As parents, we've got to make numerous decisions for and on behalf of our children, almost every day. Breast or bottle-feed? Cloth or disposable nappies? Give them a pacifier or resist? Home-school them or not? If not, which pre-school is best for their development? Which school should we apply to? Which sport/s to enrol them in?
Back to the homeschooling bit. Now don't get me wrong, I have UTMOST RESPECT for those parents who choose to homeschool. I might not understand the WHY and the HOW of it – why they choose to not get a break from parenting everyday while their offspring are in formal learning, and how they have the patience to teach them EVERYTHING – but I do applaud them. Especially now, that I have officially been 'homeschooling' myself since the past six weeks (not by choice but because of the Big 2020 Lockdown as I refer to it).
And I've realised and experienced and learnt that it is BLOODY HARD WORK. And only a few of us are knit out to be homeschooling parents. It's one thing doing homework and projects with your children, but a whole new ball game actually being their 'teacher' and sole source of learning. It requires commitment, a lot of time and a hell of a lot of patience. And loads and loads of alcohol (not for a science experiment, but for having survived it!!!).
Here's how homeschooling has panned out for us these past six weeks (that's half a term, wowzies!!!).
Ok, I'll let out a little secret. At this stage, I was quite kicked about the whole idea of homeschooling. Nervous, yes, but a little excited too. It was unchartered territory. And because I knew it wasn't a permanent situation, I went in all guns blazing. It would be fun, I thought, spending all that extra time with Little Man. Structured time. Me imparting actual knowledge to him, and he looking at me in amazement, proud of the smart mum he has… (That 'smart' adjective came crashing down in Week 3, when I was stumped by primary level Math! More on that later…)
Anyways, Week 1 went well. In fact, it went very well. I nailed it… I thought. I'm a good (even great) teacher… I thought. This wasn't as bad – or difficult – as I imagined it would be. And Little Man was a perfect student. Attentive. Willing. A quick learner. I was actually beginning to enjoy this…
Week 2 was an extension of Week 1. There was more structure: we had a time-table that allowed us to finish all the work set out by school (with short-and-sweet breaks in between) before the end of day. I found time to blog and do other household chores around our homeschooling schedule. We had a little 'study area' set up, complete with sharpened pencils, erasers, rulers and even a thesaurus at hand! Proud teacher, happy student!
School – and homeschool – then closed for Easter and we had a lovely, relaxed two-week break. With NO mention of studies. Until…
It was back to business. We were beginning to realise this would be for longer than expected, but after the good start that we'd had, I was up for the challenge. Except for two things:
1. Little Man had had a taste of doing nothing but seeing movies and playing for two weeks, and the thought of sitting down at our designated study area and learning was a bit too much for him.
2. The work being sent in from school was now a lot more (it being the start of a new term) and what hit me harder was the fact that I now had to teach new concepts. Through Weeks 1 and 2, we were just revising things Little Man had already learnt. Now, I was faced with the task of teaching my child multiplication and division; and how to write a non-chronological v/s a chronological report. And make a presentation on Florence Nightingale. And… and… and… all while his interest in doing anything academic was dipping and my impatience levels were soaring.
Yet, I decided to take the higher road (most times) and tried to keep my cool. I realised this was not a normal situation, and despite the fact that Little Man was loving the lockdown (no school, no sports, late nights and a LOT of screen-time), there were a lot of other limitations. There was no real routine and none of us were a 100 per cent, however much we 'normalized' this. I also realised for the first time how something as simple as arranging an array into rows and columns can be so confusing for a six-year-old trying to get his head around the concept of multiplication!
Now, I was getting a REAL feel of homeschooling…
This was when we both reached breaking point. Little Man was now getting frustrated because the things he was learning weren't as easy as before. He wasn't getting a full score in his Math quizzes; the spellings and tasks were getting tougher; there were a lot more submissions to complete before the end of the week. He was losing interest and I was losing the will to teach. We both knew it had to be done, but neither of us were doing it with a hint of enthusiasm. I was faking it; he couldn't be bothered to even do that!
Towards the end of the week (and all Mondays henceforth because of the weekend), the moaning and groaning would begin before we even started. I would lose my s*%t by 10 am, telling him I knew my phonics and math and didn't need to do it in my late thirties… so if he wasn't interested neither was I!!! Which was met with a holier-than-thou attitude of a teenager: Fine! Don't teach me! I'll do it myself!!! (Which obviously he wouldn't!).
Other mother-son homeschooling dialogues would go like this:
I love you as a Mummy, but you're not so nice as a teacher. You shout a lot!
I know I'm not as fun as Ms XYZ, but that's why she's a teacher and I'm a writer. This is difficult for me too. But all mummies are forced to become teachers while the schools are closed. But isn't it cool, you are part of history, you can tell your children and grand-children about the time the world was shut and mummies became teachers…
But why do I have to study; I'm on holiday!
The whining grew louder and the short-and-sweet breaks of Week 1 became longer and more frequent. (After all, your fingers do pain after writing all of two sentences!). To the point where a 10 minute session would be followed by a 25 minute break. What could be over and done with in 30 minutes used to take a good 90 minutes or more. This was getting stressful. And very, very frustrating!
Monday morning was (as expected) met with a tantrum at the mention of homeschooling. So I decided to change things around a bit this week. Make it more interesting, perhaps? We couldn't go on like this…
So, first things first, I changed the classroom. Our nice 'study area' was shunned for the cosy carpet downstairs, where Little Man would snuggle under a cosier blanket and read. Or spell. Or learn about carnivores, herbivores and omnivores. Not the most studious posture and nothing like a classroom atmosphere, but it worked. I looked at it as a variation of 'Forest School' and called it 'Carpet School'. My new homeschooling mantra was: Whatever works to get stuff done! Beggars can't be choosers and all that…
Our new 'cosier' classroom
I began giving him the choice of what he wanted to do at what point of time: if he felt like math first, math it was. If he wanted to do spellings after his afternoon movie, we left it till then. Not to say the whining stopped, but it lessened considerably.
I also started giving him LOTS of cheers and praise – FOR EVERY LITTLE TASK COMPLETED. I didn't feel very 'cheer'ful but it seemed to work for him. Our new spelling routine was to shower him with a different form of praise for every correct answer: so I clapped and whistled and squeaked and rang the bell on his bicycle and even did a little jig. Again, not how homeschooling is supposed to look but it was working. At least the spellings were being spelt…
We're not doing too bad this week, primarily because we're continuing last week's mini-circus and I've loosened up A LOT. Some rules still apply (I have to show him who the real boss is), but we follow most of his homeschooling 'rules' now (we all know who the real boss actually is). I don't expect him to sit on table and chair now; often times he is scuttling around the house with his cars while I'm following him around asking him the plural form of flamingo and butterfly. Or he is rolling on the floor bored to death with homeschooling, yet answering what 4 times 4 is.
We have deteriorated from writing half-page stories and poems to three-word sentences. Ok, five words when I remind him to use some 'lovely adjectives'. There is still a lot of drama every morning. There are still tantrums. But we're treading along. Waiting for it to be the end of the school year.
Disclaimer: However, it's not all bleak. We've had our brief moments of success at this homeschooling shindig, and I've learnt a thing or two as well. You can read my tried-and-tested tips on making homeschooling work, and please do share your own with me. #needhelp
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