School is just no good for some kids

Since Lockdown put home schooling back in the spotlight I’ve heard of several parents thinking about making the change from school to home educating permanently. So I thought this would be a good time to re-share this post of old…

The leap to home schooling is always a big decision, but I often hear parents saying how uplifting it was to see their children returning to being the happy contented little people they were before they started school. One specifically reported that the many distressing flare-ups and tantrums which had become part of their everyday behaviour after starting school, but which were never part of their nature beforehand, had all but disappeared again.

Yet another conversation I had with a parent I’m connected to on social media also said that they had their ‘happy little child back’ now they’ve started home educating.

From the archives; our happy children back enjoying ‘A Funny Kind of Education’!

It’s something I hear frequently and they are not the only parents to experience this. It happened to us just the same as I described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ (Scroll down the My Books page and you’ll find an extract)

So, why is that? I was asked recently.

Well, the most fundamental reason I feel is that school is just not good for some kids!

We are all different. And we all react differently to different situations according to our natures. Some of us like crowds and hubbub. Others of us don’t. Some of us can concentrate with distractions going on all around us all the time, others cannot. Some can sit still easily, others find it impossible. And these are not always easily recognisable needs; they are a spectrum of needs that are different for each individual. The class setting of hubbub, peer pressure, powerlessness, the claustrophobic and unnatural social clustering of kids all your own age, with minimal interaction, support or attachment from adults you’re involved with, is not a setting many children thrive in. Understandably – would you?

Add onto that the pressures of the curriculum, the pressures kids feel of meeting targets and test demands, the pressure of pressurised teachers having to fulfil these demands or risk their jobs, the uninspirational task of having to learn stuff you feel is totally pointless, far too complicated and of no interest to you, and being identified as ignorant if you don’t, are the ingredients of a potential meltdown in my view. I’m amazed how many kids survive this climate at all.

Even more worrying is that these pressures continue to build, and I cannot see how that will change, as long as politics and politicians are in charge of it. Politicians who are more interested in political gain than individual children, they have scant knowledge of education – or kids, some of them – and yet feel qualified to disregard the advice of professionals.

We continue to uphold a system of schooling that is long out of date. It no longer serves the needs of children who now have access to knowledge and learning without schools and teachers, and who are parented in a completely different way, and live in a completely different culture, to when the system was set up. It no longer serves the needs of a society that is completely different to way back then.

And as an educational approach its success rate is questionable, leaving many of our youngsters unfulfilled, disengaged, unmotivated to do anything and at worst; unwell.

Yet, I’ve never found a family who has not had these outcomes reversed once they decided to remove the child from school and home educate. The best thing of all is that they get their happy children back. And educating becomes a happy experience.

And if you want to know why happiness is important there’s a post here

I readily admit that school works for many. But not all, so should you wish to make the switch permanently to home education be bold and go for it. It’s a great decision and one which we and others like us never once regretted!

What’s socially adjusted anyway?

Sometimes for escapism I watch Channel Five’s ‘New Lives In the Wild’. I can’t always do it; Ben Fogle’s ignorant remarks about home education grate on me so much I have to switch over.

This recent programme got me just the same. He’s revisiting some of the families featured on his programmes five years ago to see what they’re up to now. Tonight it was the turn of the Goddards, who were living on the Isle of Rum in Scotland, but now have returned to the mainland as their needs changed and the children, who are home educated, grew up.

You can see the programme here

Of course Ben wants to see how things have panned out for the family (me too) and in particular the youngsters. Because Ben is concerned, as he’s expressed before, about home education; in particular about how well home educators ‘adjust socially’ when they’ve had such an isolated existence.

Now isn’t this just typical of those who have limited experience of home educators, and actually limited understanding of how people actually become socially adjusted?

It’s almost like there’s a national disease of wanting everyone to be the same and fit in and be normal – whatever that is. And it rankles! As did his comments, after interviewing the young people, about them seeming to be ‘socially adjusted’ after all – as if that was some sort of surprise!

