‘Illegal homeschooling clubs are morally bankrupt – but I see why parents go’ – Polly Hudson

It was probably only a ­matter of time. Illegal gatherings are apparently taking place at the moment, full of people, despite the rules of lockdown.

These individuals aren’t getting together to drink, dance, and go wild though. They’re Homeschooling Clubs.

In the 1920s during ­Prohibition in the US there were Speakeasies. These are Tacheasies, then.

We know they’re happening because one attendee cleverly boasted about the secret on social media.

“Today in an undisclosed ­location,” the tweet began, with a winking emoji, “I went to a homeschool meet up with my boys… it was our first time there… I was greeted with hugs and cake and chats and 30+ NORMAL adults and children.

“I felt a weight lifted from my back that I had no idea I’d been carrying.”

Going to a club like this is against the law, morally bankrupt, and an insult to every exhausted NHS employee. Clearly, no one should attend. But I do understand why desperate parents are tempted.

Homeschooling – with the best will in the world, the most positive, can-do ­attitude – is the worst.

My six-year-old is better at maths than me, and I have a calculator hidden under the table.

Even English, my favourite subject, is a struggle.

He’s doing apostrophes, so ‘could not’ becomes ‘couldn’t’, ‘would not’ becomes ‘wouldn’t’, ‘will not’ becomes ‘won’t’.

“Why isn’t it willn’t?” he asks me. Yeah, totally, I nod.

Turns out the question was not rhetorical but it’s more that I can’t answer it, rather than that I willn’t.

I’ve never appreciated teachers more than I do now. And yet, not only are some parents gathering illegally to homeschool, they’re also daring to have a go at our hard-working teachers.

Colin Dowland, head of Woodridge Primary School in North Finchley, was so infuriated by “highly critical messages” his staff received that he sent a letter to parents, encouraging the “educational experts” among them to sign up for teacher training at their earliest ­convenience. He promised to keep them informed of future vacancies at the school, which he’s now thoroughly expecting. Good on him.

My son’s teacher, Hazel, holds a class Zoom every morning, so the kids can see each other’s faces, which is good for their mental health.

She sends wobbly videos explaining the tasks set for the day, and then reads them a story. She writes 30 personal emails to the children, daily, saying I loved what you wrote, I see that you understand division, well done on your fantastic work.

These arrive at 6am ­sometimes, or past midnight. She’s also at school, teaching the children of key workers.

Maybe we’re especially lucky, but I know that – even at my most miserable mathematical moment – I’d never dream of attending an illegal homeschooling club anyway.

The only real risk of me breaking the rules is if I bumped into Hazel in the street. I’d do my best, of course, but it would be incredibly hard not to give her an ­enormous hug.

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