March 8th 2021. A date that I think will remain in my mind for a very long time, the date where my 9-year-old son, along with millions of others around the country will finally return to school after the last feels-like-forever days of homeschooling. I don't think any parent on the planet could have ever expected what we were in for when schools closed due to COVID last March. I'm going to put my hands up here and admit I honestly thought they'd be off for perhaps a couple of weeks at the most?!
Fast forward almost a year and even though they had part of the autumn term back last year, it's been a long old haul. I was certainly not expecting half a year of being my child's teacher alongside working and doing all the things I normally do. Well, everything you can do during a global pandemic.
And my God, it's been a LOT.
Now, before I continue, this is written obviously from my own perspective and how things have been for us. I am not a key worker, I am not a teacher (Gawd only knows we've firmly established that over the last year) and I have been lucky enough to be self-employed, still have work and not be furloughed throughout so this is written very much from a lighthearted point of view. I massively applaud those of you reading this who have homeschooled part-time, full-time or not at all. And teachers? You are my heroes more than ever right now.
So where was I. Ah yes, the breakdowns, the never-ending guilt, here's my home school experience in a nutshell.
Things I have loved during homeschooling -
The incredibly rare yet joyous moments when I taught my son something and then got hit with that "smashed it" moment when they actually understand it. I can imagine this is probably why most teachers do what they do because it's amazing. Sadly, it hasn't happened a great deal, partly due to my ability to teach but also my son's total inability to listen to me.
The opportunity to stop what we're doing as and when we need to and not have to be tied by time constraints. Finished Maths and fancy a bike ride? You got it. Completed everything by 2pm and want to lie on the sofa and watch a film? Why the hell not? More often it was a case of "do this assignment and you can have a two-hour lunch break so Mummy can get some work done" but you get the picture.
Treat days. If we both finished our work on any given day and felt the need for a little pick me up, we'd head off for (or order in) a little treat. Sometimes it was a walk down to the shop for a packet of spaghetti and some cheese. Occasionally it was a full-blown McDonalds order. Either way, it made us happy, cheered us up and, at that particular moment in time was exactly what we both needed.
Hugs. Sometimes, when it all got too much, we would take ourselves off to the sofa, surround ourselves with dogs (we never actually had to force this part, if you sit down on a sofa in this house, you're going to be bedfellows with two furry four-leggeds, like it or not) and we would hug or have a snuggle for a bit until whoever it was who needed it in the first place felt better. Spoiler - he thought he needed it more than I did. He was so wrong.
Not having to rush to school every morning. This also includes not having to have “Clothing Tourettes”, shouting the words "Shoes!" and "Coat!" like a mad woman over and over again. Also, not having to worry about school uniform. Most days my son wouldn't actually be dressed. He may look so on his zoom calls but it was very much business at the top (Football shirt) and lockdown living below (pj's). And, he wasn't the only one if I’m honest.....
Things I have absolutely NOT loved during homeschooling -
The tantrums. No, not just mine. Trying to teach / help a child when he has absolutely had enough, hates the world and wants to get off is the worst thing. At best, we'd eventually get past it by having a little hug / snack / break / chat, or sometimes all of the above. At worst, we'd both be in tears having our own little existential crisis, genuinely not having a clue how to dig ourselves out of it. Fun fact, we had possibly 3 or 4 days like this and they were ALL in the most recent lockdown. Ahhh. As joyous as it sounds, I promise.
Maths. Now, this is a biggie. As someone, who, let's just say wasn't exactly a whizz in the maths classroom, the thought of having to explain it to someone else is a nightmare to me. My Maths lessons as a kid consisted of being made to work silently through the Collins maths textbook. Pages upon pages of maths questions to take in, not even an illustration to break the monotony. Fun fact, I just googled Collins Maths 1980's to see if I could find the aforementioned yellow and white book of doom and whilst not much came up, a lovely picture of Phil Collins at Live Aid did. Which was nice. Bad points of attempting to teach maths include being totally unable to understand anything on the sheet but being too embarrassed to admit it and feeling like an utter idiot. Good points include spending an entire afternoon googling how to answer a question and actually learning it. And feeling pretty damn proud of myself. I almost registered to retake the GCSE Maths exam that I spectacularly failed back in 93, 94, and '95 but I think the old adage about elderly dogs and new tricks is painfully accurate.
The not-being-able-to-do-anything-in-the-whole-house-without-hearing- "Muuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmm." I feel as though there is no need to explain this.
When learning is finished for the day and you finally get to make the important phone calls you need to make and the child decides to pick those exact moments to want to strike up a Very Important Conversation.
Becoming a gaming parent. Previous to lockdown, my son was allowed to play on his Playstation on weekends. Possibly a little more if he'd finished all his work during the week if I was feeling particularly generous. For pretty much most of the last year, it has been his only way of socialising, talking with his friends and vitally, having time away from Mum and Dad. So, rules soon became relaxed and as soon as his working day is over, he can go and chill, argue about a skin that he NEEDS TO HAVE on Fortnite or build a whole new world that he can call his own for a while.
Being a "Snack-bitch." Now, where do I start. How in the name of all that is holy does a nine-year-old boy need to eat every hour of the day???? Take this morning for instance. Breakfast at 8:20 - a bowl of Cheerios, lovely. By 9:45, he wants lunch. I say no, he settles for a banana. 10:53, he wants lunch. I say no. he reluctantly gives up asking and by 11.21...... I am making lunch. Ham and cheese wrap, followed by a yoghurt. 12:50? "Muuuummmm, I'm huuunnngryyyyyyy" And, so it continues.......
The guilt. Of not being good enough at teaching, not being good enough at being a parent, of turning the house into what is often an absolute battleground instead of a calm home, of not being an important key worker, of not actually achieving anything during any of the lockdowns, of.... I could go on.
The mess. My entire house is a mess, the front room constantly has cushions everywhere - why can't nine year old boys sit on a sofa like a normal human instead of casting cushions and throws everywhere?? The kitchen is strewn with snacks, (see number 6) and don't even get me started on his bedroom.
Treat days. You know how I mentioned these in things I've loved? I also hate them if I’m honest, as treat days equal lockdown lard that's really hard to get off. Damn you metabolism....
You know what though? Parents across the nation? We did it. We went in, we managed it with or without the odd wobble and we came out the other side. And now, the kids are back to school, with resilience I can barely summon on a good day and we’re slowly getting back to some sort of normal.
Or, at least, we hope so 🤞🏻