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Surviving, not thriving: reflections on a week’s home-schooling

A week ago I wished I was a teacher. This week, I’ve come pretty close to seeing that through as I had to home-school my own kids. As a newbie (home)teacher, I thought I’d share my reflections on the first week.

It’s personal

My first reflection is that this is all about personal choices and individual families. Whether you’ve never taught in your life or you do it for a living, any parent facing the prospect of home learning right now is facing a daunting task!

For those that have had a go at home-schooling their kids this week, I expect the experience will be mixed. That’s exactly why one of the first things I did was to mute the parents WhatsApp groups. The constant questioning, suggesting and humble-bragging was, for me, anxiety inducing.

It’s the same for the myriad of Facebook groups that have sprung up with suggested lessons and activities. At the best of times social media is a poor reflection of reality. At a time of heightened stress, the last thing you need is the glowing recommendation of some not-seen-for-twenty-years-former-school-friend with a ‘genius angel-child’ (#SoBlessed).

Of course, I understand the hypocrisy of suggesting you all ignore home-learning tips while simultaneously writing about my own home-learning tips. I promise to keep them short, sweet and simple, and I won’t be offended if you want to stop reading at this point!

The importance of structure

Once I got over the worry about what everyone else was doing, the focus for my kids was structure. I have to work my usual hours at the same time as having the kids at home, so I needed to plan a day that would keep them occupied and give me a fighting chance of doing my job. I made a timetable of 45 minute lessons interspersed with 15 or 30 minute breaktimes.

Breaktimes have been easy this week, as we’re lucky enough to have a garden (although I’m not looking forward to wet-play!) For the lessons, I planned them the night before, and tried not to deviate from them – or at least, not let the kids know if I was. “I don’t want to do this” is not an option.

If I have a conference call booked, I plan a lesson where they need to sit and write or draw. Occasionally, I’ve used the 8-year-old as the ‘teacher’ for the 4-year old – not a good long-term plan, but one they both enjoyed!

And in this way, we have muddled through our first week. There have been tears, there has been the naughty-step, and there has been gin (for me, not them). We may not have thrived, but we have survived!

Do you have any tips for parents in these strange times? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll do our best to share them. Looking for resources and activities for home-learning? Head to our resources page.

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