Odd, isn’t it, how it’s always the social bit people raise concerns about as if it was socially normal in school – it isn’t.

Now I know I’m biased and in support of all those wonderful parents who want to home educate. And in my experience the social side of doing so is NOT a problem. The kids are fine, socially, intellectually, communicatively.

But others don’t know this. Others just listen to ignorant assumptions. And very few people, Ben among them it appears, actually question what social means and how it’s arrived at.

Firstly it perhaps refers to skills; skills of communication, empathy, interpretation, connection, conversation, understanding of others and what’s appropriate, and skills of care as important as any. Anyone who cares is bound to have good social skills by the very nature of what care is. That begins with family and spreads from there. You don’t need to be with a massive bunch of others necessarily, although broad experiences are always good.

Secondly, the expectation is also that youngsters need to be able to cope in socially crowded situations and learning out of them may hamper that development. However, many home educators don’t learn in crowds and their socialisation is rarely under developed. They end up in college, Uni, work, mixing, just like other youngsters.

Not everyone is either a crowd seeker or a crowd pleaser, but that doesn’t automatically mean they are not ‘socially adjusted’ in Ben’s terms.

Some people live in uncrowded places yet still integrate into social situations they’re presented with. Human empathy, intelligence and care, mostly learnt from family, teaches you how to do that, not crowds!

But what grated on me the most about Ben’s presentation of the programme was his arrogant assumption that he was entitled to judge whether the young people, after being fairly isolated, were ‘well adjusted’ socially or not. As so many others think they’re entitled to judge home schoolers – even though many of those judges seem fairly socially unskilled themselves!

It’s also ironic that very few ever consider whether schools make young people ‘well adjusted’ socially in the real world out of school. In my view, many are not!

And never is it ever argued that having less people around, being in less densely populated areas, might be a good thing because it might make us value people more and behave differently.

The incidence of Lockdown has brought home how irreplaceable are those real time, face to face, hug close, interactions with our special few, despite all the digital interactions we can now have with so many. It’s valuing each other that makes us socially adjusted, not being in a crowd.

And it’s fine not to like crowds. Doesn’t mean you’re not ‘socially adjusted’.

What’s socially adjusted anyway? Who is really qualified to judge? We all have social idiosyncrasies.

I so admire the Goddards for sharing their story in the programme and for their inspirational philosophies on life. Good luck to them. And good luck to all who decide on a lifestyle that doesn’t fit Ben’s idea of a norm!

Finally, good luck too, to all you home educators who don’t give a toss whether other pompous arses think you’re socially adjusting or not!

Missing out

There’s been much talk of ‘missing out’ with the children out of school during lockdown. And for most a sense of relief now that they’re back.

I cringed at the use of that terminology at the time because it’s extremely unhelpful and, after all, just a point of view!

Yes – the kids might have missed out on the school type of stuff, but we could change attitudes and look at what the children might have gained instead; new experiences for one – always educational.

Let’s face it, for the kids, school is as much about mates as anything. And we’ve all been missing our mates – still are in the way we’d normally be meeting, during these final days (hopefully) of covid restrictions. We’re missing those real life, in the same space, meetings like mad. Even if we can’t hug the person just to see them for real is wonderful. The kids want the same, course they do, that’s what they’ve really been missing out on.

The home educators are still missing out on that, until their larger groups can get together again. However, most of their educational activities at home have been going on just the same.

The irony is that many home educating parents, when they get together for all the educational, social and experiential activities that make up a part of a home school day, consider that it’s the school kids who are ‘missing out’ by being in school. Especially when the home school kids are enjoying things like field trips, museum visits, use of historical, geographical and environmental sites and resources first hand which facilitate their learning at a range of different venues, and which support the smaller amount of sit down, formal academic learning they do. Home educators’ view is that the school kids miss out on this wealth of learning inspiration when they’re stuck in an institution nine till three, day after day.

