Homeschooling during the pandemic – some thoughts from a home educator

Over the last week, I’ve had so many people message me to say that I’m better placed than they are to face what’s ahead or asking me for tips on how to homeschool when they hadn’t planned to. The truth is, despite having home educated from the start, I am also daunted. I’m not OK.

There is, what seems to me the obvious, that we don’t home educate in isolation. Public buildings, groups, classes, free play with friends are all integral to our approach to education, as we learn through life.

But life has suddenly been disrupted. We’re facing a full range of emotions – in ourselves, our children and everyone we’re connected to. It’s a lot. Hanging over all of us looms uncertainty. What next? How long will it last? What will it look like after?

Facing the feelings

And there is grief. When the news first ramped up I felt panic. Anxiety quickly gave way to busying myself with action points: writing to help others, my volunteer work as a breastfeeding counsellor (which is ramping up online and over the phone now that groups are closed) and work as freelance contracts fell away. We’re also having to dramatically increase our farm’s veg box scheme, having relied on selling to restaurants.

Eventually, at night, when things were quiet and my brain had space, I began to feel the grief. I just wrote out the many things I’ve cried over but I don’t want you to read that list. You know the list. We all do. I think my brain needed to protect itself by jumping quickly into action mode. There is only so long that can last. At some point, we must stop and feel.

Take a moment

How to do this while at home with our children or at least while socially distancing?

I think it’s worth not rushing into plans, whether our kids have always been home educated or are newly home because the schools are closed. What we’re going through collectively isn’t normal.

It’s OK to need time to take a beat and process what’s happening. Our kids need it too. This is a huge upheaval for them and they’re no doubt picking up on what we’re feeling as well as catching snatches or more of the conversations around them.

So why not treat it like the summer holidays? Play the games, stick the family films on, let them choose what to do with their time. Is it really so bad to let them lie in and maybe even watch more television than usual?

Maybe you need a break too. I know that I’ve been snappy with my kids lately and it is because I am stressed and they are stressed. We all need to chill out and focus on reconnecting before settling into a new way of being.

Let go

I understand the urge to adopt a colour-coded, rigidly timed schedule with lots of clear rules in place. It feels good to feel in control of something when everything else feels out of control. We just need to take care that our kids aren’t the ones we’re controlling. So much has been taken from all of us already and it’s only the start. We don’t need to take more from our families.

We may need to keep returning to slowing down and letting go of our expectations because we’re playing the long game. New feelings will emerge for everyone as the weeks and months go on. What works one day may be impossible the next.

I’m not saying don’t have a routine or even a schedule. We’re all different. I am saying let’s observe what each day brings and ask what it needs. And I certainly am saying there’s no need to compete with how anyone else is getting through this time. This is about survival.

Gather

On that note, it’s going to be hard. There’s no way around that. We need each other. On a normal basis, as a home educator, I rely on conversations with friends, talking about how hard I’m finding it and sharing ideas on what helps. This is the time to create a kinder internet. There is so much kindness out here already. We need community now more than ever in this time when we need to be apart.

Already support groups are being organised on Facebook, gatherings for parents and children starting up on Zoom and both are finding great comfort in being able to video call friends.

Keep in touch with your friends. If you haven’t heard from someone in a while, get in touch. If you need some more friends, then please reach out. This is a time for all of us to be brave. And bravery might begin with recognising that we’re not OK.

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For more thoughts on doing life together well, listen to my podcast, Revillaging. I think we need these conversations now more than ever.

I’ve just done a Q&A with Muddy Stilettos that goes into how we home educate.

For a bit more on how we approach home education, I wrote about it some years ago. Some of that has probably changed if compared with the above. That alone might be interesting.


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Further reading