Homeschooling through rose-tinted glasses

It’s that time of year when the kids are exhausted and homeschooling looks like an appealing prospect…to them.

boy doing work in front of his laptop


“I want to go back to home school,” said only son the other day. He seems to have a rose-tinted view of the good old days of sock cricket [PE], trying to trace the movements of the sun after the sun had gone down [because I had back to back meetings until 4pm], arguments over why two sentences don’t make an essay and hours spent trying to work out complicated sums involving fractions. My memory, on the other hand, is crystal clear.

In fact both only son and daughter three were going full tilt for a day off on Monday, hoping that flooding and fallen trees would at the very least mean we missed the first period. “It’s not even worth trying to get in,” said daughter three. “We have to go through a forest. There are bound to be trees all over the road.” [There weren’t].

Daughter three even did an extra Covid test on Monday night after the shock of getting up early for school following a week of half term had kicked in. To be fair, she is working three days a week at a fast food restaurant on top of school and tiredness is to be expected. Daughter three is very organised and no doubt has worked on a strategy document on how long she needs to do the work for and what she will spend the money on [VIP tickets to BTS]. She had a four-page document prepared for her interview and had probably watched several videos on interview technique on Youtube.

The morning drive to school this week has been completely silent. Either only son and daughter three are plugged into some sort of musical experience that they don’t want to share with their mother or they are asleep or both. Essentially they are very tired because they won’t go to bed early, despite multiple lectures about the joy of sleep [although clearly I don’t actually follow my own advice…]. Hence the nostalgia for lockdown, when they could roll out of bed at 8.55 and hit the on button and be ‘in school’.

Tiredness is one thing, but the plugged-in nature of their lives is another entirely. I have tried to explain that it is extremely galling to start having a conversation with the one who is in the back of the car and then to realise that they haven’t heard a single word. I have taken to tapping people’s knees brusquely before I start in order not to have to repeat everything several times over. The thing is I know only son is listening to music that I actually like so why not share it?  He is very much into music at the moment and we had an intense discussion on Saturday about the 1980s, which he started off my saying was a decade dominated by the US. I quickly put him straight.

My questions at the end of the day often elicit mere grunts, mainly because they are fairly similar. ‘What was the high point of the day on a scale of 1-10?’ ‘Did you have pasta bake [a high for only son]?’ ‘Best lesson?’ ‘What exciting new things did you learn today?’ This last one usually gets a look of contempt or a remark along the lines of ‘I hate school; why do we have to torture kids in this way?’.

Sometimes you are lucky and one of them is in a chatty mood and you learn all sorts about sociology, their views on Bram Stokes’ Dracula, a detailed description of the school menu, interesting information about student dynamics and lots about how weird and angry teachers are.

I have to say that, either way, the school run is the highlight of my day. I don’t get out much. I didn’t before Covid, but now my partner is also at home most of the time. We have very different working styles. Every time I go into our bedroom – aka his office – he seems to be having a siesta or listening to Catalan radio. He also finishes on the dot of 5.30pm.

We have gone a builder in at the moment so I am working in what you might call a mobile manner. My partner kicked me out of the bedroom so he could do a call so I am in daughter three’s room, which essentially consists of multiple piles of clothes which may or may not need washing.  I have cleared a space, but as soon as she gets back from school she wants me out so I may end up working from the bath tub. Wherever it is, I know, after years of ‘portfolio working‘, that I can get the stuff done. My partner calls me ‘the machine’. I can write a feature article in the middle of a sandstorm.

I’ve conducted interviews with one foot on the door handle to stop children getting in, locked in the toilet, in a cupboard and many other exciting places. A bath tub is nothing unusual. As long as it’s on the list – even if I can’t currently find the list due to my mobile office – it gets done.

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