The school children also miss out on the opportunity to forge real life relationships, instead of school life relationships which aren’t always so healthy being structured and inhibited chronologically and institutionally by the limitations schools inevitable construct.

Whereas there are so many families home educating now it’s so easy, thanks to social networking, to be in touch. Home school kids have as vibrant a social life and interactive learning life as they choose. They don’t ‘miss out’ on that either.

It depends what you’re used to, life wise and learning wise.

We all have different lives, priorities and things that are important to us. Sometimes though we fail to see the reality, so immersed are we in institutional thinking. (Great book here called ‘Unsafe thinking’ by Jonah Sachs – full of ideas)

When we make one choice we obviously miss out on another. And we always have decisions to make about choices. There are misses and gains with any choice. The scare mongering in the media about school kids ‘missing out’ was all about academic measurement and failed to acknowledge the gains that could be had by a change in experience which is always educational and developmental. However since it can’t be tested these gains tend to be disregarded – but they will have happened.

Anyway, despite all that, I wish all the children and their families, who’ve have been pleased to get back to a school routine, health and happiness.

And I wish all home educating families the same, whether you’re well established or just starting out. And hope that the restrictions continue to lift so you can get back to your normal learning life.

You will have missed it!

Learning for Life – not for schools

So the school children have gone back to the classroom. But the home educators still can’t go out in the way they’re used to. That must be tough, as I know that home education is a misnomer – learning takes place out of it as much as in!

I guess it’s tough though for many school parents worrying about their children becoming infected with coronavirus, although the general overall vibe I’m sensing is one of relief!

School closures certainly turned a very different spotlight on home education, genuine home education that is, not school-at-home (blog here) which is what most have been doing and is completely different. I wonder if home educators will gain more respect and understanding of what they do after every parent has endured this time without the facility of school.

What is certain is that our culture of family life, of economy and working and how that operates with regard to parenting, is for the most part dependent on the school system being there to child mind, let alone educate. Whether that justifies what goes on in there is questionable!

The recent pandemic has raised many questions about education, economy, family life, culture – everything really. As parents are more involved in what their kids are learning many are coming face to face with the absurdity of some of the stuff on the curriculum. As this article in Prospect illustrates

School learning has become so far removed from learning about real life, living and surviving challenges like the pandemic – all important things we really need to know – it’s no wonder people are asking of their child’s work; ‘what’s the point of this?’

There must be better things to learn?

There certainly are, and maybe this is why so many parents now are turning to home education. Because most are beginning to see that home education is life education. Unlike school education. And true education is not the consumption of facts and tricks and strategies for the sole purpose of measurement and qualification, even though qualification may be part of it. True education needs to be about enabling people to live a life that is useful, fulfilling and non harming.

Education is after all about learning to understand life, how it works, how you work in it, how you find a place, make a place, make a social life, integrate, communicate, care, and do all this without harm to others or the environment.

Home educators seem to understand that to facilitate this requires a far more organic and life-led approach for most than the systematic drilling of useless grammar and mathematical processes that none of us will ever use again but is more likely to put us off the subjects if forced upon us too early.

This is what most enlightened parents have spotted about their children’s school-at-home stuff, that much of it is like that; beyond the kids, useless in a real world outside school, not even interesting!

A school world and school academics are not a true reflection of the world beyond it.

That’s why learning as a home schooler takes place as much out of the home as in it. And why most home educated youngsters graduate from it with a broad intelligence and range of skills, including those associated with socialisation, that equips them so well for real life.

They understand that learning is not just for schools! That it is a life-long tool and they can take it on themselves, any time, any age.

I’m wondering how many school youngsters understand that.

Children are made readers…

Well, I think it’s generally good news on the easing of Lockdown. I was terrified the politicians would go crazy for popularity, open everything up too quickly and we’d be back to square one with rising infections in a month!

