Things I have learnt in only 4 days of crisis-schooling!
Good Morning friends and Happy Monday! I hope this finds you all well and coping with all that is going on with COVID-19, isolation, restrictions, extra stresses and crisis-schooling.
At the end of Term 1 I ‘crisis-schooled’ for just a few days, it was pretty relaxed, unstructured and was more of a parenting decision to keep the kids home rather than a School or Government decision. Term 2 is different though. All four of my children (Year 12, Year 10 and twins Year 4) are learning from home and we have been asked to ‘plan’ to do this for at least the first 5 weeks of the Term, unless you are an essential worker or some other major factor restricts the children from learning from home.
So last Tuesday School went back for all four of my children. Thursday night I sat here and said to my eldest daughter Miss ‘almost’ 18, that WOW it had been a long week. She laughed and gently reminded me that they only started Tuesday so it was a short week AND it was only Thursday night, not Friday!
A few things became pretty clear to me in the first 4 days of crisis-schooling, hand in hand with reading different posts / comments on social media and being given a few opinions (some unasked for!) from others. I thought I would pop them down for you all. If nothing else, to show that you are not in this alone.
Things I have learnt about crisis-schooling in four days!
- Set realistic expectations – it is important to keep in mind different ages have different needs and different concentration spans. For example my 9 year old twins are working in subject blocks of half an hour, Miss ‘almost’ 16 in blocks of one hour and Miss ‘almost’ 18 is schooling dependant on her workload
- It’s okay to tell your children ‘I don’t know’ – I don’t know about you but it was a long time ago since I was at School and things have changed quite a bit! I don’t recall having to learn, or even hear about more than half of what my children are studying! Therefore, I am quite comfortable saying ‘I don’t know … but I will help you find out’
- Setting schedules works well for some (like my family) but it is okay if it doesn’t work for you – We are all different and there is nothing wrong with that. If you do set schedules, keep in mind ‘point 1’ of this and also allow them to be flexible if needed as this will cause less stress. The main thing that I am not overly flexible with is their ‘breaks’ eg morning tea and lunch as I do believe it is important for their mental health and focus to step away for a while at different times during the day
- Children don’t seem to need as many hours home-schooling as they do at school – This can be due to many factors eg less distractions and therefore higher ability to concentrate. A home-schooling friend gave me this tip when this all started and it was helpful to find this out and to keep it in mind
- Fuel your children’s bodies and minds with a good breakfast, morning tea, lunch and plenty of water – I have always known this is important but for some reason, this seems to be more present in my mind when having them at home. At the moment this seems to be my main focus and ‘job’ and a way that I can help them alongside being there for them for questions etc if needed
- Make time for exercise (children and parents!), PE, fresh air, stretches etc – Time away from books and computers to clear minds, relax bodies and get rid of brain fog and cobwebs is super important and essential for everyone
- Be kind and supportive to Teachers who are doing their absolute best in these new and constantly changing times … and in return, Teachers who are reading this, be kind to the students and to the parents / carers, we too are doing our best and for many of us (young and old) we are completely overwhelmed, out of our comfort zone and worried about failing our children, ourselves and you
- Don’t judge others if you haven’t walked in their shoes before and if you have walked in their shoes before then remember what it was like and how you felt, take an extra moment to support, encourage, send a positive, random, thoughtful message … and still, don’t judge
- It’s okay to take an extra-long shower, hide in the bathroom for just 30 seconds longer than needed or check the letter box several times in a day just to have a little break. We are human and some of us (like me!) are used to a little ‘quiet’ during the days, so it’s okay if you need to find that ‘quiet’ in different ways, even just for a moment to recharge and take some deep breaths. For over a year now I have woken with hubby at 5.30am (he leaves around 5.45am) so I can then have some ‘me’ time until the kids get up at 7am – sometimes I read, crochet, sit in silence with my coffee or take this opportunity to catch up on paperwork, either way, it has been immensely helpful for me, it’s had such a positive impact on my mornings and mindset for the day, instead of waking at 7am with the kids and rushing and stressing. Last week, the first ‘proper’ week of crisis-schooling for all four of my children, I found myself staying up (probably a little too late) once everyone was in bed just to have that ‘me’ time again, my mind was ‘noisy’ not only from crisis-schooling but also due to other unrelated issues and so I spent the evenings crocheting a blanket! Whilst this is something I know I can’t maintain long term as I need more than 4-5 hours sleep of a night, it is something that I was aware that I needed at the time and I truly believe it is important to listen to ourselves and our own ‘self-care’ as best we can
- We are not Teachers, we are not running a school – such an important point! I don’t think that crisis-schooling meant we were expected to turn into Teachers, or that isolations meant we needed to turn into Gourmet Chefs, Hairdressers or Leonardo Da Vinci! Teachers go to University for years to learn how to teach, let’s just remember that we are parents / carers doing our best to help our children at HOME
