Dear stretched hanging-in-there parent,
How goes life in lockdown? And home schooling?
It’s one thing to have the kids during school holidays. They’re in and out the door with sleepovers, boot camps and grandparents.The key point is it’s holidays so time off from the books. Or Chromebooks.
Unless you’re a Tiger Mum drill sergeant and I’m not totally against a rigorous regime of rote learning and strict discipline. But I digress.
Remote learning does that to a parent. It drives you batty.
COVID-19 has claimed us all. It’s made the parent the teacher, or at least that’s how it feels; turning our kitchen tables into study zones and homes into classroom battlefields.
To the mother or father embracing the opportunity to sign up for an online drawing masterclass with their gifted child, make macramé plant hangers for the neighbors, bond over cooking sessions using native ingredients from the backyard or revive the ancient art of Hellenistic painting, this missive is not for you.
We have little in common.
To the Mum or Dad who relishes the morning school run because it means farewelling our kids at the other end, the harried parents who struggle enough with school notices, excursion payments and stuffing the lunchbox with healthy treats each day, we’re in this together.
At a 1.5 metre distance.
We miss school.
We need school.
Take back our kids!
Don’t get me wrong. I cherish my kids, couldn’t love them more.
And I am quite partial to home schooling, but have no patience and too much of the Tiger Mum drill sergeant (see above) in me.
But this feeling that I am now somehow responsible for their learning … which parent ever signed up for that?
My respect for teachers has soared. How they manage to do every day, with a truckload of kids, what I struggle to muster for half an hour is beyond me.
Call me a dinosaur, but to me, online education is an oxymoron.
For many of our kids it screams invitation to endless hours of YouTube or Google Hangout or any other online chatroom they can scurry into where time turns to mush and learning goes out the window.
I admire the frankness of Marist headmaster Matthew Hutchison who warned parents that the biggest risk was allowing a student to simply ‘kick it all away’.
“We know some boys are experts in hiding, hoping nobody will notice them,” he added.
But, parent comrade-in-arms, listen up and lean in. I have found the solution, for me anyhow. No, alcohol is not involved.
My goals are small. But they are realistic and manageable and I think that’s the key.
Here’s what I’ve concocted:
1. A spelling test after breakfast every morning. No one can spell any more so my kids will shine. I even try to make them sound out the word (Tiger Mum drill sergeant -see above),
2. Times Tables – yep they matter. If my kids can remember the words to the Top 20 hits (or whatever they’re called nowadays) they can know their Times Tables. I might even push them to 13x,
3. Books – we’re so old-fashioned we have a library at home, you know with shelves, and thank goodness the boys love to read. So read and roam my sons,
4. Writing – the kids are writing summaries of what they have read and we’re giving them topics to prepare arguments for and against. I’ve thought of a debate but fear it would end in fisticuffs. Well, it would.
It is working. Sort of. And best of all, we are sane.
No calm parenting podcasts yet. No need for the 101 hyperlinks the school has sent me with well-being tips and mindfulness classes.
And there is learning! Each day my kids’ scores ratchet higher on those spelling tests, I become a bit more the smug home schooling parent.
Still desperate to fling them back to school, but taking it one spelling word at a time,
Yours in home schooling tribulations,
Felicity de Fombelle