I have conflicting opinions about how the Holmes brothers were schooled.  Although it seems likely the boys had some experience with public school, it still seems an odd fit to me. But let’s have a quick look at the options:

Over here in the UK, one’s schooling and ages at which one attends school largely depends on what sort of school one attends. There are state run schools that cater to the majority of the population, which are subdivided into Infant, Junior and Secondary (occasionally Comprehensive, and formally Grammar) schools. Pupils start at Infant schools at around 5 years old, move up to Junior at 7, and then onto Secondary school at 11 years old. Up until very recently, state education became optional after age 16, but the law has recently changed to make education up until age 18 mandatory. State schools do not take on boarders - all pupils will go home at the end of the day. Although some state schools have incredible academic reputations, some really do not. I briefly worked in one that was a failing school; it’s not somewhere that one would envision the Holmes brothers.

The other option are private/independent schools, which are fee-paying establishments and do not have to follow the government curriculum. Officially, most independent schools start their intake at 13 years old, but a private education can begin as young as 3 years old, in a Prep School, although children this young are usually day pupils rather than boarders. Some of the older, more prestigious private schools are know as Public Schools. These are places like Eton and Harrow, where Benedict Cumberbatch attended school. This is the more likely setting for the Holmes boys, coming, as they appear to do, from an old family with old money.

Because of the seven-year age gap between them, if Mycroft had been sent away to Harrow at 13, then to university at Oxford at 18, the brothers would not have spent an awful lot of time together when they grew up. By the time Sherlock began there, Mycroft would already be well into his undergraduate degree. This might fit a lot of people’s personal headcanons, but it doesn’t sit very well with mine.

Personally, I prefer a third way. Mark Gatiss has described his view of the Holmes brothers’ upbringing as one in which "they’ve grown up like hothouse flowers. They’re just both very odd blooms. And both, you know, odder than each other." It’s because of this that I just can’t imagine either brother matriculating in any school, especially not a boarding school - Mycroft would be constantly acting, and Sherlock would suffer cruelly at the hands of other children. Rather, I imagine them being home schooled, and, to a certain extent, educating themselves and each other in the library of their vast country home. Mycroft would spend weeks reading about the code breakers at Bletchley Park, while Sherlock memorised the periodic table and attempted to synthesise chemical compounds from the contents of the larder - with no strict syllabus to direct and divide their learning, their bizarre passions are permitted to take root and blossom. 

I don’t really know to be honest, I just have an image of two lonely boys, lonely together, clattering around the library of their ancestral home, pulling books from the shelves, searching for knowledge.

  1. okayholmesandwatson reblogged this from ibelieveinmycroft
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  6. solrosan reblogged this from ibelieveinmycroft and added:
    A wonderful and interesting alternative to the Holmes Brothers’ education that I can totally see.
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  8. asofterapocalypse said: my head canon is that they where tutored at home/home schooled/taught each other until Mycroft went to Oxford. At which point Sherlock was sent to boarding school. Thus started a dark time in both of their lives.
  9. abidos reblogged this from ibelieveinmycroft and added:
    Thanks for the post, it isn’t easy to find clear information on the British education system. It never occurred to me to...
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  18. dashcommaslash said: just like flavia de luce and her sisters—a very convincing 50s femlock universe
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