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Home Schooling - Lock Down Style

Here I go again, (over) sharing just in case it’s useful to anyone. If it’s not please feel free to scroll on past. I promise I won’t mind.

Firstly, it is important to note that most of us are not ‘home schooling’. I have considered home schooling in the past for our daughter. I researched it. There are pretty extensive home school networks. These are well organised. Parents and carers pool resources, information, materials, advice and support.

For many home schoolers, it was not their first choice of education for their child (that’s another blog!). However, they usually have time to plan their home school journey.

Most of us right now are not home schooling. All of us, and I include those of us who were already home schooling by ‘choice’, are surviving a global pandemic. Yes, that is as dramatic as it sounds.

You might know from my previous blog that our kids have been off school FOR EVER - do your own really dramatic voice over for that.

For context the longest school holiday in the UK is 6 weeks. For parents and carers, school holidays are often planned with military precision to ensure the correct balance of activities for the kids and opportunities for parents to be able to work. I know. It’s super relaxing!

Our daughter is on her 14th week of physically not going to school. Our son is on week 13. It is really important to mention that they are both being well supported by their respective schools.

Our daughter’s school is one of the currently vilified ‘posh’ schools or an independent school that provides specialist provision. We took our local authority to tribunal to ensure her educational needs were appropriately met. The judge ruled the ‘posh’ school to be the most appropriate. Her provision is paid for by the state via her statement of educational needs. Yes, we are very posh.

Our son’s school is a state specialist school. You might know from previous blogs that our son joined our family just before his 5th birthday and has significant trauma history. I had anticipated that he would really struggle with the loss of routine and structure. He is actually doing fantastically well. When imagining what ‘fantastically well’ might look like remember it is relative and my expectation is extremely low.

We’ve all had covid. When our son was better he really struggled to understand why he couldn’t go back to school and why he couldn’t have friends round. The first couple of weeks were so confusing for him that he kept asking me if it was Christmas. I nearly put the tree up since that would make as much sense as anything.

We have been doing a bit of facetiming with his friends. Initially, this made him so incredibly sad and tearful. It just made the pain of not being with them worse. He couldn’t understand why he could see them on the phone but not in real life. This has got a bit easier for him. He really struggled the other day. We were out with the dogs and he really struggled to understand why he couldn’t play on the swings at the park.

As for school work, his view is that school is school and home is home. I get this. It’s fine. We’re all just doing our best. I’m not going to pick a fight where I don’t need to. School check in periodically by phone and email. His school is active on social media. I show him little videos of his teachers. He loves this. School has sent him a pile of work. This is much appreciated. He’s done bugger all and that’s fine. His one job everyday is to read the dogs a story. Our dogs are great fans of literature. His reading is coming along just great. When he wants sweets he has to count them first, and accurately, or no sweets will be ingested. We’re calling this maths.

Our daughter is finding the loss of routine and structure much more discombobulating than our son. I think, in part, this might be because our son’s early life trauma was so unrelentingly terrifying that a global pandemic and subsequent loss of routine and structure is relatively small potatoes.

Our daughter’s school is doing some great on line learning. She finds this really hard. She is dyslexic, dyscalculic and has some social and sensory processing stuff. She finds the social and sensory demands of school exhausting so not going to school was initially a dream come true. The flip side is that she needs me to sit with her for every on line lesson to help with the reading and explaining. Inevitably, on line learning doesn’t lend itself to asking for help easily. She is also really missing her friends.

Her friends are just gorgeous. They get her and are incredibly supportive. If she turns to someone in class and says, ‘What does that word say?’ it’s really not a big deal.

She completely lost her routine and became even more socially isolated during the period when her dad was dangerously ill. She was well aware of how poorly he was, our son less so, and no one can learn when they’re worried to death about their dad. So, during this period, all aspirations towards learning were abandoned. The kids went full feral and with my blessing. They had unlimited screen time, disney plus, netflix, regular bedtime - what’s that? Xmas pjs as day wear - absolutely!

Anyhow, their dad didn’t pop his clogs. He is currently in recovery from post covid pnuemonia. Hurrah. I’m hoping pneumonia is more predictable and treatable than the covid roller coaster. Since, we are no longer fearful for their dad’s imminent demise we are trying to get back (?) to something that looks vaguely normal (?).

I have reasoned with our daughter that if she feels that she is very behind in her learning, when school is open again - it never actually shut, it will cause her enormous stress. She grudgingly agrees. The deal is she only has to attend English and Maths and her 1:1 classes. If the other classes feel like too much that’s fine. Huge apologies to the teachers of all the other subjects busting a gut to get it all on line.

However, in a fortuitous stroke of reverse psychology genius, with the pressure off she is attending more lessons and subjects than I have asked her to.

