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EDITIONS
Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 18:24 GMT
Home-grown talents
Caitlin Moran with her daughter, Dora
Caitlin Moran of The Times was taught at home
Around 85,000 children are currently taught at home in the UK. A Radio 4 programme, "Unschooled," profiles five adults who were educated at home to see what effect it's had on their lives. The programme's presenter, Maud Hand, herself a former primary school teacher, describes what inspired her to make it.


Home schooling first captured my imagination as a trainee teacher in Dublin 20 years ago when we had a talk one day from a woman who'd educated her children at home in the Wicklow Hills.

This lady courted controversy in the Irish press, not least because one of her 'unschooled' off-spring was known to have a heroin habit, another was an abstract painter and none of them fitted readily into any predictable life path.

She was in her sixties but was refreshingly un-phased by the negative press. I was impressed by her spirit and the courage she exercised in taking her children out of the traditional education system.

Equipping children with confidence

Her plan was to equip them with enough confidence to make choices in their lives and the ideal way of doing this, in her view, was at home.

Once they became adults, how they exercised those choices was up to them, irrespective of the kind of early education they received.

Many years later and long left teaching, I became friends with Naomi Ward, a fashion designer who features in the programme. Naomi was raised in a commune and was consequently home-schooled.

Naomi Ward and her son, Finley
Naomi Ward grew up in a commune and was taught at home

She's always struck me as an extremely confident person. As a guest at her wedding I met her three step-brothers who were being educated at home by their mother.

Again I was struck by how confident, well-adjusted and creative these lads were. There were other wedding guests from Naomi's unschooled past who were equally impressive.

Inspired by these individuals, I was determined to make a radio programme on the unschooled theme.

Rather than thrash out the pros and cons of the debate, I was more interested in exploring home education through the adult lives of people like Naomi.


Ultimately I believe that home schooling educates people to become non-conformists

Maud Hand

There was no shortage of candidates - from the Parisian catwalk model and the crofter from Scotland to the personal trainer from Liverpool who believed home schooling should be banned, so incensed was she with her parents for depriving her of a conventional education.

We finally settled for five 20-somethings including Caitlin Moran, TV critic for The Times, Tom Ball, Cambridge graduate and serial entrepreneur and Independent Financial Adviser Jessica Lasslet.

Ultimately I believe that home schooling educates people to become non-conformists. Those I've met are very balanced individuals, confident about carving their own paths.

Ironically, however, none of the people we spoke to wanted their own children taught at home, but that was fundamentally for financial reasons.

"Unschooled" was on BBC Radio 4 on Friday 29 November at 1100 GMT.

See also:

11 Oct 02 | Education
11 Jul 02 | Education
07 Feb 02 | Scotland
07 Feb 02 | Scotland
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