Updated: Mar 14, 2021
Home schooling - One day at a time!
It’s not teaching, it’s emergency schooling! Whether you are a qualified teacher or not, home schooling has been a new experience for many parents. Whilst this second lockdown has afforded us some reflection on what worked for us the first time, it has also posed many issues from technical hiccups to structuring the day around live lessons and countless snack requests. “How many times a day do you get a snack at school?” I hear myself ask on an almost daily basis. Most of us aren’t teachers and those who are are finding home schooling challenging in different ways. I would imagine that the most recent google-search would be along the lines of “what is a fronted adverbial?” or “what on earth is a polygon?” whilst we learned these things in school and use them all the time, when they are presented in new and seemingly more complicated ways, it makes us question our ability.
Schools are not expecting every single piece of work to be completed and submitted within a certain time frame. Work is made available for the days when you and your child/children are able to get through it unscathed. Guilt is a big emotion for any parent and this same guilt is experienced by Headteachers and school staff as they are simply not able to please everyone. Everyone is doing their best and your best is enough for you and your family.
During this period of home schooling, it is only natural that you seek comfort in the experiences of others. Social media is a quick and easy way to get a picture of what other’s are up to; how many times do you have a quick look on a social media site and see that someone you know has created a hotel-style breakfast buffet for their children, complete with the mini Nutella portions, and then looked at your own child who is reaching for the biscuits and the biscoff spread? Whilst social media plays an important role in enabling us to have contact with others, it can often be an unrealistic take on lives and expectations and brings up the whole “Instagram Vs Reality” issue which only fuels feelings of inadequacy. If your child is currently being baby-sat by “Auntie Nintendo” whilst you read this with a cuppa, that’s ok.
How can we look after our Mental Health and home school at the same time? Here are some top tips:
Whilst we all like to think that we can sustainably juggle everything, the reality is that we can’t. When you feel that things are getting too much and are becoming overwhelming – STOP!
Take time to breathe, find a quiet and calm space where you can have 10-15 minutes to yourself. Whilst some of you may think that the only way you are going to get this peace is to shut yourself in the loo, there are other ways to enjoy some quiet time. If you have outdoor space, utilise this. Close your eyes and take a big, deep breath in through your nose and count for 7 seconds. Open your eyes and breathe out slowly, through your mouth for 10 seconds. Focus on your surroundings whilst outside and being in that moment to get in touch with your breathing. Finding yourself quiet space and giving yourself some time can have a positive impact on your well-being. It takes courage to admit you need some time to yourself so allow yourself to be rewarded for it. The schooling can (and will) wait.
You can do it! Setting achievable goals
It is a parent’s natural default to feel that you aren’t doing enough; some days you feel you are able to achieve and complete anything thrown your way whilst others leave you and your child sat staring into space. Setting yourself reasonable and achievable goals will ensure that you feel accomplished at the end of the schooling day – YOU CAN DO IT! Visual timetables are a great way to plan the day and to make sure you are factoring in downtime from the schooling and those all-important breaks and treats that keep us going. Breaking your day in to achievable chunks will help you to feel more in control and less overwhelmed. You might find that have a visual timetable for the first couple of hours of the day is more beneficial than having the whole day ahead staring at you. See if you can timetable in an activity you all enjoy from baking to board games and anything in between.
If you or your child are finding home schooling a challenge one day, that’s ok - accept it. You and your child would benefit so much more from the occasional “bunking off” when these days hit rather than trying to push through. Life skills are often things schools don’t have the time to cover so take the opportunity to embrace some discreet learning in place of their scheduled lessons. Tying shoelaces, learning to tell the time, or playing shops to learn the concept of money are key skills for any child to have and their teacher will be happy to know that these are being covered.
Talk to your child. Normalise your feelings and theirs. It is ok to have some days that are easier than others. Try to address the guilt by saying that you need some quiet time and that they can play on their own. Children are very receptive to open and honest communication so talk to them and listen to each other. Identify how you are feeling and what you feel would help you and encourage your child to do the same. This is a good way of building a positive and mutually respectful relationship and ensure that you all feel heard within your home.
If you are finding that one day of struggling with home schooling turns in to a few days and then in-to weeks, find the courage to let someone know. Reaching out and admitting something is hard takes courage, there is nothing to feel ashamed of when you simply can’t do something. Your child’s school are there to support you and your child. Every school will have designated staff to support the mental health and well-being of its pupils and their families. Send that email and ask for help. You might find that the staff member having a very similar experiences and can offer useful and accessible strategies to get you through. If you can email your child’s teacher directly, you can, teachers are people and they fully appreciate that this situation is challenging on so many levels.