What a week – I feel like we are in some sort of alternate reality right now. It’s the end of the first week of schools closing to the majority of children and I’m now finding myself with a few thoughts on this matter. Through having 3 children (with big age gaps) and a business in the nursery industry, I’ve seen so much on this subject over the past 7 days. Since starting Nana’s Manners I haven’t taught in school so am a few years out the saddle, but much like riding a bike, it never really leaves you and I have many friends still in the profession. From them I’ve heard first hand how this situation is unfolding. I’ve written this post quickly without the normal editing time, so please excuse any typos and imperfect grammar – I feel it’s more important just to get it out. All views here are obviously my own based on my knowledge and experiences and others may disagree, but here I go…
We are in a completely unanticipated and unprecedented (-that word’s been used a lot) situation. No one saw this coming. This situation started to impact us as a business after Chinese New Year (our factory is there) but naïve as it sounds with hindsight, I never really considered the possible impact that would follow here in the U.K.
This situation has impacted every single person. I cannot think of any other incident in my lifetime that comes close. At a moment’s notice, all our lives have drastically changed.
Many of us are under HUGE pressure right now – our jobs, livelihoods and businesses have had the rugs pulled out from under them. Many of us are just trying to figure out how to survive this.
And our children are now at home. Those who are key workers may have their children still at school, though there’s a whole other level of anxiety there.
I have seen many posts and threads regarding ‘Home Schooling’ with tips and ideas, most extremely useful. I have however seen many posts and comments from parents that are struggling with the whole situation and unsure of what they should be doing. My thoughts here are as follows;
You are not ‘Home Schooling’ your child. Home Schooling is an option, taken up by statistically few parents after much thought, consideration, planning, home and routine set up. This is an emergency situation. We have not had time to plan as parents. Schools have not had time to plan as educators. We are all in the deep end here. ‘Learning at home’ is the best we can hope for right now.
Children are always learning. When they are at home they are learning, therefore they are (and always have been) ‘learning at home’.
Various teachers I have spoken to were told to ‘plan work’ ‘pull remote resources together’, ‘print out work packs’ and /or to ‘plan lessons as they would normally and send them home’. The last point in particular I cannot get my head round in the slightest. A three year teaching degree gave me the confidence to plan, teach and assess in this way, I don’t know why this situation would suddenly change that and someone who has always worked in a completely different industry would suddenly be able to pick up where a teacher has left off.
The headlines tell us ‘Schools are Shut’. Schools are very much open. They are teaching and nurturing the children of nurses, doctors, supermarket employees and many other key workers, people who are risking their health every day to keep us going. Teachers are ensuring vulnerable children are looked after as best they can. Teachers are arranging for children on free school meals to still receive that one (more essential than ever) meal a day. Teachers are still uploading links for remote learning. Teachers are working harder than ever.
If your children are at home, then you are most probably working from home. A primary school aged children cannot sit and teach themselves. I doubt many secondary school children can either to any great extent. There is a reason that study isn’t self directed until 16yrs +. This situation doesn’t change that fact.
If you are working, you cannot teach your child at the same time. It is not possible. I’m sure many teachers would be running their second (lucrative) job alongside their timetable if this were the case (– I certainly would have!) We are all doing our best right now, but we cannot morph ourselves into 2 people.
Your work is important right now, more so than ever. Pressurising yourself that you should be acting like a qualified teacher at the same time is not helpful to anyone right now. Prioritising your work does not make you any less of a parent. We all need to survive and get through this.
Lots of learning takes place outside of structured lessons in school, perhaps the most important of which involves social interaction. Your child has gone from being in a class of 30 to working in solitary. It’s a shock for them and they will miss their peers in ways they don’t even realise themselves. They need us to help them here. Don’t feel that in the time you’re not working you need to teach a structured lesson. You can bake a cake, chat over a book or board game, talk about their favourite programme, play in the garden if you’re lucky enough to have one. Just enjoy the company of each other and be the social interaction you both need.
Cooking together is great – a lot of Maths takes place in the kitchen.
Your school has probably sent out lots of work – links to websites, printed sheets, daily online lessons. THEY DO NOT EXPECT YOU TO DO ALL OF THIS. Teachers had approximately 0.5 seconds to throw a plan together and get something out. They don’t have time for feedback. Many will have put a load of stuff out to cater for everyone in different home situations. I doubt this work will ever get looked out – schools will have enough on their plate when they reopen. Take as much or as little of it as your family needs.
Most of us are in class Whatsapp groups of some description. Janet in the group may be checking how to download the 3rd worksheet of the day at 10:30am. Janet may be suggesting 8 new websites we can all look at. Thank you Janet. We are not all Janet. Janet’s child will not have an advantage over yours when we return to school. What’s right for your child may not be what works for Janet.
All this work will be covered again when they return to school. They will not miss out on anything. Think of it as revision.
You will get frustrated. If you find yourself getting too frustrated walk away – it’s not worth it. Talk about it again when you are ready.
Timetables are great and having some sort of structure to the day often makes the day pass more easily. In my experience, it’s taken this first week to get ours almost ‘right’. Timetabling every minute of the day doesn’t work for my 9yr old, but starting the day with Joe Wick’s P.E. at 9am followed by an outdoor 30 mins play with his sister sets him up for some work at 10am.
Every family has a different set of circumstances and ages to juggle – don’t compare what works for yours to anyone else’s. In our house, we seem to be slowly finding a natural routine incorporating my need to work, the baby’s nap and our 17yr old’s online college work is starting to emerge. Here’s to hoping this continues…
I do think bedtimes are important though. The routine here reassures everyone and keeps us in touch with normality. Reward systems are really helpful too.
It’s hard to know how much to talk to children about the situation the world is in right now. There’s an old saying ‘if children ask the question, they are ready for the answer’ which probably applies here. CBBC’s Newsround is a great source of content. Children need our reassurance more than any facts or figures – trust that you know what your child needs to hear the most.
I have read in a few posts; “Children will not remember what they did in this period of time, but they will remember how they felt…” I’m trying to keep that at the forefront of my mind.
Everyone will have a meltdown at some point, we’re just hoping we can spread ours out and take it in turns…
One thing I am scheduling into my timetable and sticking to is some time for myself. A bath, a glass of wine, a cup of uninterrupted tea, a face pack – whatever works for you that day. Our mental health is more important than ever.
You are doing the best you can do. You really are. That is enough. Let’s all support and love each other as much as we can!
We all need to be listening carefully to our amazing NHS and other experts right now, but if there’s one bit of advice we can all safely ignore, it’s Paediatrician’s recommended screen times for children…
Look after yourselves and each other. See you on the other side!