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Blog: The reality of home educating children

Overnight, I appear to have become teacher, childminder, full-time journalist, butler, referee, chef, counsellor and United Nations peacekeeper. Woah there COVID-19. I appreciate you have taken us all pretty much by shock here, but I don’t remember signing up for this? I have never pledged to be capable of any of the above (apart from full-time journalist) yet you have forced me, single-handedly, into this unprecedented situation where one must feel one’s own way.

We are on lockdown. That is me and my three children aged 8,6 and 2. Meanwhile I have a full time job to do and my parents, who would usually help out with babysitting, are out of bounds being in the 70ish region and us wanting to keep them isolated as much as possible.

So how do we do this?

First of all, I’ve said they have their Easter holiday early. They were due to start Easter holidays on 1 April, but in my opinion, there is no point starting a strict regime for them only to relax it 10 days later. It is going to be difficult enough as it is doing this from home, so we need to put 100% effort into it. So, they have two weeks doing ‘usual’ holiday stuff – although that’s difficult as we can’t go anywhere – but let’s say, less structure. Then I have my plan…

I’m creating timetables/schedules/plans including the online offering from our school for various year groups. Online PE classes a la Joe Wicks, online dance routines from Strictly’s Oti Mabuse and simple things like joining the rainbow crew and painting rainbows to place in our windows so people walking locally can count how many they see. I’m fortunate my parents are ex-teachers so I have history/maths/spelling exercises, a book shelf full of Julia Donaldson and David Walliams/Tom Gates and my parents are primed to do history and French lessons twice weekly with the kids on What’sApp video.

I’m going to talk to them about the importance of healthy eating, mental health, personal hygiene, kindness, self-love, exercising and in the main concentrate on reading and maths.

It’s no mean feat when you are already working full time but I’m doing flexi-hours, thankfully, and my children still need to learn. Plus, from what I’ve gathered from this non-learning period so far, structure is key. They are used to a structure at school and with me when they get in from school. It’s homework, tea, bath, play, bed. Without structure it’s a natural referral to devices and this is not good in the long term. I believe there is a place for electronic devices but not as a substitute for parenting and learning.

When we start home schooling, my first exercise for the kids will be to give them a letter, for example, B.

They have to work together to think of a fruit, vegetable, town, country, drink, cartoon character, place, colour, sport, something you might see in the garden, animal, girls’ name, boys’ name, something we can do now and something we can do when this is over - all beginning with B.

I’m sure there are many of you who can describe this exercise with a letter B, but remember I’m a novice at this. I’m teaching year 4, 1 and pre-pre-school here and never have I done this before.

I have no doubt there will be a newfound respect for teachers/childminders worldwide following this. However, this will not be something I’ve just learned. With both parents as teachers, I’ve seen the hours, dedication, hard work and perseverance that goes into teaching. The ‘six weeks’ holiday in the summer was, in reality, two weeks with marking, prep, display boards etc to be done.

My parenting motto is ‘pick your battles’ because if I picked them all, I’d be exhausted. So, my six year old daughter chose to dress firstly as a Power Ranger, then in a snowman dress she had when she was 4. She’s not going anywhere so I couldn’t care less. My two year old wanted weetabix for tea – good luck son, we could all be eating it for tea soon, best you get a taste for this concrete-esque stodge sooner rather than later.

But I have tried to crack down on waste and got stern when I’ve had requests for frequent snacks. I don’t think it does our children any harm to appreciate food and not waste it. No more ‘one bite out of a cake and leave it on the side’ scenarios please.

But for now, I have to sign off, remove the make up from my daughter that she’s covered herself in (think Violet Beauregade in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), try and hide the snowman dress, and plan tomorrow’s activities for this very new to the job UN peacekeeper.

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