It’s still hard to imagine that normality of meeting friends without standing back from them, giving spontaneous hugs and kisses, going to pubs and cafes, libraries, museums and other such venues for inspiration and stimulation.

I don’t miss shopping – it’s not what I’d normally choose to do as a pastime, but there is one aside to that; I miss bookshops. I’ve never had the cash to randomly buy books, but I love to look at them and after much deliberation would invest on occasion.

The kids used to love going into bookshops too. And could spend hours in libraries, staggering out with the maximum they could borrow in one go.

The aesthetic of books will forever appeal to me, despite the advantage of digital versions and all you can access online.

I remember being in one bookshop a few years ago when I came across a sign in the children’s department, with the most exquisite sentiment. It read:

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.

What a thought!  

I know it was a promotional statement but it is in part true. All those hours reading to your child has enormous benefits towards them building reading skills for themselves, they see/hear you reading, they hear intonation and expression, pauses and clauses, meaning and understanding of the fact these symbols on a page turn into stories. They begin to recognise word shapes and want to decipher them for themselves.

We can’t do it enough; we should read to them as much as we can, whatever age, however old they are. As long as they want us to. Such a loving thing to do. Such an important thing to do – give our time and attention to our children and develop a love of books and reading at the same time. Such a simple thing, which has such complex benefits.

It’s easy to be feel daunted by the hype and mystery surrounding learning to read, for parents to believe they’re not capable of helping their child to learn to read. That children need reading schemes and flash cards and complicated phonic strategies culminating in tests common in schools, or their children won’t learn to read properly.

That’s not true.

Children can and do learn to read completely informally as this brilliant book by Harriet Pattison explains; ‘Rethinking Learning to Read’ (see a blog about it here). In it the author actually argues against formal instruction – well worth a read.

Parents are totally able to ignite their children’s delight and curiosity about reading and it’s simple enough to encourage it to continue, building the necessary skills along the way. You don’t need teaching skills necessarily. You just need to give the time and attention to enjoying books and print and signs, in fact anything reading related, together.

(Here’s a little story about our child’s difficulty with reading during our Home Ed years – and what happened)

So keep the thought in mind; children are made readers on the laps of their parents – not necessarily in schools. And roll on the day we can get back in bookshops and libraries!

Meanwhile the book above is available here as well as Amazon.

Your three best things

‘So, what’s your three best things today?’ my daughter asked me recently. I think I was being a moany pants at the time!

During these locked down times it’s easy to do. If you’re anything like me you’re beginning to run out of positivity.

So I took a look at the BBCs facility ‘HEADROOM’, have you discovered it yet? It’s well worth a visit, especially the essential everyday tips. And something you could do along with the children. It’s all education after all.

There are many helpful and interesting articles, watches, and inspiring reminders. I say reminders because often we already know what’s recommended to keep our mental well being on track, but sometimes we either forget, are too worn down to do them, or are just lethargic from the struggle and cannot face it. These gentle and encouraging prompts are a real help in pushing through the inertia of this long pandemic haul.

One of the recommendations is to acknowledge that we are facing a struggle, we are sick and fed up and anxious and tired, and that we are failing to maintain our well being at times. To admit, own up, share; because by doing that we can then move on to finding ways to help ourselves and consequently our children.

Sharing conversations with our children about how we’re coping – or not coping at times – and giving them the room to share theirs, will be a help to all. But then we must take the conversation forward towards ideas on what we can do about it. Like, for example, making a plan for things to do daily; the exercise, learning, walk, outdoor time, cooking, making, whatever. Like making space for each other and respecting we probably all need time apart. Like making on-line dates to connect with others. Focus on the things you can do, rather than those you cannot, at the moment.

These are all pro-active strategies that will not only help to maintain resilience at this time, but will also provide your children with tools to help them do the same for themselves one day when things get tough as they inevitably do at times through life, pandemic or not. Such a valuable part of their life’s education, don’t you think!

