Schools closed to all children, apart from those of essential workers and vulnerable children, on Friday 20 March. The last day of school before lockdown and enforced homeschooling felt like a momentous day. My partner and I happened to have the day off, so we both solomly collected our son from his primary school. Everyone was hesitant to leave the school premises, uncertain as to when the kids would see their classmates again. We walked up the hill to our house with a group of friends and clumsily said goodbye.
As the door shut behind us, I went upstairs and cried for my son, who has no siblings and wouldn’t be seeing any other child for goodness knows how long. I was expecting the government to announce that the country would be in lockdown that evening. In actual fact it wasn’t until Monday 23 March it was announced that all but essential businesses were to close, while members of the public were to stay in their homes except to shop for essentials or go out in certain circumstances, including one hour of daily exercise or medical appointments.
Homeschooling has been challenging for everyone. We are both working from home and trying to juggle our jobs, plus ‘educating’ our son. Initially my partner and I divided the day into 2 hour chunks. 2 hours of work then 2 hours of educating. It quickly became apparent that this didn’t work, neither of us were concentrating on any of the activities, and our son was feeling like an inconvenience.
As a family we are happhazered and previously have decided what we did according to everyone’s mood on the day. After one to many disastrous day’s it was clear this had to change. By the third week we started to plan the day from 9 – 3. This has meant our son knows exactly who is ‘teaching’ him, and what he is doing over the week and we can manage our jobs far more efficiently. The timetable has provided him with certainty, in this time of uncertainty. We have also found that this helped ease the inevitable arguments over school work.
We are lucky and have a garden, a space I have grown to treasure and value far more that I had done previously. We also have a shed at the end of our garden. This has been converted into a ‘school’. Psychological this has helped, as we all leave the house to go to school and our home is still a place for relaxation and play.
The school have been sending work every week, and recommended we started the day with PE, following Joe Wicks on You Tube. Joe was great, but we needed something a bit more lighthearted, so started following a site called Go Noodle. The exercise we now do is silly, makes us laugh and involves songs and dance routines. At first, the work the school sent was mainly based on traditional schooling. As the weeks have progressed we have been directed to more online resources, either from the school or via friends.
For Maths we are using Oak National Academy. English grammar and Music, we use BBC Bite size and You Tube for online guitar lessons. Art, we have found Draw with Rob, a lifesaver and fun. His easy style & step by step instructions have been inspirational. Next Steps Technology have also been offering free virtual lessons on coding.
My son is keeping in contact with his friends through technology. Zoom and group What’s App chats have been a lifesaver for him. His class now have a scheduled Zoom call at the same time everyday and whoever wants to chat or play can just login. With his class he has also participated in remote bingo, a singalong and a bake off. My phone seems to have become ‘his’ phone, but that seems a small price to pay for the fact he can still chat and keep in contact with his friends.
Most of his friends live a short walk away. It has become a habit for the kids to stop by on their daily walks and leave small offerings for each other. Cards, letters, Lego toys, books, games, cakes and magazines have all been left at our door and we in turn have delivered gifts to others.
We have all learnt that schooling isn’t just sitting, reading, writing or researching a topic. Our son has started to help cook the family meals, something he has discovered he is good at, and when we have flour and eggs we bake or make bread. He contacts his Grandpa via Zoom during the week. My dad has a dartboard in his garden and we have one set up as well. My son and my dad then have fun playing and as a bonus it acts as a virtual maths lesson. We are gardening, growing vegetables and herbs, camping out in our garden, building dens in the woods (as part of our daily exercise) and have organised solo sports days and science experiments. It isn’t easy but we are muddling through.