- Let some advice go in one ear and out the other! I have tried to do this my entire parenting life however it seems to be something I really need to remind myself of at the moment – I am sure that people genuinely mean well when they offer unasked for advice, however, too often this advice comes from people who have never been and never will be in a situation like yours – for example in the past I have been given advice on what to do with my fertility journey by someone who fell pregnant just by looking at her husband and had no medical background or ever had dealings with this topic, I have been given advice on my gut health by many people over the years who also have no medical background and have never experienced anything even remotely close to what I have with my debilitating intolerances and gut issues and I would have the say the hardest for me to listen to is advice on mental health, medication and coping mechanisms by people that genuinely do not understand what it is like, have no professional experience OR personal experience in what it is like to live daily with acute mental health issues (or even mild ones) … and of course recently, unasked for advice, on how to home-school my children, what they should and shouldn’t be doing and therefore what I should and shouldn’t be doing and within this, how I am doing it ‘wrong’ … it is easier said than done but ‘in one ear and out the other’ is what I am trying to aim for, instead of anger or frustration
- Each and every child learns differently so be careful when comparing to what ‘others’ are doing / have done etc – it is honestly beautiful to see proud parents showing off their children’s ‘perfect’ art work or spelling etc on social media, however, don’t think that your child is any less because they aren’t at that level. I have always tried to not compare my children to others or to each other, I don’t think that this is healthy for anyone involved – having twins who are at different levels in most things is a daily reminder to me how important it is to keep children as individuals and to not compare – as Mums we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to other Mums, it is equally as important for our children
- Children can learn so much by playing and making a mess eg talk maths around baking muffins in the kitchen for morning tea, gather and count rocks, sticks and leaves in the garden and then use paper and glue to make craft with them. Mess is something that many Mumma’s I know struggle with, however, I do think it’s something that shows fun, creativity and learning – and keep in mind – school aged children are old enough to clean up or at least assist with cleaning up their own mess!
- If you are worried about your child, speak to the teacher, keeping in mind that ‘right now’ may not be the time to address it but you can both make a note to look into the issue further when things are ‘back to normal’
- Whilst you and your children might not be able to catch up with people ‘face to face’ there are plenty of opportunities to catch up with friends and loved ones virtually. In my thoughts particularly have been my children’s friends that don’t have siblings to play with at home
- It’s okay if other things ‘fall behind’ eg folding, regular sweeping, projects you had planned for around the home etc because you can only do a certain amount of things in a day and our days are different at the moment – this isn’t going to last forever and eventually you will get into some kind of swing / routine or you’ll catch up when it’s all over – be kind with prioritising and picking battles
- It’s okay to ask for help if and when you can, YOUR mental health is so very important – this is a life fact, not just a crisis-schooling, isolation, COVID-19 point – I do believe that Mumma’s in particular struggle with ‘asking for help’ the most – ask your kids for help, your hubby for help, teachers for help and don’t forget to text, call or Facetime your own family and friends to stay in touch
- It’s okay if you and / or your children stay in pyjamas all day!
- It’s okay if you drink an extra coffee or two during the day!
- Last but not least …. it’s okay to not enjoy home-schooling. It’s okay if this is something you are only doing because you have to. It’s okay if you miss your ‘normal’ routine, job, friends and days. Home-schooling children is not for everyone and there is nothing wrong with that, don’t let ANYONE tell you otherwise. I don’t judge the Hairdresser for not being a Nurse or the Farmer for not being a Lawyer, don’t let anyone judge you for not enjoying crisis-schooling or for you not wanting to do it on a regular basis. I have a few friends that home-school and I have always said that I thought they were amazing humans but I could never do it and I actually never wanted to do it! I guess things change though when a virus locks you down and forces you to do it!
Am I coping okay? Yes.
Am I only doing it because I have to? Yes.
Am I enjoying it? Well, it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be! It is interesting and challenging (particularly due to different ages, device issues, internet issues and the unfamiliar territory of the communication with teachers etc plus figuring out when to fit in my own work). We try to stay calm and positive, we only had one lot of tears last week on the first day (not by me surprisingly ha ha!) and this was due to being over-whelmed and I tried to acknowledge that it was ok they felt that way. We are trying to get through each day as best we can, because that is all we can really do right now.
Would I continue to home-school if I didn’t have to? No. It’s just not for me and I am okay with that. I don’t feel guilty. It’s not that I love my children less, I am actually a Mum that LOVES school holidays and being present with my children. It’s just that I enjoy my roles as a Mum/housewife/business owner more than I enjoy the role as their ‘substitute-crisis-teacher’.
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