One of the simplest strategies I picked up when I looked at some of the videos was a reminder to keep with the positives. I know that’s wise and healthy. And I’m usually a positive person. But I, like many no doubt, had buried the practice under moans and missing of the things I couldn’t do, rather than thinking about those I could (as my daughter spotted).

one of my three best things

To help you continue to weather the current hardships the pandemic has thrust upon us, keep a mindset and attitude in the house that allows a quick moan if need be, but which is counteracted by what you’re going to do next. And at the end of the day a quick recount of your three best things of the day. I managed to find some after she got the discussion going, pulling us back to our usual up-beat mentality.

I like to think I helped her develop her positivity, even if I’d lost sight of mine for the moment!

You can do the same for yours.

Just do what you can

Home educating, through all the years we did it was an absolute joy and delight. It’s a while back now, children grown and flown, but it was a decision we’ve never regretted; just not doing it sooner!

We would be out and about most days on trips of one kind or another; visiting places of interest, getting exercise or a swim, library, museum or galleries, social get togethers. Such a variety of things we did along with staying at home studying, doing practical or academic activities. We depended on our trips out for balance and wellbeing and contrast and consequently being together 24/7 was never an issue.

So home education in Lockdown must be incredibly hard. I can’t imagine the strain of being shut in together without the meets and visits beyond the home. And as for doing school-at-home, when families are not either prepared or used to it, that must be tough.

However, despite our enjoyment of home educating, there were days when it was equally tough for us too. And the odd occasion I completely lost it!

One day sticks in my mind particularly (probably because of the shame). I’d reached the end of my patience with the mess, the noise, and the whole house being so strewn with the result of their busyness there wasn’t even a place for me to sit. And when I asked for a tidy up before they got anything else out to do I couldn’t stand the usual resistance.

It was just one of those final straw moments and I did something I’d never normally do; I shouted, I had a tantrum, I told them to go upstairs until they would, and I swept the entire contents of the heaped table off onto the floor with one sweep of my arm and a satisfying crash.

The kids looked at me in horror. Then quietly mounted the stairs, eldest sister’s arm round the youngest as if to protect her from this ogre.

I was not proud.

But even then, within the general joy of home educating, I was just coping in the best way I could.

We’re all human – sometimes the way we cope is not the best, but it’s just the way it is. It’s also another part of being human that we – and the children – have to learn to cope with, move on from.

What you parents with youngsters are coping with right now is monumental. It’s unprecedented. No one knows what is the best way to deal with learning in Lockdown. Not the politicians. Not the parenting gurus. Not the teachers or the educationalists who think you should be carrying on with this blasted grade chasing and box ticking that ministers have made of education. No one knows your situation within your house, with your family. Only you. So it’s only you who can figure out what’s your best way to deal with it.

But one thing that I came to understand during our early home education days that might help, was that my relationship with the children, our family relationship, was paramount. Any kind of formal education came second. And equally paramount is our wellbeing. I had neglected my wellbeing which drove me to that final breaking point.

If you can get through this time with a strong and happy bond with the children intact you will have done brilliantly!

The children will be able to return to their formal education at any time – they have a lifetime to do so. With strong supportive bonds they will be able to acquire what they need to get where they want to go at whatever point.

Trust.

Time frames aren’t that important. There are so many home educated kids who have progressed and achieved in completely different time frames to school time frames and gone on to have happy successful lives.

I’m happy to report that despite my occasional tantrums the strong and happy bonds with my young people still remain as they’ve graduated beyond home educating and into the working world. (You can read in the book below how the day was recovered with an apology – from me, a tidy up – from them, a discussion about the situation and a good giggle – as much about my behaviour as anything).

But I wanted to share this story with you in case you’re having a day when you’re struggling to do your best. Some days it won’t be the best. But that’s family life. The children learn from those too. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just do what you can!

