I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about the kids schooling situation for a while and now seems like the perfect time because homeschooling is a hot topic right now as we head into lockdown 3.0 here in the UK.
As someone who homeschooled right from day one, until a few months ago, I am having to frequently explain why I am not an expert at this because this is nothing like homeschooling in pre-lockdown times!
So a quick back story, after a few months of pre-school when Cherry was three we decided not to send her to primary school. I had a few friends who were planning to homeschool and I loved the idea of it, it took a bit of convincing to get Matt onboard but he agreed to try it for a year and that was it, we loved the lifestyle and kept it up until last year when Cherry (10) decided she wanted to try school, followed by Tiger (7).
I was more than happy to support them but I did go through a bit of an emotional journey with it, it definitely helped that we found the most lovely little school. The head teacher was totally understanding of our decision to have homeschooled up until that point and with only 42 kids it wasn’t too overwhelming for them.
As much as I found it hard to let go of how things had been up until that point ( no more cheap term-time holidays!!), I was also excited at the prospect of it working out and finally having some time to myself for the first time in a decade. We don’t have any help from family and never have done so apart from a couple of nights away, we have had the kids 24/7 for their entire lives.
I had also reached a point where I didn’t want to be going to groups and being the one in charge of their social lives anymore, we are lucky to live on a street full of kids so Cherry was still playing out everyday but as it’s mainly girls or older boys, Tiger really wanted some friends of his own. When they are younger it’s a lot easier but as I am a complete introvert myself I was happy to think of a new, easier way for them to make friends!
So last September they both started school and loved it, we had a few teething problems which is to be expected I guess but by Xmas they had settled in, made lots of friends and were getting to grips with it all.
Which is why I was so gutted for them when it was announced that schools would be shutting again, especially as we now have a pretty hefty workload for them to do at home.
This is where it massively differs from when we homeschooled. We took a child led approach, more towards the unschooling movement really. One thing you realise when you start homeschooling is that there are so many different ways you can do it, of course some people do follow the curriculum and go for more of a school at home type setup but we definitely didn’t.
I didn’t ever do any proper teaching, Cherry learnt to read and write all by herself. It takes longer and you do have to really believe in the process, I had heard about it from lots of other home ed parents but it wasn’t completely stress free! You just have to keep the faith that they will do it when they are ready and she did. And she caught up in school within a couple of months which is crazy really given that for six years she didn’t have any formal teaching whatsoever!!
When Tiger started school he still wasn’t reading or writing and the teacher admits to me now that she was slightly concerned about it but within a couple of months he was writing full pages of joined up writing and his reading has developed massively. She said it just shows how when their brains are ready, it makes teaching them so much easier. He’s really good with numbers so maths hasn’t been an issue at all.
So yeah, because of how we have always done things and the fact that I work from home, lockdown school is hard! It’s not familiar or like returning to how life was when we used to homeschool. This is more similar to prison life than homeschooling life!
I feel like the kids were fine with the work in school because it came with all the other things they liked such as being around other kids, having time away from home and having people to help them who aren’t busy with other things, plus who are trained to actually explain things so they will understand! At home where they are used to doing what they like it’s a bit different.
I’m not too worried about doing all of it, in fact it’s only the maths, English and spelling we will be bothering with and the only reason I will put the effort into that is because the teachers have gone out of their way to put Tiger a special pack together each week with things he needs to work on to catch up and for Cherry it’s because she will be going to secondary school next year so it’s good preparation for her.
If it becomes a real struggle though then we will just scrap it, I always found if the kids aren’t engaged then they aren’t going to learn so I’m not going to force it. There is more to life than homophones and fronted adverbials!
So having tried out all three methods of schooling my advice to anyone feeling overwhelmed is not to stress. If your kids have never had an extended period out of school then try and make as enjoyable as possible, it might never happen again! Play Scrabble, go through times tables when you are in the car or out and about, get them involved in the household budgeting, buy a notebook to turn into a lockdown diary for them to keep until they are older. That covers English, maths and spelling in a way that won’t even feel like work.
Set fitness goals that you can work on together, Cherry wants to do a pull up by the end of lockdown, as do I so the race is on!
Last lockdown we both learnt how to handstand against a wall, she picked it up a lot quicker than me of course!
Try new things, cook, draw, paint, learn a new craft, find things you enjoy doing together. We love playing chess and it’s a great game for the mind as it’s so strategical.
Let them moan they are bored until they find something to entertain themselves. That’s always the approach I’ve taken with my two as I never wanted them to rely on me for their entertainment!
Screen time is our hardest battle, for Tiger especially as he’s really into Minecraft. I’m not sure what the answer is, we do sometimes set limits but as it’s winter and we are in a lockdown where I have to also work from home it’s unavoidable that sometimes the limits go out the window. I find in summer their screen time naturally goes down which balances out the higher usage in winter but I would be lying if I said I never worried about it.
I’m just trying to be relaxed about it all though, these are hard times. It’s never too late to learn something but the kids have to be interested in it and my personal opinion is that so much of the curriculum is un-necessary whilst so many important things aren’t on it or aren’t given as much time as they should be.
I just always try and remember this quote…
“Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.” ~ Katrina Gutleben
Would love to hear how you are finding lockdown schooling?