All the homeschooling and working and the pressure to do all of these excellently amid the threat of job loss can get too much. All you can do is take one day – or even one hour – at a time.
We’re into another week of homeschooling and, for many, it is a shock to the system even if we have been here before. The disruption for children is immense and so too for many working parents and, of course, for significant numbers of parents homeschooling and working is impossible and furlough for childcare reasons is still being turned down by many employers. Until it is a right backed by protection from redundancy things are unlikely to change. Our survey in November shows a quarter of mums who had been made redundant during the pandemic said it was due to childcare issues. Those of us still able to homeschool and work are the lucky ones.
Yet trying to teach fractions or literacy to five and six year olds is another full-time job on top of the one you already have and that’s if you understand what they are being taught and can successfully transmit it. Often, with older children, you need to put in extra time doing more research so you actually understand what is going on. Often you are teaching different ages and different subjects at the same time while trying to answer work emails which multiplies the challenge and is something not even the teachers are doing.
The first hurdle to get over is the technology. I spent much of Monday just trying to understand Google Classrooms and how you hand in work when the ‘hand in’ button doesn’t automatically appear. In the end, we gave up because I simply didn’t have enough time. We reverted instead to printing the maths out and taking photos of the pages to upload on Class Dojo. I bet the teacher loved that, but my workload has increased due to lockdown so it is not an easy balance. Only son is 10 and able to work on his own, but he needs help. He needs, in effect, a teacher. If I can talk through with him what he needs to do he can get on with it, but I then need to correct it and also give feedback because everyone needs feedback and encouragement. Only son would do the absolute minimum if left to his own devices and quietly get onto a Pokemon game. He is supposed to do 20 minutes of reading every day on top of the other work and he is a master negotiator. Every day he tries to argue his way out of at least half of it. “I’ll just read to the end of the chapter [two pages], mum.” Then there is the classic “no one else is doing this” or “x and x [his sisters] are just watching Glee. It’s really unfair.” As I am dipping in and out of emails and writing articles [which are time sensitive so can’t wait], the negotiations can drag on.
Teenagers are a different kettle of fish altogether with the emphasis for parents being on addressing the emotional barriers to learning. Firstly, they don’t get up. This is however much they complain about the lack of routine and feeling tired all the time and however much you tell them to go to bed earlier and establish a routine. Secondly, when they do do the work they do it lying around in bed, which, I would argue and have argued many, many times – is not the best position for feeling alert and focused. They complain about not taking anything in and all my suggestions are completely ignored. One of my daughters told me over the weekend that she has started trying to getting into a sleep routine and to get some daily exercise. Not because I have told her countless times, but because her bereavement counsellor said so.
They are all going through grieving and endless disruption to their education and, after the announcements about A Levels and GCSEs it’s almost as if they have given up. My role is as motivation guru. I just don’t think I’m up to it. It didn’t help that midway through the week an email came from daughter three’s school saying there would be mocks in March. Daughter three only just did mocks in December [from home with Covid]. “I just can’t do it,” she announced. I don’t blame her. I feel exactly the same. Daughter two, meanwhile, was jubilant about the cancellation of exams. I told her the school said to keep revising [it was revision week for the mocks last week]. “Revising for what?” she inquired. When I told her there would be teacher assessments and exams, she didn’t seem to take it in. All she heard was that she needed to mount a charm offensive on the teachers.
The grieving continues too and we are coming up to terrible anniversaries. I need time to talk to each child individually about it. Only son’s first literacy task from home this week was a passage about a boy who lost his mum. That is one of his worst anxieties after losing his sister. I was on a work call when he started reading it so it was only after he had read it and was asked questions about why the boy was sad, etc, that I realised.
I’m worried about how everyone is coping and don’t want to put any more pressure on them, but I’m also worried about the next phase for each of them – secondary school for only son, sixth form college for daughter three and university for daughter two. Just getting through the year should be enough, but I’m not sure how sympathetic schools, etc, will be. I was trying to get daughter two out for a walk at the weekend to have a chat. She had promised to go, but said no at the last minute – getting teenagers out is another Herculean challenge. I had a bit of a meltdown as I know she needs to talk and flounced out on my own. “Mum has anger management issues,” daughter two told only son. “Everyone gets angry some times,” I said. Sometimes it all seems a bit too much to manage.