When I want a car, I go out and look at cars made in factories. I want to know that they are quality controlled, designed by experts, built by people who know what they are doing. I want them to come with a manual and just work.
For things with meaning though, I cherish the handmade. At the bottom of the bed, there’s a quilt that one of my friends handmade for Smallest when she was born. Each piece of fabric was chosen with care. There’s effort and individuality in it, there is no other blanket like it in the world.
When it comes to education, I want my children to each have a handcrafted education, suited to them and them alone. I want it to fit them like a glove, I want it to be unique to each one of them. Small spends time on the computer, he specialises in maths, and games, and programming and art work. I select books for him that I think he’ll enjoy as well as learning from, his reviews make me giggle pretty much every time. I don’t ant him to be a part of an education system when he can be an individual at home.
Which doesn’t mean that I can’t use experts. Just as you can by from artisans on etsy, or not on the high street, or in galleries, I can find people who specialise in various things if we need to. So far we haven’t, but I’m waiting for the day when one of them wants something more than I can offer, more than I can provide for with a website or a book off the internet. The day will come, and we’ll deal with it when it does.
The other side of this is that sometimes handcrafting your own things is cheaper. It can be frugal, green, you can recycle, upcycle. And sometimes it can be massively more expensive, as you’re paying for someone’s time and expertise. A handmade education is much the same. There are economies, and there are expenses.
And yes, occasionally I wonder why I’m being so awkward. Why I want something different and unique and potentially a little flawed, without quality control or a tried and tested system. And then I look at my beautiful, different, unique children and remember. Because I want something that suits each and every one of them. So we make sacrifices, and take a little longer to make the same thing sometimes, but what we have we cherish.
Could everyone do it like this? Perhaps. But lots of things would have to change. It’s less efficient, I don’t care for nearly as many children as they can in a school. But there would be ways for families to combine their efforts, for older children to be more involved with younger siblings, for life to be less regimented, more sharing, less systemised, more together.
Am I criticising schools and the people who use them? No. I’m just saying I have chosen needs and priorities. I’m aware that it’s a choice. We’ve made different choices through the years. We used school for a while, it turned out not to be the right permanent answer, that’s not to say it won’t ever be.
But for the time being I’m going to stick with my slightly quirky, definitely not off the shelf approach to education and life. A handmade education. Yes, I quite like that.