Sunday 5 January 2014

Damn hippy home educators

We sat at Julie's the other day and watched the pilot episode of 'Raised by Wolves' on 4oD (available for another 17 days, and a somewhat pretentious Guardian review here); it is written by Caitlin Moran (no relation to Dunk) and her sister Caz and is based (loosely) on their own childhood being home educated in a large family living on a council estate in Wolverhampton. It is being cheered in home ed circles purely because it contradicts the notion that all home educators are middle class hippy types (for visitors from America please read that as 'all home-schoolers are fundamentalist Christian types'). It doesn't make a big issue about them being home educated, though the scene where they watch from the garden when the school kids come past was excellent, it is more about family relationships. Certainly hoping they make it to a full series, the two young women playing Germaine and Aretha are wonderful.

And it ties in quite nicely with my Christmas listening which was 'Wild Abandon' by Joe Dunthorne (who also wrote the book that became the film 'Submarine'), which is about a bunch of home educating hippies. It is the story of an intentional community, started by Don and Freya and Patrick but enlarged over the years by a motley collection of drifters and WWOOFers. The story follows the disintegration of relationships as people begin to change their ideas of what they want in life and Don desperately tries to hold the whole thing together; daughter Kate goes off to college and meets a young man who's home offers all the comforts of modern life that their farm lacks, Don and Freya's marriage crumbles and their son Albert is left feeling abandoned and turns for companionship to Maria, who has all sorts of wacky ideas about where the world is headed. The relationship between Kate and Albert was lovely, siblings who grow up quite dependent on each other for company. Albert remains embedded in his experience of and love for commune life while Kate, out in the 'real world', makes a conscious decision to avoid discussing her childhood experiences. The story build towards the 'Results Party' that Don throws to try and tempt his daughter home. I liked the way that the character's little dramas were going on while the rest of life carried on regardless. Don is not a sympathetic character but he spouts some well reasoned arguments against formal schooling which are randomly scattered through the story so I felt that was his redeeming quality. I think the story succeeded because although it is witty and Joe allowed himself to gently mock some of their efforts it manages to avoid tired clichés, it created real people and a community who were trying to live their lives outside the accepted assumptions and values of society, and I can't help sympathising with people who try, it was hard and they made compromises but they didn't stop trying. 

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