10 lessons I’ve learnt from {home learning} | Lockdown 3.0

{Thursday 21st January 2021}

I think it’s pretty fair to say that week 3 of lockdown 3.0 has pushed me to the edge. It was always going to happen. My inner perfectionist kidding me into thinking we can do it all and come out feeling rosey on the other side. Yet here we are. Fresh off what may have been the worst day since Covid was nothing more than a mere whisper back at the start of 2020.

Let’s rewind to week 1 of lockdown 3.0. That first week of January was a bit of a blur. The swift 180 from preparing to go back to school to being delved back into juggling home learning, home life and work wasn’t easy for anyone. Can I just make a note here to say {in my opinion} schools have been INCREDIBLE! I literally would have spontaneously combusted with all the pivoting they’ve had to do and quite frankly everyone working in the education sector deserves a medal.

For context, for those who don’t know us, we have 5 year old twin boys and a 2 year old little girl. My husband has been furloughed and I work 2 days a week plus run a small business {in addirion to this blog}.

We started lockdown 3.0 ready to take on the world; only for that world to buckle under the strain to the point I feared I would come out of lockdown with not only an expanded waistline but a damaged relationship with my children. And this was something I could not allow.

So, if like me you have been struggling – here are a few things we have learnt during our most recent home learning journey. {Some of these may not be relevant to your aged children or seem obvious – but it takes my inner perfectionist a little while to “do one” and simmer down,}.

1. Trying to replicate school at home DOES NOT WORK

My inner role play {steady} dreams came true. Armed with a white board and pens, date neatly written at the top ready to greet my eager students for the day. Then I remembered these eager students are in fact my children. And I am their mum. It was fun to play classroom teacher but, for us, it didn’t work. This is home learning during a National pandemic. Not school or homeschooling.

2. Address your expectations

If like me you have a nagging inner perfectionist who wants to be able to do absolutely everything to the best of everyone’s abilities you may need to have a stern word and remind him or her to chill their beans. This is not to say we don’t have high expectations of our children but these expectations also need to be achievable. And we all know what happens when you put too much pressure on a child {or yourself} and it’s not usually pretty. And I know our school for one have repeatedly said they don’t expect us to do everything, even though my inner perfectionist hears “but really you should be able to”.

3. Structure vs. Flexibility

Ok, so I loooovvveee me a routine. And I loooovvveee writing out a schedule. Your school may even send you a timetable and you may have set lessons or live sessions each day. Now this may work a treat for your family, a lot of children thrive off routine and structure. However, again, they are not in school. They are at home. So building in some flexibility may help ease some of the pressure. Think about when your children would do their homework on a normal day. Do they enjoy reading at breakfast time or going through their spellings before bed. Maybe they would be better doing bits of their work, if they can, before morning registration. You don’t necessarily have to stick to school hours during this time.

4. Take the spot light off yourself

It’s easy to feel pressure on ourselves to get our children to do all their work to a high standard as if this directly reflects on our ability as a parent. Do you think teachers are able to get the best out of their students every single day? If you’re feeling the pressure try making some tweaks – be honest with your friends if you’re struggling, you may find they are too. Don’t compare your child’s work to that of their peers. Your child doesn’t like to be seen on camera and never talks? That’s ok. Feel like a everyone is winning at life on Instagram? Take a break or follow some more honest accounts.

5. Give them some independence

Something I hear a lot with having twins is people saying but at least you have two the same age. Whilst I can obviously see the advantage of not having to cover several different year groups make no mistake. This s*it ain’t easy. They may be learning the same things but that doesn’t mean they are at the same level and enjoy or are good at the same things. They are individuals. And should be treated as such. Something I noticed this week is how much we hover over them when they work. Instantly correcting or even doing the work for them {blush}. Being only 5 my boys do need supervision but they also need a bit of independence. You may be amazed at the results.

6. Let them get things wrong

On a similar note. Let them make mistakes! Mistakes are how we learn. They shouldn’t be punished, blamed or shamed. Teachers won’t be fooled. If little Jonny is suddenly turning in perfectly formed sentences and reading 14 books a day it’s going to ring alarm bells. The most important thing is that that they try.

7. Half a day at a time

Home learning is INTENSE. For you. For your child. For your neighbours who hear you shouting 4+10 is NOT 10!! for the millionth time. I heard quite a few people say they like to do school work in the morning then let their kids play in the afternoon and I couldn’t fathom how on earth they fitted everything in. Today we all agreed we’d “smash out” {yes, that’s what we said} school work in the morning and have the afternoon off. Do you know what happened? We got through maths, phonics and English {with the boys having much more ownership over their work}, stopped for lunch. They played all afternoon then before dinner we looked at their phonics and maths puzzle books {which we had at home anyway} and practiced spellings. This is when we would usually do homework and taking that pressure right off did us all the world of good.

8. Be open and honest with your child and their teacher

My younger twin in particular has been having a hard time of home learning. Yesterday was a dark day in that I was at my wits end. He had completely shut down and we were both in tears. I didn’t know what to do. All the “parenting techniques” google had to offer weren’t working. We were at breaking point. I felt like a total failure. He was confused, upset and angry. In the end I sat him down and explained why we had been asked to do school work at home at the moment and why I was finding this really hard. He still didn’t want to open up much to me but he was able to express that he was finding it hard too. I then arranged a one on one video chat with his teacher and another chat with my sister {who is also a teacher}. Having that link back to school and some one on one time to himself was really helpful. Did I like his teacher seeming my ugly crying face? Not particularly. Was it a huge weight off to be honest that we were struggling and to hear it straight from her that we were doing ok?? Absolutely.

9. Think outside the box

If you’re really struggling to get the set work done each day and, like us, are having daily battles which you’ve quite frankly had enough of, remember there are other ways children can learn. They don’t need to be sat at a table, pencil in hand. Use toy cars to run through some maths equations. Ask your child to dictate a story for you to write down then maybe they can draw some pictures to go with it – English and art, boom! Let them practice letter formation with an app or on a white board. Let them be the teacher for the day and teach YOU about the different ways to write the sound “e” or find number facts of 13. I heard someone say the other day – why do you think teachers are usually so tired? Because they spend all their time trying to make learning FUN.

10. Celebrate small victories

Only managed to do half the set maths work today? Amazing! Your child sat to do their spellings without fuss? Fantastic! They tried their best. Well that is all we can ask. Remember, you’re not lowering your expectations, you’re trying to get through a really strange time as best you can. Schools are amazing. They will offer support if you ask and they will help close any gaps in learning when your kids go back to school. They do not expect you to suddenly be expert at something they undergo years of training to do. And if your child is proud of something, let them celebrate or share it.

Remember, the most important thing from all this is not that little Jonny completed all his phonics every.single.day. But that he is healthy and happy. And if he’s managed to conquer conjunctions and convections then gold star for him. And if not, that’s fine too. And don’t forget to thank those who are doing all they can to support you and your children. This lockdown is different. A higher proportion of children are in school. Schools are not “babysitting”. They are teaching, creating home learning, supporting and being asked to do all this during a National pandemic and with bearly any notice or concrete guidance. We are doing our bit by keeping our children at home {if we can}. This too shall pass. There will be bad days and better days. You CAN do anything. But not everything.

Published by Ellie Hully

Business Health & Home

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