An antidote to homeschooling (because wellbeing matters more)

Homeschooling advice during COVID-19 coronavirus school closures.
Image by www_slon_pics from Pixabay

I actually thought I would be ok when the schools closed. But I am not. Despite starting with pretty low expectations (I’ve learnt over the years that anything else tends to lead to disappointment and tears on both sides), it was still a shocker and harder than I could have imagined: 

  1. Getting up early to work wasn’t enough and staying up late to catch up wasn’t feasible. 
  2. The majority of independent activities ended up not being very independent at all. 
  3. I was interrupted about 1,045 times an hour with questions, snack requests, sibling fall-outs and, once, to be told what the inside of a brick looked like. 
  4. I was ill, only mildly, but enough to put us in self-isolation as per coronavirus guidelines so there really was no escape from the house… or each other.

Yet my children’s schools, which include secondary, primary and preschool, are not overwhelming us with the national curriculum. They’re trying to pitch the home learning at an achievable level and actively encourage downtime, other activities and doing what we need to do to survive. They’ve been brilliant, in what must be such a hugely tough and stressful time for them. How they’re juggling everything they are, from staying connected with kids to planning to caring for the kids they have in school–all during the coronavirus chaos–is beyond the comprehension of my tiny overloaded mind.

So this weekend, when I felt a gnawing ball of dread in my chest about the ‘school week’ ahead, I tried to work out where it was coming from. The actual school stuff wasn’t really a big part of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a huge and often impossible juggle around work, and I’m genuinely not equipped for secondary science or maths. I wasn’t when I was 13 and I’m certainly not now I’m 39. 

But here’s a simple fraction I did work out all by myself *pauses for applause*
My weird, gnawing ball of dread about home educating was:

  • ¼ managing the actual school work around work and other essential tasks.
  • ¼ the kids fighting (Have lost count of how many times I’ve yelled, ‘Just don’t even speak to each other then!’ in the last week.)
  • ½  My phone.

My phone..? What the..? How is that..? What’s that..? WhatsApp?? Hmmm. I see.

I already used my phone too much, as many of us do. Checking work email, answering messages when in the middle of something else, losing five minutes of my life scrolling unnecessarily instead of being productive or relaxing. We can probably all relate.

But since the COVID-19 outbreak has become so real in terms of how it’s impacting our lives, I’ve been on it so much more. As well as reading the news 100% more than I used to and making extra phone calls to my mum, my WhatsApp has practically exploded with:

  • New groups set-up between different friends.
  • Extra messages to/from existing groups.
  • Discussing school stuff on various WhatsApp mum groups with shared resources and ideas GALORE.
  • Community help messaging and information groups.

It all comes from a good place and, alone, each group is helpful. But put together it’s completely overwhelming. I get a lot of the same links from different groups, a thousand showers of useful/inspiring/scary/depressing/panicky messages from people I barely know or don’t know at all, ranging from government updates and local opinions to admirable achievements in art, Lego and den building. 

It’s just too much. With bells on. (Or whatever alert you have for your notifications.)

So with this in mind, I’m sharing a few resounding NON-resources, which pivot away completely from prescribed learning and focus on wellbeing or good old reality.

There isn’t one helpful learning idea in sight. They won’t tell you how to make an Elmer out of a milk carton or list inventive ways to combine gardening with phonics. 

I’m not even collating this to be funny, although some of the following ‘resources’ undoubtedly are. I’m doing it because I think we need an antidote to the overwhelming mountain of advice and learning resources hitting us every which way. 

Have a read, take a breather and realise you don’t need to do more, you need to do less. 

First up, by Katie Kirby at Hurrah for Gin – hurrah for this brilliant and important message.

This one’s a little wordy but worth a full read if you have time (hahaha). Shared by a headteacher, from a headteacher, here’s a taster:

“…This is not homeschooling. This is an unprecedented emergency situation impacting on the whole world. Let’s keep perspective. Homeschooling is a choice, where you considered, you plan for it and you are your child’s school teacher in whatever form you choose. This is, at best, distance learning. In reality, it’s everyone trying to separate their bums from their elbows, because none of us know what we’re doing and what’s right and wrong here…”

If you haven’t watched this yet you totally should, and if you have already seen it you should watch it again as, 10 or so days in, you’re going to relate to it even more. ‘Let me just pull out my clarinet’ – wonderful.

Finally, while this isn’t specific to coronavirus and the school closures, it IS utterly relevant for now and also for the future. In fact, I might just make it my new life mantra. Thanks, the wise Emily Jane Clark.

If you want more ideas for learning, exercise or play, you can undoubtedly take your pick from the billions of options out there, but you don’t need to fill your days with supervised, structured or prescribed activities. In fact, I’d go as far as to say you shouldn’t.

Many of us still have to work, and if you’re not working, there’s so much other stuff to do and often other kids of different ages and needs to tend to. Most schools aren’t expecting us to recreate the classroom at home. If that were possible with minimal planning or training then teaching wouldn’t be the highly skilled profession it clearly is. 

The days are busy, the world is in turmoil and life is just, well, weird.

None of us will benefit additional pressures or to-dos. With the non-essentials, I’m now asking myself, ‘Who am I trying to please?’ And if it isn’t me or my family, or helping the world, I realise I’m getting it wrong.

But it’s ok, I know now I can stop, and so can you.

It’s a tough time, so just try to take care, of yourselves as well as the kids.

If you have any amazing homeschool non-resources to share, hit me up and I’ll add them.

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