I am physically not able to sit on both the children to ensure school work is completed, occasionally tend to the ill man and do just enough work of my own to ensure that the mortgage gets paid and people are fed. I have infinite appreciation for living in a home, having a mortgage and having access to adequate food. We are beyond blessed. But it is a bit of a juggle. Is it lazy to prioritise your family’s health and mental well being over productivity at work? No. It really isn’t. It’s a sodding global pandemic.

I am a fan of the big picture. I get that detail is important too. I like to look at history to try and make sense of the present. History can sometimes give us a rough idea of what the future might bring too. It’s all pretty cyclical. When we go on about something being ‘unprecedented’ it rarely is.

This is how I try to make sense of it for my daughter - she is sharp, cynical and can spot BS at 50 paces. She does anxiety with bells on. If I am not entirely truthful with her she will still have sky high anxiety. She just will have the additional issue of not trusting her mum.

We are big Horrible History fans. I have explained to her that there was a global flu pandemic in 1968 - 1970. And another one in 1957. And another one in 1918 - 1920. And a something before that. And a something before that. We also know that covid19 is a bit different because it isn’t flu. We know that HIV and AIDS killed millions in the 1980s. There was significant investment in public health education. We now have a pretty good understanding of how to protect ourselves from HIV infection. If we are unfortunate enough to contract HIV there are effective drug treatments. However, there remains no vaccine. So the short answer is we don’t know how long it will be until it will be safe to go back to school, have our friends over, etc... And that is why it is important to keep ourselves safe. We’ve likely all had covid in our house but I don’t feel bullet proof given that we can catch a cold an infinite number of times.

For a few long weeks the kids’ dad being dangerously ill was a big distraction. A major coping strategy for us all was unlimited screen time. Now that he is more stable - the small matter of post covid pneumonia now, the days and weeks are beginning to drag and merge into each other.

Our daughter will look like she’s doing okay. Then she will announce that she feels sad.

Since I began writing this blog some weeks ago (it’s a mystery why I struggle to get anything finished?) our wonderful dog Bert died. This hit us all hard. I had assumed as the mum of the family that my role was a bit of a big deal. Turns out Bert was the glue that held our family together.

Bert’s eulogy.

We said goodbye to our amazing boy today (21/05/2020). He was the best. He has been a therapy dog in all but name. When Rohan had to stop work due to a degenerative neurological condition, unsurprisingly, his mental health took a battering. We got Bert aged 7 weeks old to be Rohan's companion whilst I was living the dream going out to work. After we'd practiced our questionable parenting skills on Bert for a few years along came Emily. Bert is in every baby photo. He adored her. When Emily started school the TA asked us one day if Emily had a brother called Bert. Then Tyler joined our family. Bert was the first member of our family Tyler felt safe enough to trust and love. Humans had let Tyler down horribly. But dogs hadn't. Then we got Joy. She is a rescue and had huge anxiety issues. Bert quickly worked his magic. We will love Bert forever and hope he is having the best time on the beach in doggy heaven. Thank you so much for very nearly 14 years of unconditional love, licks, farts and awesomeness.

Em is now doing absolutely sod all school work. She is really low and missing Bert but willing to accept cuddles and comfort which is something. Her sleep is out of the window. It’s never been great. Tyler’s sleep, again, never been great, now almost non existent. Our day began at 1am the other day. I was so tired I felt hungover but without the expense or effort of drinking any booze.

Lock down has been eased to allow for meeting with members of other households, outdoors, maintaining the magic 2 metres. Em misses her friends so much but doesn’t want to meet up with anyone because,’What’s the point if you can’t hug them?’ I have started talking to her about what going back to school might look like. She sees no point in going back to school if she can’t hug her friends. I get that. I am desperate to go on an absolute bender with my bezzie but what would be the point if I can’t give any hugs.

We were having super repetitive conversations every teatime about what we want to do and who we want to see after lock down. Even this has dried up a bit now.

Meanwhile, life goes on. A family member is having treatment for cancer, other family members have other stuff going on. Friends have stuff going on. People are feeling isolated and overwhelmed. Whilst, pre covid and lock down I’m not going to pretend my powers are such that I could have fixed stuff for everyone but I’m usually good at cups of tea and hugs.

Some days are better that others. I’ve heard it referred to as the corona coaster. They’re not wrong. Let’s assume we’re all doing our best. And if some days are a shit show, if some days we’re not quite the amazing parent we’d hoped we’d be, if the arse has dropped out of our productivity and our career dreams, study aspirations, holiday plans, social life, add your own stuff, looks like it’s all gone to shit fear not. You absolutely definitely are not alone. You’ve got this. And it’s okay if today isn’t the day. It’s okay if tomorrow doesn’t turn out to be your day either. History shows us that pandemics don’t last forever. It just feels like it.

I’ve noticed I’m more of a potty mouth 14 weeks in. Apologies if you are sensitive. Have a hug. I’m going to be doing those really uncomfortable, too long, slightly creepy hugs when we’re done. You’ve been warned.

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