With schools closed, here's my experience trying to teach my four-year-old at home
Mum of two, bar manager, lover of tequila.
I've only completed one half term of homeschooling because my little boy, who turned four last July, only started school in September. I was not prepared; possibly because I am naive, or wasn't paying attention. Another possibility is because the government repeatedly informed parents that schools would stay open.
Anyway, here's what I've learnt so far…
Always have alcohol in the fridge
Yes – it is stressful, and you lose your patience, often feeling bad for shouting, or not being better at this. Yes – you probably shouldn't use a large glass of wine to chill out at the end of the day, but my god, we've earned it. We can address our drinking habits later, ok?
Teachers are heroes
I always knew teachers were awesome, and had massive respect for the. This experience has highlighted how wonderful teachers are. When I heard the schools were closing, I had no idea what I was going to do the next morning. I felt completely lost. Frank's school took the day to prepare, and since then, every school day we've had three video lessons. Each with a carefully picked activity, a video story time, weekly class video assemblies, additional learning resources if needed, and they even managed to post about mental health and physical well-being.
I am in awe. Frank's teacher comments on every single piece of work we submit. I sometimes see she's looked at his work well into the evening, way beyond normal working hours. The video lessons are upbeat and well thought out. I can't put into words how grateful I am, or what a fantastic job they've done.
Its OK to think schools should close, and also despair when they do
I was pretty devastated that Frank would miss school. Not because I doubt my abilities as a "teacher," but because I felt it was the right thing to do. Those two feelings are not mutually exclusive; the priority has to be the welfare of the community, the school staff, and the children. I wish the decision had been made earlier; sending them back in for one day, only to keep them home seems so confusing and almost cruel.
There will be good moments
Sometimes Frank will try his best, or something he couldn't grasp before it suddenly clicks. Its wonderful to see a spark, or hear him say, "I did it!". When this happens, you have to enjoy that moment, because so much of it will feel like you're swimming upstream. But if you think back to that moment, it will get you through times where you want to scream into a cushion. They ARE learning. Its not ideal, but look how far they've come.
Perhaps this experience will help you be a better parent, albeit one with a borderline drinking problem.
This too shall pass
One day we'll look back at this time with our kids at home and think it was wonderful. Well, maybe not – but it is extra time with them that we might remember fondly one day, or laugh about. We'll probably forget hiding in the toilet to cry, and think back on the kids wearing fancy dress for phonics lessons, or laugh about the Google classroom freezing while the teacher made a funny face.
There is an end in sight. This isn't forever.
If in doubt – take a break
How many snacks do Reception kids have a day? Because Frank claims its five. Five snacks a day. I don't think that is true – but it probably is accurate for homeschool. I personally can't follow the routine of a school day because I have a toddler to take care of too, and crucially – this isn't school.
Naturally, the day doesn't run the same. More snacks, way more screen time during breaks. I have found if things are really tough, if you feel like you can't do it anymore and you find yourself shouting – stop. Down the pencils, tuck the laptop away, and go for a walk. My mood, my whole day, seems to lift if we can just run about in the woods for a bit, or splash in a few puddles.
Take that time to reset and regroup. If your break is a cuppa whilst the kids stare at a screen, that's fine too. Especially with younger kids, little and often seems to work better. We can't do any good if we are on the edge; so take a break.
Its OK if the school work is challenging…for the adults
I can totally imagine that parents of older kids might get a bit stuck on long division, or have to Google certain historical facts. But my kid is in reception, I really shouldn't be confused by his work! It's a bit worrying to be honest. But it is hard to get your head around phonics... and I have a degree in English Literature. Frank's school wants him to spell everything phonetically for now, and it's quite hard not to correct him when his spelling is just plain wrong.
There's been a lot of changes since we were at school. It's OK to feel a bit out of your depth or confused. Even if the work is targeted at four and five year olds…
Remember there's wine
It won't be long before the kids will be asleep, and you can breathe, and have a glass of wine.
As half term finishes, and I look ahead at the prospect for another two weeks of homeschooling, I feel a small sense of dread. But I also feel more confident than I did at the beginning of the term. I've learned a bit about how my kid likes to learn, I've learned a lot about early year curriculum, and I've seen more of his teachers (via video) than I have all year.
I feel lucky I have the resources needed to do this (decent WiFi, laptop, printer), and I know he can learn at home.
We can do this.
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