From what I am hearing, five days into an unplanned project to home school the nation, it seems to going better than anyone could have imagined, but there are many, very real, challenges as we walk into these uncharted waters.
Over this last week I have been recalling a time in our family’s life when we were in a totally new world, isolated from everyone we knew, living in an apartment that we later measured and discovered was only 75m square. We were together 24/7, and as parents we were fully responsible for the education of our 3 children, who at the time were 9, 11 and 13.
We were no experts then and are still not now, but as a family we still like each other and learnt a few things through our experience which may help you now.
I have wracked my brain for some things that helped us and which may help you. Take the ideas that you think could work for you and ignore the rest.
- Involve your children in decisions that affect them – you’re all in this together and their perspective can be helpful and is often insightful.
- Read, read, read. Read to your children, read with your children and have them read to you. Expand your reading your beyond your usual genres, borrow books from friends, read fiction and non-fiction, but read, read, read.
- Be the most encouraging person in your child’s life. Let’s face it, their world has just got really small too. They aren’t seeing their friends, many things are uncertain, they may be grieving the things that they have lost, and your words of encouragement are needed more than ever.
- Don’t try to be your child/teen’s teacher. They have teachers and they don’t need an extra one who lives with them! Instead be the ones who provide the general structure to the day (start time, drink and snack at break, lunch, after school cuppa etc) and let them grow into their new routines.
- If your child gets into something new at this time, encourage them go with it. They willl learn valuable skills as they research what they are interested in and are more likely to enjoy what they are learning. In those days for us it was British History, and today the same child is learning to juggle.
- Work with them to make a timetable which fits their school schedule and don’t micro-manage their work load. We discovered that even quite small children can manage their own school work with guidance, and most become very effective self-learners within a matter of weeks. This won’t happen overnight, but keeping our mouths shut whilst they work it out will pay dividends for years and years to come.
- You are all at home now, therefore you are all making more mess, using the toilet more and eating all your meals at home. That is a LOT of clearing and cleaning. Sharing out meal preparation, cleaning and tidying is a must for harmonious living in lock-down. There are lots of ways to do this; tidy up time every day – all hands on deck with loud music is one way, making a rota is another. Decide together and encourage each other to stick it. Review it in a week and make adjustments according to what works for your family, but don’t leave it to one person – that’s just not kind.
- Respect the needs of your child for alone time or time away from the rest of the family. Introverts find it hard to be around people all the time and need time to re-charge. We often found our introvert in the wardrobe playing with her playmobil and knew we needed to leave her there until she was ready to come out! Our son said 2 hour bike rides were the key to his sanity.
- Make meal times an occasion, especially the main meal of the day. Take your time, play board games or card games at the table afterwards – you’ve got no-where else to go and this is precious family time that we can endure or enjoy, the choice is all ours.
- Good enough IS good enough. Be kind to yourself
None of this is rocket science, and it is certainly not intended to be expert parenting guidance, but hopefully there is something here from our experience of home school life that will help you in this time (I bet you never thought you would have a ‘home school life’ – crazy days!).