When the government announced that schools would be closing on Friday March 20 I remember breathing a sigh of relief while dread and horror also crept over me. As much as I knew school closures were needed to try and slow the spread of Covid-19 the thought of being stuck at home with my three children while having to work was also quite terrifying.
We are now two weeks into this new reality and every day is a challenge. My husband and I are incredibly lucky to both be able to work from the safety of home – a privilege our key workers who are keeping the country running right now are not so lucky to have. We are learning to live on top of each other 24/7, attempting to home educate our children and also work. I don’t think the tremendous pressure put on families right now can be realised by those not living this actuality.
We can’t become teachers overnight
Our children are 11, nine and six years old – year six, year four and year one of primary school. Our eldest son has autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other spectrum issues like sensory processing difficulties and our younger two sons both have ADHD. To say our house is lively is an understatement. None of their educational needs are the same and many of them no parent is qualified to meet. We simply cannot all suddenly become teachers overnight. I will admit that the first weekend I lost sleep stressing about how we would home educate and work at the same time. Quite trivial worries when you think about the bigger picture but it is easy to obsess over the smaller details.
Not humanly possible
The truth is it is not humanly possible to home educate your children and also work. When our first home school day came we were already completely overwhelmed by the amount of work their teachers had sent through learning apps like Class Dojo and Purple Mash. After starting out with the best intentions of home baking, growing our own fruit and veg and painting rainbow murals it quickly hit me that nobody knows how long things will be like this and for me, if we are to survive with everyone’s mental health intact, adjustments must be made to keep things realistic.
By day two the boys were just changing their avatars on Purple Mash and our eldest had snuck back up to his room and was watching YouTube in bed. He told us that he no longer wanted to participate in home school and that we didn’t know enough to teach him anyway. I hate to admit that he was right. We subscribed to Disney + and let them watch endless episodes of Clone Wars while we worked. They gave up on Joe Wicks’ PE and instead took up hitting each other with lightsabres on the trampoline. At least they were getting fresh air and making use of the garden that they’re very lucky to have.
I have already had emails from two of my children’s teachers asking if we are ok as we haven’t submitted much work through the apps our school uses. I’ve been very honest about how we are coping and the school have been supportive and assured us that work they set is not compulsory. Like hundreds of families we are worried about money and the future, we have taken a mortgage holiday and that alone will not see us through this. We are also trying to manage our children’s anxiety over the situation, adjust to no longer having the support network of family and the stress of family member’s ill health and their vulnerability.
We are all just muddling through
Above all I just try to remind myself that no one is doing a better job of working and home educating at the same time than I am. We are all just muddling through and if my children spend an entire afternoon in front of a screen so that I can meet a deadline then that is what has to happen. You are doing your best and that is enough.
Some resources we have been relying on
Twinkl – a home learning hub with lots of free resources for parents. This is for primary aged children. If your printer is up to it you can print off lots of free worksheets. These have kept my six year old busy for hours.
BBC Bitesize – offers online daily lessons for children age 3-11.
Joe Wicks pe – the body coach is doing free half hour pe lessons for kids on his YouTube channel at 09.00 each weekday morning. Hundreds of thousands of families have joined in around the world and he donated the increased revenue from advertising to our NHS. What a hero!
Andy’s wild workouts – for younger kids Andy Day does a shorter and easier workout. Each episode is about six minutes long and they’re available on BBCiplayer and YouTube.
Cosmic kids yoga – another online workout aimed at quite young children and available on YouTube.
Zoom – we downloaded Zoom so that we could keep in touch with extended family and friends. But yesterday our middle son had a Zoom online birthday party for a school classmate. We have found it works better on a laptop or desktop than a phone or tablet as you can see more people on screen that way.
Virtual museum and zoo tours – – I read that over 2500 museums and galleries around the world are doing online tours and exhibits. You can also explore Buckingham Palace, Edinburgh Castle and even the surface of Mars! Lots of zoos are also doing virtual experiences. Chester zoo was one of the first to open its virtual doors.
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Written by Jody Whitehill