Let’s face it, for all parents in the UK this January plans will have changed. The further restrictions placed on us all by the latest COVID lockdown means the nation once again will be faced with our children accessing learning from home.
Some of you will have started with your kids in school. Some will have known they were home for a little while but were planning to have them back in school within a couple of weeks. Others may have made the decision themselves to keep them home anyway.
Whatever your situation we are all facing the prospect of home schooling our children till at least February half term and unlike the first lockdown the weather is not on our side.
It can feel a bit like groundhog day.
The hardest things to deal with during times of uncertainty can be the unknown and the lack of control over the whole situation.
Four years ago my oldest son got sick with myalgic encephalomyelitis on top of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.
Since that point he has been home schooled or has had access to online learning as he isn’t well enough to attend school in a physical school building. His GCSE’s were planned to be taken from home long before the pandemic took hold. Lockdown has been going on in this house far before COVID.
I’d like to share what I have learnt over the last four years of having a child in lockdown so that you can survive homeschooling and to use the time to make the bond between you and your kids stronger than ever.
Keep talking and listening to each other, even messaging your teenage kids throughout the day. Making time each day to be present with each of your children.
There is definitely a place for Disney + or bingeing on Netflix, if you have an important work call to take, or are trying to get dinner ready – you are not superhuman. At the very least ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ has inspired a love of chess in our house. But, ask yourself at the end of every day ‘How long have I truly been present with my children today?’ Listened without distraction, laughed, hugged?
When my children were little they used to love to do the ‘key jar’ activities at meal times, a jar full of random questions to get everyone talking and listening to each others point of view.
We still all have meal times together and I make sure that I spend time with each of them every day to chat doing something different – right now that’s playing cards, painting, completing physio exercises or checking on the chickens together.
However, when our son was first sick and bed bound with ME it would just laying with him while he slept so he knew that we were there. There are no right and wrong things to do, whatever works for your family.
Right now it is really important to provide lots of light relief, all work and no play is no fun for anyone, especially children. There has to be a balance between the work you want them to do and opportunities to have fun.
Your child may have been sent home work to complete independently (or with your help) as opposed to online with face to face teaching support. The teachers will be providing worksheets and tasks to make your life as easy as possible but the activities may not be the most stimulating for your child. Remember right now most of this work will be revision, so don’t stress about it.
Inject some fun into the tasks that have been set. You know your child best so are best placed to tap into what they love and make the whole homeschool experience more interesting. If they are learning WW2 how about researching the German officers with the best moustaches and write about them. If they are learning money in maths and have a slime obsession (if you are a parent to an under 10 you will understand), ask them to work out how much it would cost to make enough slime for their whole class. Extend them by asking them if they could they sell it for a profit? This can be applied to anything that they are learning.
It also involves having fun outside of whatever learning has been set. Playing games, having movie nights, holding a disco with a playlist of everyone’s favourite music, having an indoor picnic (or outside if you are brave enough), building a den, going for walks. Ask your children what they would like to do for fun with you, I bet that they have loads of ideas.
Stay calm especially if your child isn’t. Your child may be feeling all different emotions such as highs and lows, anger, blame, sadness etc. Allow them their feelings and to talk them through but don’t force it. They may be a little unsure of the expectations on them at the moment, depending on their age they may be stressed out over exams or missed school trips. Stress and anxiety will show its self in different ways.
They may also not do exactly what you want them to do exactly when you want them to. Here it is important to be calm and step back and be aware of your own feelings before responding, you will be much more likely to respond with calmness and purpose. Good communication and setting clear boundries will really help.
This will help to get everyone on the same page and get clear on those expectations and boundries without setting strict rules. By creating action plans and timetables for their work it will help them be more independent and stay on track.
Is their a project at home your kids would like to do with you throughout this time? When my son was poorly with ME we made a vivarium for his lizard. My husband built it, with our son offering support mainly in a supervisory capacity! Then our son designed his vision for the vivarium and together we built it. It took much longer than we initially planned because he wasn’t well enough to do much in one go but it got us together, it involved lots of problem solving and gave him a purpose. He was really pleased with the end result.
