Ding ding ding, seconds out! We’re on our own again, well sort of.
As everyone suspected would be the case, English schools closed for the spring term. No, not at the end of the winter term, during the holidays, or just before reopening. No, they closed after one day of the children being back – on the evening of 4th January 2021. Because no one would want the children, parents and least of all the school staff to have time to prepare, adjust, plan or set expectations. Oh no, that wouldn’t be helpful at all!
For the second time in a bit over nine months our children are learning from their homes. Or trying to. And their parents are trying to support them as best we can, no matter what other responsibilities we might have – whether that’s other children, full time or part time jobs, caring for other people, or struggling with loneliness and isolation. Or maybe our kids are some of the very few who have to go into school because their parents are working in critical roles – healthcare, education, policing, and many other jobs.
We’re all tempted to compare ourselves to one another, again. Its pointless and painful, again. Our social media feeds are full of other parents, often of our kids’ friends, rocking it – they’re organised and doing all the work and more, the kids are in all the lessons with a parent sitting by helping out and providing snacks and wisdom. Right?
Did we learn nothing last time? (even if we claimed to)
Well, its worse than that though isn’t it? We’re not only comparing ourselves with others, but also to how we coped last time too. The worst person to judge yourself against is, well, yourself.
What’s going better than last time? what’s going worse?
Will our children suffer more because they’re going through this again? or will they cope better because we’ve all been here before?
Forgetting the past
When the lockdown kicked in and the kids ended up at home again, a good friend compared the experience to childbirth. After a baby is born, nature encourages a repetition of this event by helping the parents to completely forget the trauma of giving birth.
Post-home learning part 1 we seem to have done the same thing. We can look back on it with rose tinted glasses, think of the magical moments when our children actually learned a thing, remember the happy bits and those sunny afternoons in the garden. How different is that from how we’re feeling right now?
As much as we want to forget it, last time we yelled, we cried, the kids rebelled, the work didn’t always get done, the teachers got confused and the communication failed. All those things are happening to us again, like a second experience of labour turning out to be just as bad as the first.
Like any scary proposition, I’ve processed this return to home learning in several phases:
- Recommending it as necessary
- Bewilderment as why it wasn’t happening
- Pretending it wasn’t necessary
- Fear that it wouldn’t happen
- Trepidation that it was coming round the corner
- Horror and loathing that it arrived
- Satisfaction that this unpleasantness is for the greater good
- Anxiety that it’s impossible
- Facing the reality while hoping it was all a dream
- Achievement after day 1
- Acceptance that day 2 has to be done too
- And day 3
- Amazement and awe at the way school staff have pulled together
- Finally, reminding myself that we did this before and it was horrid but we got through it. We will get through it again, it will be awful again but it will end one day.
Yeah, feeling all those things in the space of a week, a day or even hourly is perfectly normal. Its OK for us to feel any or all of those things at once.
Practically, this period of home learning is different from the last. Himself and I are in the same situation, both working from home. But the boys’ school is approaching learning differently, with much more contact and face to face time over Zoom. This makes things a bit trickier because last time I would take some time out of my work days between Monday and Thursday and we’d get 50% of their work done, then catch up on the other 50% on Friday – taking advantage of my day off. When I was working, I’d juggle the tasks for the children around the meetings I needed to attend. This time the calendar for the kids is defined by the school and none of their classes overlap (that might be good or bad, I can’t tell yet) – so one or neither child is always on a Zoom call but never both. Last time, I had them both doing maths or literacy at the same time so that I only needed to find 3 sessions a day to spend with them. Now its 6 plus work set after about half the sessions. Its exhausting just trying to remember who’s meant to be where when!
But, equally, I don’t need to trawl the depths of my memory for facts about the Tudors or the Iron age. The teachers are doing all the actual teaching. Large boy is fairly independent having received a Raspberry Pi for Christmas that we’ve added a webcam to so that he can use it for school. Small boy can read so much more than last April, he’s much more confident and ready to try.
Its both easier and harder.
We’ve been here before but it wasn’t quite the same. I know we can do this, we just need to adjust and amend our expectations. We need to learn, again, that we don’t need to do all the things that school ask us to. The kids maybe don’t have to go to every Zoom lesson if its impossible or just too hard to fit in with work. They’ll be OK.
My overall approach, even before the lockdown was announced, is “prepare for the worst and hope for the best”. I’m prepared for this to last until May half term, hopefully it won’t.
… and that’s why I didn’t brave the shops between Christmas and New Year to buy small boy new school shoes.