Read this tale and others in my story of our home educating days

A curriculum for kindness

It gets harder and harder, doesn’t it; coping with the restrictions in life during this Lockdown, without the simple community and social pleasures we’re used to, never mind the distancing from loved ones.

There’s a whole range of challenges right from those who’re suffering total isolation, to the irritations of being clustered continually with those you could do with some space from! All that’s hard enough to deal with never mind the worry and anxiety about becoming ill. Add onto that the children’s progress and it’s enough to tip anyone managing to keep sane over the edge.

I hate to see these awful sensationalist headlines about youngster’s lives being ruined because of this ‘gap’ in their education. It’s so unhelpful and is basically about using our currently delicate emotions to sell news, regardless of the truth of the situation. It’s totally immoral.

This time now is not necessarily a ‘gap’ in education, it’s just a change; potentially an opportunity.

It is, however, a ‘gap’ in the meaningless measurement and box ticking process that the system has made of learning. And media coverage, like suggestions of kids’ lives being ruined, contributes to this sensationalist ignorance about learning.

The children will be learning, even though it’s different. They’ll be learning different skills, educational and practical, developing personally – you cannot stop that process despite what academics you do or don’t do. They’ll also be learning how to learn for themselves perhaps. Learning about life and living with kindness and compassion, and appreciation for those in tougher places than themselves.

This makes them grow into good, caring people and responsible, productive citizens, as much as anything academic will. Ironically, that was one of the reasons behind the setting up of this schooling system all those decades ago; to create literate, productive citizens in the industrial sense of the word. And that’s what the government agenda is right now; citizens who’ll contribute to the economy – that’s their main focus.

Contributing to the economy is desirable, rather than being a burden on it, obviously.

But there is a more important aspect of education that also needs to be contributed to, but which the government doesn’t bother with as it can’t be measured;

the wealth of kindness, empathy and compassion that is necessary in order for us to live happily and without harm alongside each other and upon this planet.

This starts at home and it should be perpetuated through any educational approach.

We’re seeing prompts for kindness all over the place currently. As if we need reminders. Perhaps we do.

In this business of building an industrial and consumerist life, which is what the system educates for, we have side-lined the essential fact that in order to survive, both as a species and in harmonious wellbeing, we need kindness and compassion as well as academic learning.

Do we educate for that?

Would it not be better currently to set exercises in living together with kindness, rather than leaving it as a by product of maths, English and science? Surely that’s what’s needed right now? To help children learn how to put themselves in other people’s shoes, both those in the house and out of it. Learn how to consider everyone’s hardships not just their own. Help youngsters see beyond their own difficulties to a wider picture. Build resilience. Practise everything and anything to do with kindness. Do anything we can just to get through these hard times.

These would be better targets for the day: How can we make this day better? This hard time easier? How can we accommodate all the different temperaments and needs in this household? How can we turn today’s procedures into kindly ones, rather than gruelling ones?

We’ve got to get through these hard times. A curriculum for kindness will make them easier to bear.

And I reckon the general educational progress will be the better for it!

Learning Without School

I always thought that it would be the internet which would make the biggest change to home education. And education per se.

Little did I realise that it would be enforced by the set of such bizarre circumstances we find ourselves in now – forced into it because of the Pandemic and Lockdown rules! Everyone now forced into doing ‘school at home’, and I put that in inverted commas because it is very different to home educating as a thought out decision up front, (see this blog which explains a bit)

However, this enforcement has prompted many parents to take a more in depth look at home educating (or home schooling – see this blog for an explanation of terms) and begin to understand that children can and do learn without schooling, learn without the usual tests and ticks and structured classes, some of them learn without any kind of institutional influence at all. The accessibility to education the internet provides has given new parents the confidence to reconsider this option.

So if you’re one of the parents wanting to know more then you might find my very first book ‘Learning Without School Home Education’ helpful to delve into as it is broken down into chapters that ask all the common questions about home education.

