It’s Friday, the end of the first week of ‘home schooling’ for a lot of people. On Monday I saw posts of white boards of timetables with sticky notes, proclamations of how parents were structuring their kids work schedule, kids smiling at dining tables and home offices as they and their parents embarked on the new adventure.
How’s that going for you now? As a parent who homeschooled her kids for years, can I laugh now or should I wait until the end of next week?
Here’s what probably happened:
Day 1: It went wonderfully. You flew through the workbooks and assigned work in two hours, you think your kid is a super genius and that you lost your calling, you should have been a teacher.
Day 2: Mrs Murphy, your kid’s teacher, is playing a blinder, she has sent lots of assignments that you are finding really interesting. If only school had of been as good as this when you were going hey? You are so distracted by the history lesson about Egypt, that you haven’t noticed the kids have been playing out in the garden for the last half hour.
Day 3: There’s a new chapter in Math that you are asked to work through. You’re showing your kid how to do it the way you learnt, but “teacher does it different”, there’s a new way of doing it.
You find yourself saying ‘In my day we did it this way…’ and suddenly you feel as ancient as the pharaohs you were reading about yesterday. Your kid is now mixing both methods and getting completely confused. You decide to skip that chapter. The wi-fi is slow, so you call off lessons early and let the kids play a video game instead as a once off treat.
Day 4: Mrs Murphy has scheduled a ‘live’ lesson for all pupils to log into at 9am. She too is enthusiastic with this new way of teaching. She expects you to get your kid up for a 9am lesson when you don’t have to get up to go to work? Is she crazy? So you decide you can skip that one, so do half the other parents so you don’t feel too bad.
When you do get up, you have 15 emails from Mrs Murphy and the other teachers, with different subject assignments to get through with your kids. You have work to do yourself for your own job, you leave it to the kids to sort through themselves.
Day 5: The novelty of being a teacher is starting to wear off. You’re now way behind all of the assigned work and it keeps coming. The kids have wiped the schedule off the whiteboard and drawn cartoon pictures of you and the dog, and they are building a miniature shopping mall with lego. You can’t find a pen. There are crumbs and stickiness all over your computer keyboard and you spend half the day searching for an important work file that little Freddy may have deleted from your computer while doing his english project.
Does that sound somewhat familiar?
Don’t feel bad, we planned to homeschool and it went ass ways, whereas it has been forced upon you guys, so don’t be too hard on yourselves, you weren’t prepared and you didn’t ask for it.
When we started homeschooling years ago, we too tried to stick with a school curriculum for a while and failed. Then we discovered the joys of un-schooling. Basically this is when you let the kids decide what they want to study/learn about and you facilitate them. Kids naturally want to learn, curiosity is a basic instinct.
Let’s face it, schools will probably not be back before the summer break and so the curriculum is out the window. By summertime, hopefully this crisis will have passed, and your kids will be able to play with their friends again, but for now in lockdown, it’s time for them to explore the things that excite them. Let them decide what they want to do – making cakes teaches weights and measures, designing a bedroom makeover teaches area and parameter.
If they like dinosaurs, literature, history, computer science, whatever, there are free interactive online courses by the top universities in the world. My kids did lots of these (check out coursera.org and www.edx.org). Sometimes my children lost interest half way through, but that’s okay, they gained some knowledge from it and moved on to something else.
If your kid wants to be a doctor, nurse or something in the science field, (note: if your kid wants to be, not if you want your kid to be) what better time to start researching and making notes now of what is happening in the world, it will add to a bloody interesting thesis for their masters someday.
If they want to work in TV or the movies then let them watch movies, if they want to design computer games then let them play computer games, if they want to work in the music industry let them play music. If they don’t know what they want to do in the future then just let them enjoy the present; listening to music, painting a picture, writing, reading, texting, sitting staring into space (the best solutions to world problems and the most creative works of art have come from people staring into space from time to time).
Also remember boredom is a great source of creativity. Don’t try and fill your kid’s day full of activities to stop them getting bored. Let them chill, let them get bored, let them solve their own boredom and let them make the odd mess. Do you remember the joys of creating a blanket fort behind the sofa, or a secret den under the stairs, a train from cardboard boxes or a go kart from scrap wood in the shed?
This has started out as a very scary time and a voyage into the unknown for us all, but you can turn it into a time your kids will remember as one of the best times of their lives, that time when all the family had to stay home together.