My brain is going to mush

Why are there no hollow-eyed parents and teenagers homeschooling from bed on the news?


Today is an inset day at many schools – at least in our area. In fact, two of the three schools my kids are at have inset days, which means the homeschool teacher has a day off. And there’s half term next week! Never have I been happier to embrace the joys of inset days than this week. Everyone’s motivation is at rock bottom. Work is very busy and no-one wants to learn anything or even get up at all.

It doesn’t help that every time I switch on the tv and there is an item on homeschooling it seems to feature a kid playing a cello or sitting at a table [they are never in their beds, which in my experience is inaccurate] being very articulate about the whole homeschooling process. Why do they not show the actual reality of stressed parent trying to do a zoom work call while simultaneously teaching algebra to a bored child who, at the first opportunity, hops onto a Youtube video and tunes out? Or is that just our house?

In an ideal homeschooling world I would have separate schooling and work times, but with work calls taking up most of the day of late this is virtually impossible. Last Friday I set only son up on the algebra at 10 and then had back to back calls. He got stuck on something – he had started learning the basics of algebra on Monday and was being asked to calculate xy cubed minus yz squared if x equals -5 and y equals -11 by Friday. I had five minutes in between a recording session for an event and a regular lunchtime session with my grief counsellor so I asked daughter two to lend him a hand. Daughter two is not the go-to maths guru of the house, but daughter three was on a school zoom class and my partner said he had forgotten everything he ever knew about algebra and was due on a training session in the afternoon. I received an urgent work call straight after the counselling session. So it was not until 3.30pm that I realised only son had done no work all day as daughter two hadn’t helped him with the algebra because she hates algebra and was in the middle of watching a programme on crime [“it’s for sociology, mum”] and, having got stuck, he had gone on Nintendo.

The next couple of hours were spent doing algebra, researching the difference between caged and free range eggs for an English assignment, learning about the Qu’ran [religious studies], doing PE [I admit this was very brief] and making a sundial for science. By the time we had finished there was, of course, no sun so we had to fake the experiment using the torch on my phone as the sun. There then followed several more hours of me catching up on work emails. I have never seen this kind of scenario even remotely reflected in any news story, but maybe that’s because I only watch the news at 10 and brittle, hollow-eyed parents and bored teenagers in their beds abound on all the earlier programmes.

A friend of mine is a secondary school teacher. He rang the other day and said he was on the point of resignation. His head teacher had asked that all the kids who are homeschooling be dressed in school uniform and have their cameras on. It’s a nice idea perhaps, but the reality, said my friend, is that everyone and his aunt has an excuse for why they don’t have their video on which leaves him with little time for actual teaching. “It doesn’t work, sir”, “my mum is worried about privacy issues, sir”, etc, etc.

Anyone who is a parent of a teenager – and even a 10 year old – knows that one thing they are really, really good at is arguing their point. The number of times only son has objected to doing any form of exercise on the grounds that it is unfair because daughters two and three have done significantly less [and he can supply accurate statistics to back this up] is quite considerable. Ditto reading which he is supposed to do for 20 minutes a night as “homework”. “No one does it, mum”. “Sisters one and two NEVER read except for school so why should I?” “I read during school time. Why do I have to read any more?” “I’m reading on the computer”. “I’m learning all about Pokemon and it’s really educational” “I don’t want to hear about what you did when you were young, mum. The world has moved on”.

In a way, their ability to argue is a sign of intelligence, and I am impressed, but it doesn’t make the homeschooling process any easier. While I have been writing this only son has interrupted me around 20 times to ask me random questions about what the scariest piece of music I have ever heard is, etc, etc. My brain is turning to mush. Thank goodness for inset days.

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