Home schooling – my worst nightmare

 
Juggling a part-time job, a teething one-year-old, a boisterous five-year-old and a partner working from home – Suzanne shares her tips for facing the new normal. 

 
“We’re closing all schools” said the government. 
OK. 
 
“We don’t know when we’ll open them again” said the government. 
Hmmm OK. 
 
Last week, life as we know it unravelled.  We all had a moment when we realised that the situation was serious and was going to have a massive impact on us.  Watching Boris’s daily updates became a national pastime.  We all wondered what the big change of the day was going to be and how we’d adjust and cope. 
 
So, I was facing home schooling – my worst nightmare. To say the idea has never appealed is an understatement: I’ve never understood families who decided to do it by choice.  I doubted my skills and certainly didn’t have the patience.  My son thought it was great: “There’s no more school Mummy!” “Oh yes there is! It’s just Mummy is the head teacher now!”  Yep have a think about that one buddy…we were all going to suffer.  My little buddy had been coming home from school and sharing Coronavirus facts with me: “children are usually OK Mummy but old people like Nana can be very poorly”. He seemed quite unfazed and it was reassuring that his school was doing such a great job. 
 
No sooner had the announcement been made there was a flurry of info, posts and ideas of things to do to keep your children meaningfully occupied and also educated!  How long was this going to last?  My email, newsfeed, WhatsApp groups, conversations with family and friends with kids.  Even friends without kids, had something to share.  It was overwhelming. I had the intention to keep note of them but I didn’t.  It was impossible to keep up.   
 
Then I saw something that said how stressful this situation was for children. They didn’t need lessons, they needed reassurance, cuddles.  Doing activities was important.  Reading together whilst hugging them close was wonderful.  I’m hanging on to this idea.  If we get some schoolwork done too, that’s a bonus. 
 
It felt like life was about to get busy and required some careful planning to cope with all the juggling.  My partner and I both work, we had the home schooling challenge to crack and a baby to look after (who decided that now was the time to catch a cold and cut some new teeth, oh and nursery was closing too – challenge accepted!).  
 
So, a few days in and we have a long way to go, this is what we are trying to do: 
 
Stick to a routine  
We all get up and get ready as if we were going to leave home for a normal day. 
We are making the most of special family time, meals together around the table help to punctuate the day. 

We’re sticking to normal bedtimes and bedtime routine – with two parents at home we’ve found this much easier to do. 
 
Keep moving  
The whole family does PE online with local talent, Joe Wicks, of The Body Coach fame.  It’s much easier to get my son ready for at-home PE than fully assembled for the usual walk to school. 
My son has break times and plays outside in the garden. 
We use the one outing a day – we’ve played badminton and football in the park and been on a rainbow spotting walk: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-51988671   
 
Set up zones
Psychologists recommend a separate working and living area.  We have two workstations, a nook for reading (ok this is just a pile of cushions) and after we eat, the kitchen table becomes a school desk. 
We’re keeping the home as clean and tidy as we can.  Not just to combat Coronavirus germs but to avoid cabin fever and make the experience as pleasant as possible. 
 
Use free resources – there’s more being made available everyday 
Variety is the spice of life and keeps us interested.  This is great for learning and stressed out parents who need all the help they can get.  
We are using the online tools from school and elsewhere. 
We are keeping in touch with friends on video calls: this keeps my son connected and motivated knowing what his friends are up to.  
 
We should all be keeping a check on our mental health right now.  It will take time to adjust to what ‘hopefully won’t last that long’.  Do your best without stressing about it or keeping up with the Brainiacs in the class.  If you or your child need to take a break – take one.  I’ve taken loads already! 

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