Learning, Lockdown and Lunacy
- October 15, 2020
- Posted by: Dan
- Category: Uncategorized
I started out with grand ideas. Did you have them too? Grand ideas about what home schooling your children would look like in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown.
I can remember picking up my youngest son, on a Friday afternoon, from school, with his home learning pack tucked firmly under his arm. As we sat in the car, ready to go home, tears rolled down his face. He was distraught at the thought of not going to school for the foreseeable future. To him, I think, it seemed as though he would never return to school again. His world had just fallen apart. Everything that was familiar had been put on hold indefinitely. He would not get to see his friends every day to play with them, share jokes and act out their favourite adventures created by their ample imaginations. Nine-year olds are incredibly creative you know! Many a playtime is spent in an imaginary world influenced by their favourite PS4 game or Vlogger that they have seen on You Tube. He was so sad, despite our efforts to convince him that it would not be for long. Truth be known, we had no idea as to how long the lock down would last. We still have no idea.
Back in September, at the start of Year 5, he had refused to go to school because he had found the transition into a new year group with a new teacher such a challenge, so his response on this particular day was surprising but yet understandable. You would think he would have been skipping with joy out of the school gates that day, hearing that schools were going to close, but no. Despite his anxiety, I know that, although he probably would not often admit it, he loves going to school and loves learning! I can remember his Year 4 teaching commenting in his report that he soaked up information in books like a sponge. He has a real passion for non-fiction. He goes through phases of fascination with certain topics. For example, we had a dinosaur phase where he lived and breathed dinosaurs, another was Minecraft, another was cars and he had even had a fascination with Geography topics like maps and population statistics. One day he had created bar charts to show the population figures in different countries around the world on Purple Mash, a programme they use at school. We had discussions about which countries had the largest populations and he would create drawings of global maps named with countries that he had invented.
However, I knew that for a child who finds it difficult to cope with change that this was new way of living, albeit temporary, was going to be a challenge.
We find that, generally, during the week when he has had quite a strict routine and bedtime, that he is less anxious, but as soon as we hit the weekend or a school holiday, his behaviour changes because he is out of routine. He does not seem to cope very well when daily life is a bit more relaxed. I believe that he has even been known to question his teacher if she does not stick rigidly to the class timetable for that day. I guess he just feels more secure within himself when he knows what to expect. You might, by now, be asking yourself whether this young man being described is on the Autistic Spectrum? Well, I know that some people have met him and automatically assumed that he is, and he might well be, but he has not, to date, had an official diagnosis. The reason for that being that he is, despite his anxieties, making good progress at school and copes with life at school overall. His school refusal, back in September, was a blip in an otherwise positive school career. However, his anxiety has always been there in the background like a dark shadow. I had been told by my GP back in September that he would need to be exhibiting ‘autistic’ behaviour at home and school to warrant a diagnosis. If I am honest, I have been reluctant for him to be given a label. If he’s been struggling at school and not making progress, I might be tempted to see things differently but he is a bright young man who, if anything, just lacks confidence but over the years that has grown and is continuing to grow.
Back to the topic of my blog post and my grand ideas! As I was saying, I had grand ideas about what home learning during lockdown would look like. I am sure that you have had them too. Up and ready by 8am to start school work, finished by lunch time, quality family time in the afternoon (maybe out for a walk, playing a game or doing a craft activity?), have a nice time chatting over a family dinner and then kids to bed and then… relax! I laughed at myself whilst typing the last sentence. I think we might have achieved that over the first two or three days of lockdown, whilst it was still a novelty and then everything went rather …. well I am not sure what adjective to use to describe it!
We started to forget what day of the week it was.
One day blurred into another.
We began to feel less than enthusiastic about being up and ready by 8am. Maybe 9am or 10 am or even later. Maybe we will just stay in our pyjamas until lunchtime!
Procrastination set in.
