Parents all over the world are eating humble pie and ruing the day they took school for granted.
But this isn’t a blog post about how fed up I am with homeschooling (although I am!) or how grateful I feel for my son’s teachers (although I do!).
This is a good hard look at the brainwave I had a month ago: can we really homeschool sex ed?
Over the past month we at Outspoken have been creating relationships & sex education (RSE) lesson plans for parents who suddenly find themselves educating. Seeing as RSE is about to become mandatory in schools, I thought: why don’t parents get cracking? Let’s seize the opportunity: to find a way into some vital topics of conversation that might not otherwise have come up around the dinner table?
I stand by it – it was a good idea. But leafing through my copy of the brilliant Great Relationships and Sex Education: 200+ Activities for Educators Working with Young People by Alice Hoyle & Ester McGeeney over breakfast, I’ve realised something more clearly than ever:
Parents can and should take part in their children’s sex education…
…But parents can’t do this alone.
Here are three key differences between home RSE and school RSE that I can’t ignore:
1. The awkwardness factor
There are some things it’s just too awkward for most parents to discuss with their children – those of us who don’t have the innate Dutch comfort with matters of sexuality. And there are some things that aren’t appropriate subject matter for intergenerational chitchat either.
Something from Hoyle and McGeeney’s book comes back to me: it’s an activity from Justin Hancock's Bish, in which teenagers aged 14+ are encouraged to think about the differences between life on Planet Porn and Planet Earth (think landing strips and loud orgasms).
That’s the kind of education I want my sons to access, but I sure as hell don’t want to be the one to deliver it.
2. The group setting
The best-facilitated lessons are those that give young people space to use each other to develop their thoughts, values and beliefs. Take the activity which asks teenagers to discuss various scenarios on a consent continuum:
“Kirsty meets Pete in a club and after kissing, goes back to his. He fingers her in the taxi but once back at his house, she tells him she’s changed her mind…”
There’s only so far a lecture from your mum can take you here: it’s no substitute for constructive debate with peers in a safe space.
3. The training
Educators are trained; they spend time thinking about objectives and learning styles and curriculum design. I’m not, and I don’t.
But there are things I have going for me as a parent that educators can’t replace. I don’t have to be careful to cater to a range of levels, abilities, backgrounds, religions and other social contexts. I don’t have to handle the possibility of peer pressure, humiliation, bullying, or even abuse. I am free to add a crucial layer of values and ethics to my teaching – unlike teachers, who risk being charged with bringing agendas and bias into their work. And I am the first and primary educator of my children. A right (or wrong) word from me at the right time has the most potential to change my child’s life forever.
So I try... and I try... and I hope and pray for school to start again. When it does, RSE is the lesson I'm most excited for.