It’s that time of reflection between Christmas and new year. And this year has given us quite a lot to reflect upon.
It’s that end of the year period where you are supposed to reflect on the year that has been and plan for the year to come. Except everyone has arrived at Christmas in a state of complete exhaustion, just glad to have made it through all the various permutations of the Covid pandemic and having to gear up to whatever 2022 will bring. Hopefully not more homeschooling.
If anyone has forgotten the earlier part of the year, through voluntary amnesia or wishful thinking, Annabelle Hayes’ new book is an instant reminder of every last twist and turn. The changing guidance, the lack of information on the exams, Covid graduations, virtual induction days, keeping up to date with the different drop-off and pick-up protocols, getting to grips with online lessons, the constant printing, the trying to get teenagers out of bed, the trying to grasp the first principles of fractional equations while juggling the demands of Zoom etiquette and the constant feeling of not being able to see your way to the end of the day, let alone the week.
Then there was the judicious use of turning the camera off on zoom meetings so you could engage with fronted adverbials and the like and virtual parents evenings which, in our case were on a timer, which meant if you went over the five-minute per teacher slot you were kicked out so you have to get your questions in really fast. One particular highlight for me was, after several hundred ‘just a minutes’ to only son due to back to back zoom meetings, getting to the science homework only to find it centred around an experiment involving sunlight and a ruler to track the shadows it cast on a balloon and looking outside to see that the sun had in fact already gone down. Ever resourceful, we got out a torch and managed to do the whole experiment with a fake sun.
Many corners were cut, many creative approaches taken and yet only son rose to the occasion every time while complaining vociferously about the injustice of it all and even got enthusiastic about some of the indoor PE events [sock tennis was a particular favourite].
I’m not sure much was learned, except from the Great Leaf Project which involved us gathering leaves and trying to figure out, using an app, which tree they came from. The app was not the best so we rang my mum. It turns out that she spent her entire childhood fascinated by leaves and has various books on them, as do her neighbours. Her whole street got to work and managed to identify every leaf, showing the value of a multigenerational approach to botany.
Some of the joys of online learning have indeed remained. Daughter three spent the whole pandemic learning guitar online and now plays beautifully. So beautifully that only son has been inspired to follow in her footsteps. I can see a band forming, although only son says he will only play if he can be firmly in the background. He hates any attention whatsoever and hence has absolutely embraced the mask and may never take his off. Indeed he had to write interview questions for David Attenborough for an English exercise and his first question was how do you cope with the nightmare of being recognised.
Daughter two has taken up ballet [in her case it is more about looking the part than actually doing the dancing] and online yoga. Everyone’s cookery skills have developed considerably. But I’m not sure anyone will miss it much, particularly the lack of in-person contact with friends and gossiping about the teachers. They are all now desperate to get out and see a world that extends a little further than the golf course over the road where we went on lockdown walks. Any suggestion of going for a walk is now unanimously greeted with a cacophony of groans.