Not much gets judged more harshly than other people's parenting. We label and judge and criticize parenting styles and choices that differ from our own. Helicopter parents, free-range kids, tiger moms, parents who yell too much, parents who are too lenient, parents who are friends with their kids, parents who are too authoritarian, parents who are too protective, and, gasp!, parents who kiss their children on the lips. All of these parents are fair game for judgment, ridicule, and "friendly" advice from strangers.
Internet derision aside, in real life, most of us try not to cast judgment. We're all just doing our best. We have good moments and bad, and unfortunately, some of those bad ones happen in public. But even the most open-minded among us are struggling with a new British reality show.
Feral Families is a new British TV show that follows three families as they "radically unschool" their children.
The "radical" part comes in when this kid-led concept permeates all aspects of the family's life.
In case you're still feeling confused about this concept, these are the families included in the show Feral Families.Maybe that looks nice? The kids seem happy. Except the one who lit himself on fire, it doesn't seem that dangerous. (There is some uncertainty about whether that fire-wielding teenager can read.)
Gemma Rawnsley, mom of seven kids ranging in age from 1 to 13, considers parents to be "facilitators."
Meet the Rawnsleys from #FeralFamilies on @thismorning at 10.45am. Watch the full doc 9pm, Thursday @Channel4. https://t.co/UNnVnBHuKZ— Philly (@Philly)1508750454.0
Is the idea of letting the children make their own choices really that crazy?
'Feral Families' mum reveals how pulling her daughter out of school has changed her life https://t.co/jyAnpejdui https://t.co/1zVT9AYhib— The Sun (@The Sun)1508677921.0
The most common reaction from viewers is that this this a ridiculous parenting choice.
Feral families on @Channel4 No rules, no boundaries, no bed time, no school, no discipline, no chance of a fucking future #FeralFamilies— Alexander 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆 (@Alexander 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆)1509048827.0
Many people wondered how this is legal. School, or at least a structured education, is compulsory, right?We try to have an open mind, but when we see a 13-year-old reading at the level of a 6- or 7-year-old, it's hard not to judge. Are the parents neglecting their kids' basic needs? How will this turn out for them in the end? In Archie's case, his father and grandparents are not on board with unschooling at all. In fact, his grandfather has arranged a private tutor to teach Archie basic literacy skills.
The parents on the show rail against how they are judged by closed-minded people, but then they turn around and do a fair amount of judging themselves.
What a disgusting thing to tell your kids, that other children go to school because their parents don't want to care for them #FeralFamilies— Michelle 💙 (@Michelle 💙)1509049937.0
In one episode, siblings Skye (13) and Finlay (12) decide that they want to try going to school.Gemma, their mother, supports their choice, but not really. While she allows them to do a three-day trial, her subtext to her kids is that school is bad, restrictive, and even weird. Finlay is excited to buy a school uniform and Gemma can't stop talking about how restrictive the blazer is, how terrible it is that the kids are forced to wear it, and how kids even have to ask permission to go to the bathroom while in school. The children, who are excited and nervous, are surely picking up on their mom's loud and clear message that school is a bad place for children. When the kids return home after their first day, Gemma calls them aliens. Unsurprisingly, in what may be the biggest disappointment for viewers of the show, both kids decide school is not for them.
But not all the responses to the show are negative.
Many criticising #FeralFamilies yet Finley and Skye come across eloquent, polite, smart, happy, self sufficient, healthy shall I carry on?— Emily Beatrice (@Emily Beatrice)1509073345.0
Most home-school families follow a curriculum and work hard to provide age-appropriate learning materials and support.
I work so hard on my son's home education. Then #FeralFamilies come along and throw all home educators under the bus for a little fame.— DarcyBee (@DarcyBee)1509055086.0
Families who choose to homeschool have always faced criticism and judgment.Generally, people don't understand what homeschooling really entails. That perception was slowly changing as more and more "normal" families took this route. People who work hard to provide an education for their children are understandably upset to be grouped with these radical unschoolers.
With the spotlight on these families and their unschooling, unparenting ways, people are bound to misunderstand home education.
This isn't home education. It's feckless irresponsibility #FeralFamilies— Michelle 💙 (@Michelle 💙)1509048406.0
It's easy to sit in judgment of these families, but that's not the whole story.
#FeralFamilies I personally saw parents who cared about their kids happiness as opposed to social norms. Not sure why there's so much hate— Mr Scullin's Music Room (@Mr Scullin's Music Room)1509057190.0
Calling the families and children "feral" brings its own problems.
Terrible that these families are being classed as feral- they are articulate & speak a lot of sense about our world now #FeralFamilies— Nicola CK (@Nicola CK)1509050401.0