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Leaving Home... a teenage dilemma

    "An Englishman's home is his castle"; so says an old proverb. "Home" is perhaps the most important thing in a person's life - "home sweet home", as they say. Yet in Britain's teenage culture, home has long been seen as a place to leave, rather than a place to live. And while the age of independence is, for many young people, becoming later and later, the desire for independence is developing at a younger and younger age.
    Leaving home for the first time has always been a difficult turning point in life; today the difficulties are perhaps greater than ever before.
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Section 1      Background.

     THE TEENAGE DREAM

    Almost every 16-year old has thought about leaving home.
leaving homeMany teens dream about leaving home: but the reality can often be much harder than they imagine.
    Many have been thinking about it, off and on, for years; some have been dreaming of independence since they were twelve, or even younger. Leaving home is part of the teenage dream.
   Recently, a survey of "Young People's Social Attitudes" asked British teenagers for their opinions about leaving home. Forty-nine per cent of 12-15 year olds thought that teenagers should be allowed to leave home at the age of 16; another 12% said 17, and 8% said "when they want". Only 23% of young teenagers thought that they should be obliged to live at home until they were 18!
    Yet the teenage dream seems to conflict with the experience of real life; when the same question was put to 18 and 19-year olds, almost half replied that teenagers should not leave home before the age of 18.
    Nevertheless, leaving home is part of the process of growing up. Many teenagers leave to go and study or train or look for a job in a different town or city, returning home when the money runs out. Others leave because they just want to get out. Most, specially younger ones, are happy to go home again later; for a small number, leaving home is a definitive break.

   

HOME OR HOMELESS?

     Every year,  thousands of young people in Britain leave home in search of a better or more exciting life; many of them go to London, attracted by the bright lights, the night life, the youth scene and the hope of finding work.
    16-year olds who leave school with few or no qualifications find it very hard to get jobs; indeed, in some British cities, particularly in the North, finding work is almost impossible for unqualified people, specially young people. London, however, has less unemployment and more jobs; and though no one imagines that the streets of the capital are "paved with gold" (as in the legend), many teenagers make their way to the capital, hoping to set up a new home of their own.
    Though there are indeed more jobs in London than in most other cities, they are not always good jobs, and the the dream of leaving home and finding a job often turns out to be just that; a dream.
    Many return home; some become homeless.
    Homelessness is not a new problem, and there are many associations that help homeless people to find somewhere to live. And although, overall, less people keep coming to London in search of a new life, the number of young people doing so has gone up sharply; their reasons for coming have changed too.
   London's biggest homeless charity, Centrepoint, reported that causes of homelessness among teenagers have changed ; instead of leaving home because of "pull factors" (the attraction of London, the hope of a job) more and more young people now leave home because of "push factors", victims of broken homes, poverty or physical aggression.
    It's all part of our changing society. In 1961, only about 5% of children (about half a million children) in Britain lived in single-parent families; in 2013, 22% of children, that is three million children, lived in single-parent families. Single-parent families are generally poorer than traditional families.
    Even teenagers with caring parents and lovely homes dream of leaving home. Kids in poor or aggressive homes dream too; in their situation, it's not surprising that they may want to make their dreams come true.

Section 2      Teenagers speak.

Three teenagers' stories

SIMON: STAYING HOME
“Home’s O.K!” says Simon. “In fact, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best place to be, even if you can’t always do what you want!! If you live at home, you’ve got to obey a few rules, that’s obvious; but my parents are quite tolerant really! I s’pose it’d be different if they tried to lock me up or something, but they don’t. It’s a matter of respect.. They leave me to it; that way everyone’s happy! Besides, it’s much easier living at home if you can. You get your meals cooked and your washing done for you; and it’s far cheaper than living on your own! I’ll move out when I go to university, but I’ll come home in the vacation. Why not: It’s home, after all, isn’t it?”

SARAH : PULLED
    It was one evening in April that Sarah decided to leave home. It was not that she disliked her home; not even that she had a lot of arguments with her parents. As a family, everyone got on quite well together; but in the small Dorset town of Crewkerne, there wasn't exactly a lot to do. Besides, Sarah didn't actually live in Crewkerne, but in a village where there was even less to do. She was fed up with school too. Though she had done quite well in her GCSE exams, she had not chosen the right subjects for "A" level and had become disillusioned.
    Her parents liked the village life; her father, a businessman, was always travelling, and enjoyed coming back at weekends to the peace of  Dorset; her mother had a part-time job in the town. Her elder brother was away at university, her 14-year old sister was, in Sarah's words, "a nuisance".
    "I just wanted to get out," says Sarah. "I felt too cooped up; and it was so boring. So I decided to come up to London. For the time being I'm selling beads, but I'm looking for a proper job too."
    Sarah is one of the lucky ones. Her parents are giving her an allowance until she finds a job, and she lives with two other girls in a flat in Hampstead. She's artistic, she doesn't smoke or take drugs, and can talk intelligently. She'll probably get a job quite quickly.
    "I'm glad I left home," she says; "I'm 18 now, and I'm in charge of my own life. I go home quite often; but I prefer living my own life."