During this lockdown our middle son has built perches and roost ramps for our chickens and is learning how to wire electrical circuits to support his latest science module at school. These types of activities are great for problem solving and solution focussed outcomes. Whatever they do make sure that you celebrate their achievements.
Be the anchor
In times of change this is really important that you are the constant in their lives, so much of what they are experiencing now is different – they can’t go to school, the clubs they attended are all closed, they can’t see their friends or even their grandparents. Their home has suddenly turned into a place of work. They need you to be your normal funny, annoying, kind, (insert you own adjectives here) selves. They don’t need to see you stressed out by the latest news bulletin or yelling at the TV when the education secretary starts talking about schools.
Keep your routines as normal as possible and aim to keep things familiar. When our son was sick some days he would make it downstairs and promptly fall fast asleep on the living room carpet, he was 12 and as big as me at this point so any attempts to carry him back to bed were long gone. Life carried on around him mostly. His brother in and out from the garden shouting. I even have an image of his little sister dancing round him watching a DVD of his performance in a street dance show the year before and copying all his moves. I clearly remember laughing at the irony. But, life had to go on for everyone else, and those routines and normality were even more important during our time of uncertainty.
You know your child best and what makes them tick and now more than ever this is going to be important. Think about how much sleep do they need? If they are teenagers and don’t have live lessons first thing in the morning, would they function better with an extra hour in bed? Are they better with an early night and are most productive in the mornings? Understanding when they work best and getting to grips with exactly what they need to do can revolutionise the way they spend their time and increase their productivity. Leaving them more time to have fun.
Do they need lots of snacks? Are the the type of kid that needs space? Do they thrive on the company of others? Do they need to run off steam outside? All three of my children are very different and they all have very different needs, partly due to their different ages but mostly because they are very different people.
Are their any fitness challenges that they would enjoy? Would they like to try a new sport at home? Could you get them moving by setting challenges within a sport they already love? Could you get them involved in the kitchen?
To Sum up
Learning is way down the list of priorities during lockdown. I am sure that all of my children will get done what they need to however I see the six things that I have listed above as far more important. I know that if they are in place learning will happen easily.
When my son was first sick an I was in survival mode and I didn’t always get it right. When I relaxed and focussed on what was important – him! It made all the difference to his health – mentally and physically and to his learning.
I would love to hear the ways that you have thought of to have fun and work together with your kids throughout the COVID lockdowns. Share your ideas you never know you may see them and be inspired by you.
Would you like to know how to get the best out of having the kids home during another COVID lockdown
Getting a schedule together, keeping everyone motivated, managing all the things you usually have to do and God forbid actually trying to work from home.
If your child has a health condition or disability there will be another level to all of this. Missed hospital appointments or tests causing stress and now the responsibility of physio, occupational therapy or speech and language therapy may now fall solely on your shoulders. Which, let’s face it, is likely to make you feel stressed, overwhelmed and alone.
Imagine having a best friend by your side, who has been through all the things that you are experiencing, feeling all the raw emotions and has the answers?
Together we will will focus on the areas where you feel that you need support and create a plan to support you. So, are you ready to start achieving the best outcomes for you and your child during lockdown?
Join The Community
The Thrive Tribe is a community of women who have chronic illness or are a parent to a child who has an illness or disability.
You may feel like no-one understands what its like living with your chronic illness or worrying everyday about your kids. That you are hanging on by a thread or the future may feel a little uncertain. In The Thrive Tribe we get that.
You value life and want to be the best version of you. To manage your symptoms effectively so that you can live your best life. Or, to support your children to live theirs.
In the community we will be having real, open conversations about how you can do this. With my experience of living with multiple chronic illness’ and raising kids with CMT, EDS, PoTS and ME. I know that the struggle is real. I will be sharing guidance, challenges, my personal tips and real life stories to remind you of how this can become a reality now!