Even the dog was out of routine because he is not used to us all being at home all day, so he was not getting the space that he needed either. He took to being awake and barking at 3am! When my husband or I would sleepily stagger down the stairs to see what he wanted, he would grab his ball as soon as we let him out of his crate, thinking it was playtime! He was told in no uncertain terms that it was most definitely NOT playtime! Then we started to lose sleep and so then wanted to sleep in of a morning to make up for it.
Now throw into the mix a teenage daughter studying GCSE courses and an older son, who was until recently, studying at college and we are outnumbered by children, all with completely different educational needs. Also throw into the mix that I am an experienced teacher in the early stages of developing a tutoring business whilst tutoring SEMH students alongside my private tuition work. My brain hurts just thinking about what we are trying to accomplish on a day-to-day basis. Amidst this my husband is also in the early stages of developing an online business too, after working as a professional driver over the last three years. So during an average day we are trying to home school three children of different ages and at different levels, do our own work (the work that earns a living) and find some time to build two businesses and also some time to relax and have fun with the family. Some days that might only include walking the dog! I will be honest some days are good, and we feel a sense of achievement but most of the time I feel like I am just chasing my tail! The days have become long. Determined to get some ‘me time’ at the end of the day, I can go to sleep at well past midnight just out of sheer stubbornness! I will finish watching Homeland on Netflix! (She mutters with utter determination).
Come back ‘normal routine’! All is forgiven!
Despite the ‘lunacy’, I must give praise where it is due….
Our children’s schools have been impressive in the way they have dealt with the lockdown. My youngest came home with a huge pack of work on that fateful Friday and since then the primary school have set up daily lessons in English, Maths and Reading on Google Classroom. My youngest son receives regular feedback on his work and suggestions about how he can improve. We have even had a few phone calls home to find out how he is coping, which is very thoughtful. My teenage daughter has had copious amounts of work set daily by her secondary school in all subjects via Microsoft Teams. If I am honest, it is almost too much for her to get through in a day of home schooling without causing stress.
My oldest son’s life has not really changed that much! He still gets to have a lie in on his ‘official’ college days off. He still gets to spend a good chunk of the day gaming online with his college friends. The only real change for him is that the structure of his sixth form course has had to change because of the lockdown and he has regular online meetings with his tutors from college. He will now have a project to work on over the summer holiday to ensure he progresses onto the second year of his course in Creative Media.
It is great that there has been such a range of online educational resources made available to students of all ages that are free. My youngest son has quite enjoyed being able to do his maths work online using a graphics tablet to write his answers onto the screen. Though I accept that not all families have access to much more than a mobile phone. He has also enjoyed watching videos related to his learning and completing online quizzes and activities. This week so far, we have watched videos about alliteration and how to write a newspaper article. We have also watched Dick and Dom talk about Roald Dahl’s book ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’. These resources have been provided on the BBC Bitesize website (https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/dailylessons). My daughter been keeping me on my toes, even as a teacher, testing my knowledge of simultaneous equations and a study of Macbeth!
So, what I have I learnt from this lockdown lunacy so far? Firstly, I would say that just because I am a teacher, it does not necessarily follow that teaching your own children at home is easy. My youngest is frequently distracted by our dog, Buster, and my teenage daughter distracted by the frequent amounts of Snapchats and Instagram messages that arrive on her phone throughout the day! I have concluded that sometimes it is much easier to teach other people’s children. However, that said, it has been wonderful to spend more time with them and help them in their learning and to get a glimpse of how they go about their schoolwork and solving problems.
Secondly, I have resolved that you cannot always stick to a rigid routine. They are not at school; they are at home and life at home is different to life at school. Therefore, it is ok to have an off day or to have a day off. The work will still be there tomorrow. Teachers understand that we are in difficult times. They understand because they too are trying to make the best of a challenging situation. They too may also be teaching key workers children and trying to educate their own children at home, on a shift basis.
I have concluded that the best strategy is to be kind. Be kind to your children and be kind to yourself! Some days we just need to breathe and look forward to the day when life returns to normal. We need to safeguard our own mental health and that of our children. It is more important for them to feel loved and to feel safe because in these conditions our children can be themselves and continue to grow and thrive.
Stay safe.Alison @ Jurassic Coast Tutors