DARREN: PUSHED

    Darren claims that he was pushed out of his home.
    "I lived with my mum and two brothers in Bedford, but I couldn't stand it any more. My mum didn't have a job, and she was always yelling at us. I was in care for three years. Then I went back to live with my mum. In the end I just decided to quit. I don't want to go back; not for a while, anyway."
    For the last year, Darren has been living in a hostel for the homeless, and at the moment he's doing a training course, to become a builder.
    "There's plenty of work in the building trade in London right now," he says, "So I should get a job quite easily. Then I'll get myself a proper place to live. I'd like to have my own place. A proper home of my own, so as to speak. I can't say I've really ever had a home before."


Section 3      Living at school.

AWAY TO SCHOOL

    Often in Britain, it is parents who send their children to make a new home, away from home. At school.
    For hundreds of years, "boarding schools" have played an important part in British life.
    Not for everyone, of course; far from it. But boarding schools are part of middle class culture, especially in the south of England, where almost 30% of all 17-year olds in secondary schools are in fee-paying independent schools.
    Many parents (and grand parents) save money for years, in order to be able to send their children to boarding school.
    "My dad worked as a flying instructor in Saudi Arabia for ten years," explains Nikki. "He saved as much as he could, to send me and my sister to a good school. He could have spent it on other things; for instance he could have bought a big BMW,  but we've had the same car for five years, a VW, and it was second-hand when we bought it."
    According to classic images, boarding schools are spartan places, with cold dormitories and strict rules; but the image is no longer true.
    "I started boarding when I was 14," says William; "The worst thing about it was the first few weeks, when it was all new and strange. But now I feel much more independent.
    I like coming home for hols, but I like it at school too. It's not like it used to be, with big cold dorms and corporal punishment! You've got to obey the rules, of course; but that's part of life!"
   
    For young people who cannot "go away" to school, university offers the chance of breaking free.
    While in many parts of Europe students tend to study at universities and colleges close to home, the British tradition is very different.
    "I certainly wouldn't have wanted to go to college in my home town," says Tom. "One of the great things about going to university is that you get away from home! Universities recruit nationally, and when you apply, you usually apply to several different universities. You choose your universities for the courses they offer, not because they're near your home.
    I go home to see my parents in the holidays, but that's all. As far as I'm concerned, I've left home now. I certainly wouldn't want to go back home at weekends! That's when everything happens!"

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Alternative word guide
A levels: exams taken at the end of secondary school - allowance: some money - apply: be a candidate -
beads
: cheap coloured stones - besides : also - board: to live at school 24 hrs a day  - a break : a complete change - broken home: a broken family - in care: looked after by the local social services - caring: who love and help their children - charity: organisation which helps people - claim : say - conflict with: contrast with - cooped up: restricted, shut in - definitive: permanent, complete - disillusioned: she had lost her hopes, lost her dreams - enjoyed: liked - ever-increasing: continually growing - fed up with : tired of, unhappy with - -
fee: money - GCSE: national exams taken at the age of about 16 - grow up: become an adult - hostel: home -
instance
: example - off and on: from time to time - overall: in general - process: system, routine -
ranks
: lines, numbers - recruit: attract students - runs out : finishes - second-hand: not new - seek: to look for - single: just one - spartan: without any luxury - survey: study - s'pose : suppose, imagine - trade: profession - unemployment: absence of jobs, people without any work - yell: shout - youth scene: the clubs, meeting places and other things that attract young people -

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Student Worksheet

Home or homeless?

Find words or expressions in the article that mean
1. To look for .....................................
2. Teenagers who are sixteen years old  .....................................
3. Who go to London  .....................................
4. The fact of having nowhere to live. ...............
5. Families with just one parent  .....................................

PULLED

Read the article under the heading then say whether these statements are true or faIse..
1. Sarah got on very badly with her parents. T/ F
2. Sarah did not do too badly at school. T/ F
3. Both of Sarah's parents were away at work all day. T/ F
4. Sarah is older than her brother and sister. T/ F
5. Sarah does not want to continue selling beads for much longer. T/ F
6. Sarah is homeless. T/ F
7. She ought to ?nd a proper job quite easily. T/ F
8. She has not seen her parents since leaving home last April. T/ F

AWAY TO SCHOOL

Dave's Dog.... Dave wrote down some sentences about boarding school and university in Britain on a sheet of paper. Unfortunately, his dog found the sheet of paper, and chewed out the middle! Can you help Dave by rewriting the middle part of each sentence, using information from the article! 
1. Nikki‘s dad ..............................................................................................  ............................... ................................................?ve years ago.
2. William did not ................................................................................  at boarding school. 
3. British students .............................................................................. close to home.
4. Although Tom ..........................................................................................  .....................................................................Edinburgh.
5; Tom comes ................................................................................................   .....................................................................................see him.


   
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Revised 2015 . Originally published in Freeway, the Intermediate level English newsmagazine.
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