A mother-of-three who believes in “unschooling” does not discipline her children and lets them decide when to eat or go to sleep.
Vickie Hairsine pulled her eldest child out of school after six months and now home schools her with a focus on activities outside of the curriculum.
The 25-year-old is a firm believer in the success of her parenting method but it will be thrust under the spotlight next Thursday when she appears on Channel 4 documentary Feral Families.
The young mum, who lives in Hull with husband Mike, and her three children Jessica, seven, Theo, four, and Delilah, 11 months, is one of several off-grid parents to be followed in the hour-long show.
But although the programme’s headline is controversial she hopes it will challenge people’s misconceptions about different parenting methods.
She toid the Hull Daily Mail : “People’s immediate thoughts are they just eat sweets all the time but the programme shows that that is not what it’s like.
” Channel 4 are trying to challenge the public perception of what people feel.
“People think my kids must go to bed at 3am but that is not what happens. They have more freedom than most children but they are still well behaved and polite.”
Vickie took Jessica out of mainstream education a year ago after noticing she wasn’t adapting to school life.
She learns from apps on an iPad but still has textbooks and learns English, maths and science, among other subjects.
She also does baking, horse riding and trampolining with other home-schooled children and Mrs Hairsine says she has never seen her daughter happier.
She explained: “I think school was too overwhelming. There were too many children and because you only get two adults for 30 children I think Jessica felt kind of left on her own.
“We took her out of school with the intention of finding her another one but in that time I found out about the home education community in Hull through Facebook groups.
“We met up with other families from the groups and it all went from there – we realised home educating was better for us as a family.
“When I said to her ‘you don’t have to go to school anymore’ her face lit up like it was Christmas morning and I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen her smile like that.”
She said Jessica’s confidence has “grown massively” and says she is now more “outgoing, confident and always bouncing around”.
“She hasn’t been this happy in a long time and she’s got a better social life than most adults,” she added.
“The beauty is that you don’t have to follow the curriculum so you can tailor it to each child.
“At first I was a bit like ‘oh my god, what am I doing?’ because it is against the norm but it is literally the best decision we ever made.”
Explaining her parenting method, she said: “My children don’t have specific bed times so they go to bed whenever they are tired and we don’t eat at certain times.
“It’s all about children being able to make their own decisions and parents not overpowering or influencing their decisions.
“I’ve never felt the need to discipline them. We have never done the naughty step and I’ve never smacked them.
“I could stand for hours shouting at them but it wouldn’t achieve anything.
“Instead, I explain why we don’t do things because it’s dangerous or it’s not polite and then it’s done with and they understand.”
Feral Families will focus on three off-grid families across Britain who have brought their children up without boundaries.
Vickie said she believes the programme’s title is “cutting edge” and immediately catches peoples’ attention.
“During filming Mike said to me ‘do you think our kids are feral?’ and it’s a bit of a joke – it’s just to be ironic,” she added.
“It’s like the Undateables – it’s an awful title but the programme is lovely and I think they did it with that in mind.
“There are people talking about it all over Facebook. I’ve already seen the programme and I love it. As a family we agree with everything on it.”
The mum-of-three now wants to encourage other parents to not dismiss home-schooling as an option for their children.
“Do your research, join the Facebook groups and come and meet us,” she said.
“Once you get speaking to people you will realise it’s not as scary as you think – it’s actually pretty brilliant.
“The freedom and the happiness you get from it is amazing and I would really recommend it.”
You can see the Hairsines on Feral Families from 9pm on Thursday, October 26 on Channel 4.