As I sat down to write this blog post, I decided I would give it a witty title then could not think of one so googled home-schooling. That was two hours ago. I foolishly clicked into something called “easy home-schooling ideas”. None of them seemed that easy and now I think I’ve being doing it wrong this whole time. In essence, I have realised that for me what I found most challenging about home-schooling, is that feeling I am doing it wrong and that I am not doing enough. I easily fall prey to suggestions on social media, or the messages in the WhatsApp groups where other parents are looking for “finishing early sheets” and extra reading and all I can think to myself “my child is going to fall behind”, “finish early sheets seriously?” “what the hell is rounding do you not just carry the one? “and in the style of the tracker mortgage advert, “I don’t know what SESE is!”
Like everyone, I wanted to do the best for my children but as is my nature, and that of many others, I was also concerned about what others were doing and where my efforts lay in the league table of home-schooling parents. I worried endlessly that my efforts were in the lower divisions of the league.
It started out well enough, I bought notice boards to put up pictures of the Irish vocabulary, I got white boards for spellings practice, we were nailing the tricky words but honestly that only lasted a day or two. Day three it all started to come undone a bit. There was arguing, crying, a bit of hair pulling and that was just me. The reality is, you can have all the stationary, and trust me I bought it all, and all the ideas and online resources etc but what it comes down to is time. Which is also the only thing that children really want from you, your time. And time is not always what you have if you are also trying to work or have other family commitments. So, it quickly became apparent that we needed to try things in a different way to make it work for us and to do that we needed a change. I needed help but honestly did not really know who to ask. I was crippled by the feeling that everyone else had it sussed. I did not want to lose face and the mum-guilt had gone in to overdrive. And then, as if by magic, I heard a piece by Dr Mary O’Kane that was shared on Twitter, and she pointed out that what we are doing here is not home-schooling but in fact is “emergency schooling during a pandemic”. This was a light bulb moment. She spoke about making it fun and then said the words that for me changed everything and they were “it’s about connection and not perfection”.
So, we tried it again but in a different way. I chatted to the children and we all agreed that each day we would just do our best. Some days we would get loads done and some days we may not get much done. No matter what though, we would give it our best shot. I, like many, love a good to-do list but sometimes you have to be happy to tick just one thing off and know that for that day it was enough. We can always try again tomorrow.
As a list maker, writing “have fun” is not much help but I have tried to put a bit of fun back into our days. We did shape hunts, that had mixed results when my son pointed and said “and mum what 3D shape is that wine bottle up there? Awkward! We made brownies and did all the measuring and counted that as our maths and some days we mitched off school because we were tired, and we went outside instead or did a jigsaw or played bingo. It’s not what was on the schedule of work the teacher sent but I am okay with this now, we were together, and safe and most days having fun. And as the saying goes, every day is a school day because you always learn something. It may not be from the books or other resources we were given but that does not matter.
Each day we start out with the intention of just trying our best and that is working for us. It’s not perfection, far from it, but we are connected now in a way that we were not before.