a hero! I would get raised eyebrows and defensive questioning about the socialisation of my kids. My daughter pointed out that they probably got far more socialisation than any of the kids currently being home schooled during lockdown, but of course this is only short term, until society resumes where it left off…
When we moved to this bit of land (four adults, four children and a few young adults) and set ourselves up to be as self-sufficient as we were able, in preparation for the fall-out from things that were being talked about, in certain circles, in the mid 2000’s: peak oil etc. The prediction was that the post peak oil period and climate chaos would gradually begin to impact on our lives in ways which would become more and more difficult to ignore and we would be forced, together, to question our current capitalist model, to power down and change the way we lived. We were not extreme preppers as they get called in the States, but certainly had ideas about teaching our children resilience and awareness and what we saw as a more holistic and greener way of living, in the face of what was coming.
We made our own, stay-home, grow-our-own, shop-only-occasionally-and local, keep-travel-to-a-minimum, low-impact, no-fly policies, and pretty much stuck to them for nearly ten years. Off-grid by financial constraints, but also newly embraced principles, we brought our children up in a mostly outdoor, dirty, animal and bacterial rich environment, the like of which is now being re-recognised as essential in the building of a healthy immune system and disease resistance in later life. We cooked, baked, fermented, dealt with any ailments and illness at home. Taught our children not to put pressure on the NHS as a way of life and not just during a pandemic.
However, it gradually began to be felt by some of us that we were part of a small and scattered minority, which wasn’t growing in numbers fast enough, and were invisibly fighting a losing battle. We became disillusioned and bitter that we were depriving ourselves of many of the fun things the rest of the world appeared to be guiltlessly continuing to indulge in, and for what? We alone were going to make very little difference to anything, and our almost forgotten careers were suffering as a result of the difficult conditions we were living in. As the children grew up and the pressure of all this took its toll, cracks and rifts in our relationships threatened to destroy our so-called utopia, until the house fire in 2016 did that for us.
Major changes in living arrangements ensued. We scattered, some of us returned and rebuilt. We stopped restricting ourselves so much, everything we’d tried to do, seemed pointless and for nothing. My home educated young people got into college and university, their first experience of mainstream education. I, at long last, got into art school in 2019, twenty-seven years after I first applied. We started being more part of the world. It felt good. Then, bam! 2020 hit and here we are, plunged into the very restrictions we had just freed ourselves from, that we were judged, by some, for wrongly inflicting on our children. Our education and social lives suddenly being severely restricted for the best part of a year (so far). Reliant on technology, electricity and Wi-Fi that we just don’t really have enough of, to sustain hours of online lectures and tutorials. My daughters acting course ending abruptly and prematurely, because, let’s face, it you can’t really do acting, or art school for that matter, online. And suddenly, now, “we’re all in this together”?! Ha! Ironic.
Ironic too, that though it seemed the long-awaited crisis, the sometimes-wished-for collapse-of-society-as-we-know-it, was never going to come. Just as we had given up – along it comes, under a guise we didn’t immediately recognise or expect. Not that I think that this really is IT, despite all the talk of Great Resets and the like. But maybe it is a test or a warning, as some think, if you believe in that sort of thing. And if that is indeed the case – then I don’t think we are doing very well at all.
I think closing schools and universities, any longer, particularly where hands on experience with specialist equipment is an essential part of the course, would be a travesty and despite being a home-educator, I think shutting children up in houses, in the winter, for unspecified periods of time, with worried, unhappy and unwilling parents who have not chosen to home-educate is a recipe for disaster. And I mean how is it decided that schools and universities will close but airports stay open??
I also think that continually making the arts the lowest priority is going to be massively damaging to everything and it’s high time they were recognised for the crucial role they play in any healthy society and supported in helping rebuild our severely traumatised country.
But then I am an artist and an art student, so I would think this, and obviously my tiny family story is not the least bit relevant to anything in this huge mess we are all in (not together) and I am sure no one cares what I think anyway, whatever I am! 🙂