The chapter titles are as follows:

  1. What is Home Education and why do people do it?

2. How do parents start home educating?

3. How do home educated children learn?

4. How do home educated children find friends and become socialised?

5. What about curriculum, subjects and timetables?

6. What about tests, exams and qualifications?

7. What is life like for a home educating family?

8. What about children with learning difficulties or special needs?

9. Where do home educated families end up?

Of course it was written long before the pandemic. It was also written before the Internet became the massive learning facility that it is now. But, you know what? That aside, learning is still innately a human experience and it is partly that which we have to consider; things like family influence, personality, the myriad of ways to approach learning other than the academic and structured, parents’ feelings and ideas about education, children’s responses to school circumstances – very valid but hardly ever acknowledged as such, all of which are important. Education is not just about ticking boxes.

Despite the glories of the internet; the marvellous tool it is for research, facilitating education and eradicating the elitism that came with the exclusive possession of knowledge in the past, it will never be able to replace the humane qualities of support, inspiration and encouragement that another human being can bring to the process – that human not necessarily needing to be a teacher as home school families are proving.

The internet can’t do human! Only parents and teachers can add the flavour of that – and yes – parents can and do adequately facilitate their children’s learning alongside the internet.

As time goes on there are increasing numbers of young people out in the working world who were home educated, some of whom never went to school at all, who are educated and intelligent, leading happy, productive and successful lives, and no one would ever know whether they went to school or not! Thus making parents ask the question, as they are doing now with the advent of on-line learning and enforced school-at-home, what is all this school stuff really about anyway?

A question I suggest you keep on asking!

You’ll find more details on the book ‘Learning Without School Home Education’ if you scroll down the ‘My Books’ page on this blog.

No Lockdown on Love

The Pandemic feels heavier than ever doesn’t it? Or is it just me?

I’m finding this winter Lockdown much harder to weather than I did last summer when the climate was kinder and there were more light hours to help lighten the spirits. I used the outdoors and nature as a strategy to help me through, especially when seeing friends and family was so limited. Whilst my love of nature burgeoned, loving those close to us felt like doing wrong somehow.

I know there’s no lockdown on love but it certainly feels like it when you can’t grab your loved ones and hold them in a big embrace, that’s if you’re lucky enough to see them!

Lockdown is certainly inhibiting our expression of love as well as access to many of the things that bring us joy. Not only the hugging and holding, but the meeting, community company, social pleasures, get togethers; all those things that dilute the intensity of everyday concerns.

No wonder we’re all suffering. Adults and children alike, however much we try and keep the cheer going. But keep it going we must in order to help the kids through such difficult times. Our responses, ideas, strategies for dealing with it will be a toolkit you’re passing on that they’ll always be able to draw on.

So what strategies have you developed? How can we keep going?

I think it’s important to keep contact with community as much as possible, making digital dates do for now.

It’s important to get out of the house daily, take advantage of what little natural light we have during winter – even cloudy light is beneficial. Walk out!

It’s important to find contact with nature in whatever way you can because nature can be so healing. Do this through walks, gardens, parks, planting your own seeds in hope for times beyond the now. Visit the same bit of nature every week and watch it change, even if only the front gardens you pass on your walks. Watch for bulbs coming, buds changing, colours returning on the trees and shrubs. It’ll help us remember different times will come.

Don’t forget the Big Garden Bird Watch

Don’t forget the Big Garden Bird Watch coming up, take part, and check out the other activities on nature sites for even digital nature can help.

Eat well. Cook. Move. Look after yourself.

Whatever you herald as important the kids will too. The strength you show in dealing with these personal hardships will become their strength. And it will improve yours too, as helping others always does.

Parenting is already hard. Parenting through a pandemic makes it much worse.

But we have to remember that actually; there really is NO LOCKDOWN ON LOVE. Love for family. Appreciation of the things we do have. Being grateful. We must find other ways to express those things if we can’t hug etc. And a strength and determination to see this through and come out the other side.

It will happen. We just have to keep on loving till it does.