Another 5 weeks of Homeschooling? Pass me the gin!
I don’t know about you but I am finding home schooling 2.0 way harder than the first time around (and it wasn’t easy then!). Looking back on it, home schooling in 2020 was a piece of cake in comparison to this. But why does this feel so tough?
I have to admit I’ve been avoiding the news for a few weeks. It doesn’t help my emotional wellbeing to hear the fear mongering and I can feel my faith in humanity being destroyed with every inflated headline. Even so, I’ve heard the rumblings and the rumours about Lockdown lasting beyond the middle of February. Now the date has been set as “8th March at the earliest” (whatever that means) it seems like an insurmountable task to get through this with everyone’s sanity in tact.
The general sense I get is that I’m not alone in finding this Lockdown harder than last year. But why? On reflection, there are a few key differences that make this time extra tough.
January is renowned for being a difficult month even in a good year, with miserable weather, financial hangovers from Christmas, the days feel short and the nights feel long and the promise of Summer holidays feels like a lifetime away. Add Lockdown and homeschooling into that and it’s a pretty dark and depressing time.
I’d (foolishly) imagined that shorter days would be beneficial when stuck at home with small children, forgetting that neither of my children actually sleep. Therefore, I simply spend more hours parenting in the dark.
If I thought that selling the daily walk in the Spring and Summer was tough, selling it during rain, wind and freezing temperatures has required greater depths of bribery. Some days, I’m not sure it’s even worth it as there is little chance of any Vitamin D and clearly no enjoyment for any of us.
The only exception was the snow. Thank you wonderful Mother Nature for snow on Sunday morning! I’ve never seen my girls get dressed so fast or seen them so keen to go for a walk. Getting them to come back inside was the challenge! There was a real shift of energy that seemed to lift us out of the monotony of Lockdown if only for a day or so.
The other factor in why this Lockdown feels harder is fatigue. We have been living with a global pandemic for almost a year now and in the UK, we have been in a state of semi lockdown for 10 months now so it’s not surprising the novelty has worn off. The constant anxiety of living through a pandemic is heavy and causes emotional fatigue whether we are aware of it or not.
On top of this is the feeling that although we have a vaccine, we have had so many false dawns where it looked possible that real life might resume to have them dashed before our eyes, that I think we all feel reluctant to feel optimistic. It feels easier to remain in this swamp of our current reality than to hope for changes and face the disappointment of them not happening.
Hope feels pretty flimsy right now especially if it is being offered by the Government or the media.
Finally, there is homeschooling. Where do I even start?!
I thought it was stressful last year. How naive was I? I know home schooling looks different for everyone but I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no ideal way to deliver online learning. Whether it’s live lessons, videos uploaded onto Seesaw or a combination of the two, children aren’t designed to learn in isolation. They need to collaborate and talk and share their ideas with actual real human beings, preferably outside their own family.
I felt under pressure to maintain some level of learning for my children during the last lockdown in spite of all the messages saying that our children’s emotional wellbeing was the most important thing, they will get the chance to catch up when they return to school, etc, etc. But it feels different this time.
The reality is, it is different this time. We know now that there will be no change to the expectations set by the National Curriculum (which are insane by the way! What 5 year old has any idea about using apostrophes for contractions?!) In addition to which, this time the curriculum hasn’t stopped. It charges on like some kind of runaway train, paying no heed to all the children desperately trying to hold on or simply flying off as it picks up speed while they are left standing on the platform watching it disappear into the distance. The pressure to keep up is on.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a criticism of our schools or teachers. Teachers are in an impossible situation. They were thrown into remote learning with less than 24 hours’ notice (thanks Boris!) and it’s not what they were trained for. Many are delivering live lessons on zoom while also teaching key worker children; others are pre recording lessons and then spending their day furiously trying to respond to every child’s learning as it is uploaded. It’s a tough gig and I’m guessing there is a fair amount of ‘feedback’ that comes from stressed out parents.
What works for one family, won’t work for another, so schools are stuck between a rock and a hard place, never able to keep everyone happy all the time. Who’d be a teacher, hey?
My one saving grace in this homeschooling shizzle is that I’m not trying to work full time at the same time. To anyone attempting this momentous feat, I salute you. I literally have no idea how you are doing it. I can imagine it’s similar to trying to swim through stormy seas with your clothes on, whilst dragging a dinghy full of children behind you requesting snacks, drinks or your undivided attention every 36 seconds. Staying float is hard enough but then every work call brings another wave of challenges; just keeping your head above water requires super human strength.
Juggling the timetable of two children and the occasional client is more than enough to make me feel like I’m sinking. That feeling of being spread too thinly creeping into almost every moment of the day. Motivation seeping away with every passing complaint of “this is boring!” or “I hate homeschool!” I’m not sure I can keep this up for another 5 days never mind another 5 weeks!
In essence, this week has been tough; for me and the girls. It all feels a bit relentless, overwhelm is rising and knowing that we aren’t even half way through…it feels fairly depressing. So there have been days when I’ve given them the space to enjoy what’s left of the snow (more like ice but they don’t seem to notice!) and be in the fresh air while they are keen rather than wade through videos about mountains. And at times, we’ve taken our foot off the homeschooling gas for the sake of all of our sanity.
And I’ve given myself permission to slow down and take the pressure off myself. I’ve done some meditation, called a friend for a chat and made some cupcakes (and flapjacks and brownies!) because I enjoy eating them. We all need moments like this especially if this particular variety of home-schooling-lockdown-groundhog-day is set to be our reality for the foreseeable future.