Lisa, Mum of 4, Wells
When I was asked to write this article by a friend, at first, I was debating in which way they would like to have my account; all smiles and roses or all the nitty gritty of my family who we are home schooling in this pandemic. It wasn’t until my husband said to me “You should feel proud of yourself as a mum to be asked to write of your experience and that people would trust you to write something for the community” and that has inspired me to be honest about the experience but in an eye-opening way for the people of Wells who are not aware of what it is like to have children at home at this time.
A quick background to my family: I am 34 and married with four children (8, 5, 2 and 11 month olds, two girls and two boys). The pandemic has hit us as a family quite hard, I was heavily pregnant when the news broke out and we went into lockdown as a country a week after our baby was born and as we are a family of six, when we finally came out of lockdown #1 we struggled to be able to meet with family and friends having to break up our family if we wanted to do so.
So, we are currently in lockdown #3 and we are home schooling our 8 and 5 year olds as well as caring and playing with the 2 year and 11 month olds. I was furloughed from work, so we are unable to send our children to school as we do not meet the criteria. My husband is a teacher and is working in between school, home and preparing and presenting lessons from home whilst we are all in the house (his poor students!).
The difference between the expectations of the 8 and 5 year old in terms of the amount of work to be completed is amazing, the government outlined that the 5 year old should be doing roughly two hours of work a day and the 8 year old should be doing around four. The curriculum that the children are learning today is very different to the days of our own schooling involving Ginn mathematics books, Annie Apple, Dippy Duck and British bulldog in the playground.
Today’s curriculum consists of phonics (letter sounds and blends), knowing all about prefixes and suffixes, as well as arrays (multiplications) and part whole models in maths. If you feel lost, I am too, don’t worry, I am learning with the children and trying to piece together in my head as I go along. Ultimately our view is that we get done what we can, but we also want to make sure that our children are happy, mentally healthy by trying to get out of the house once a day for a walk and doing activities that help them to get through this isolation from their friends and family whom they really miss.
There are definitely some cons to homeschooling but I am sure you can all imagine these (my kitchen cupboards all need locks, the TV is another parent at times, sheer exhaustion due to 24/7 care of the children), but I am choosing not to dwell too much on these and try to find the positives that I can take from this home schooling experience, so here goes. Realising how much your children must do in school time, the vast curriculum and knowledge that is covered and why when they get home all they want is the comfort and down time. That I want to give teachers a pay rise for their role, there is no way I would want to homeschool again, and teachers are saints for what they can get out of children in terms of learning.
Lastly, this experience will never (well I truly hope) happen again and we will never have so much time with our children as we have had in this last year.
If there is one message I can send out to the community for these strange times we are living in, if you see any families or parents with a child, remind them that they are doing a great job, notice something from the interactions that you see and give a positive comment. Let them know you see them, you notice their efforts and that will be something that could give them strength to get through the rest of their day, a lift to make them smile or even break their thoughts of doubt for that day as things may have not gone to plan so far behind the scenes.
Parents may be key workers, furloughed, lost their job, be self-employed and unable to work due to restrictions, there may be money worries, concerns of family they cannot see, special needs children and all of this whilst trying to be a teacher, caring for their children 24/7 and also trying to work from home as well. We have had a couple of comments from people which have just reminded us that we are trying, we are surviving and maybe even doing OK, so thank you to those people, you have made a difference.