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 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.
Whatever your youngsters are doing; school-at-home, home educating, further or higher education, or working, it’s worrying. For all of us. Everyone is suffering from anxiety over the unprecedented crisis the pandemic has caused.
So I kind of feel it’s unhelpful to suggest that one group, whether that’s the tiddlies or the teens, are suffering more than anyone else. It’s hard for all in different ways, adults included. Each group has their challenges. Everyone needs compassion right now whatever stage we’re at in parenting or education, work or family.
However, I do have particular compassion towards those parents who have dutifully invested in an education system via schooling, now taken away, that had become increasingly flawed. And that was before the pandemic and school closures even started. For those flaws are showing up now more than ever, the rigidity of it most of all.
Parents have been driven to believe that schooling is the best for their youngsters’ education. Urged to believe that a rigid structured approach to learning, with targets, tests and continual measurement is the only way to educate. In fact they’ve been hoodwinked into believing that, without it, their children will be failures with no hope of a successful future. Sold the idea that without endless grades their young people will never be employable.
Parents have been sold these ideas through powerful educational politics and emotional propaganda that keeps parents subservient to a system that suits the government. This is not because it’s best for the learners. But because a subservient population is easier to manage.
And currently parents are bombarded with statements about how this time without school will have a dire effect on their youngsters’ long term future, especially if they don’t do what the school wants.
None of this is helpful. And not actually true anyway.
Let’s face it; this crisis is going to have an effect on everyone’s future, not just the school kids. Whether it will be dire or not depends on how we respond to it. It will be different certainly, but different doesn’t necessarily mean dire.
However, I can understand parents’ anxiety about it.
Maybe what would help is to take a step back from this emotional bombardment from schools and see it from another perspective.
Firstly, success does not necessarily depend on grades. There are both employees and entrepreneurs out there who are proof of that, Richard Branson among them.
Secondly, education is not only about schooling, curricula, how many worksheets or work books you’ve filled, about targets, academic exercises, test passes, graded subject matter and the rest of the school strategies used to so-called educate. It is about developing a broad, cultured, inquiring mind that is curious and keen to develop the skills to learn. It requires far more personal skills than the academic – skills which are equally dependent on being learnt out of school, like motivation, communication, intuition, responsibility, independence, for example. (How can school kids develop independence when they’re constantly coerced into shutting up and doing as they’re told?)
And, thirdly, if you take a wider perspective, success is not confined to what happens between the ages of six and eighteen. Not confined to qualifications. It is a life-long, ongoing process that can be constantly developed and updated – independently of an institution – as much as in it. At any time.
Fourthly, youngsters are not necessarily going to be scarred for life by this disruption to their traditional, systematic schooling any more than any of us are. In fact, you could argue the opposite view, that they may benefit from it, as I hear on social media that some are.
We are all having to diversify, be inventive, manage our well being (particularly tricky with being so confined), whatever group we’re in, to get through this. But they’re good skills to practise!
So it may be wiser to adopt strategies to calm the worrying about how to prop up a system that is outdated, consumerist, blinkered and damagingly conservative anyway, ignore these horrible emotive threats from schools, keep in touch with other parents so that you can question and rebel against the abominable practise of fines against those parents not keeping in line. They can’t fine you all. And besides, how did threats and fines and bullying ever become an acceptable approach to education?
Be bold. Do what your intuition tells you is best for you and your family. Question why schools ask of you what they do. And develop a wider perspective on this out-of-school time, the most difficult of which, for the time being, is looking after your mental well-being.
Learn to look at education differently. Look up how experienced home educators have done it so successfully over many years, resulting in intelligent, productive, qualified and successfully working young people, who mostly ignored school practises and did it their way. Look at their approaches and philosophies (Read mine by scrolling down the ‘About Home Education’ page on this site) and develop a different perspective. Take charge of your children’s education for now. Your child doesn’t need to be fodder for school stats.
Try to encourage your youngsters to be busy with a wide range of activities which interest them, which they may never had time for before. Variety develops intelligence and skills far more than a narrow curriculum does. Hang in there until better times are here.
I very much doubt that in twenty years time anyone is going to look back and say I’m a total failure because I missed a year of schooling. Because by that time they won’t be total failures anyway, they will have adapted, updated, found other ways forward, made a different success. Your child’s success isn’t determined by their school years alone. Have faith. Success is a long term thing often based in an ability to diversify and be resourceful, just as we are doing now.
Then, maybe, as Spring approaches and parents question and demand changes, not only will you see bulbs blooming, but also the burgeoning of a better education system than the restrictive, inhibiting, coercive, political one we have now, a new one that is not just there to serve the politics, but that actually serves our learners well.
I may be a home educator at heart, but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel for all those parents of school kids who suddenly find themselves home schooling without having made that choice for themselves.
That’s extremely tough. Especially so if you have to keep working from home, doing the same hours you did before. It must be impossible to focus adequately on both.
Home educating families who’ve chosen to do so, have mostly made that choice after researched decisions and planning and re-jigging their lifestyle to fit. Not to mention a willing and inspired heart! I guess this won’t be the case for many parents in Lockdown right now. Not only that the facilities out of the house, which home educators would depend on, are no longer available. That’s tough for all of us, socially as well as educationally.
It helps, I think, to be aware of these stresses and challenges we’re all of us facing right now. And to be kind and gentle with your days, with your expectations, and especially aware of practising strategies to remain mindful of your mental and spiritual well-being too.
Last year when Lockdown first confronted us I posted some ideas to try and help those parents who are home schooling now. As I explained it might be time to examine your own ideas and attitude to schooling and learning and come to a different understanding in order to help yourself through, as some parents have rigid ideas and expectations that may not be serving them well during this difficult time.
Here are some examples:
Understand the concept of time differently. In a school day much time is wasted between classes, waiting for quiet, disruptions, etc. At home children can get through things much more quickly because they concentrate differently. So if you’re doing school stuff at home keep that in mind and let them use the free time they have for personal explorations, which are just as educative.
Understand also that kids learn from everything they do, whatever they’re doing, playing included. Experience educates more than anything else.
So use this time to encourage experience of other activities that you may not have had time for but which are equally developmental like creativity of any sort; from changing a room round to making dens, building structures, whatever. Cooking, growing, customising, artworks, experiments with anything you have in the cupboard. An inventive mind is a stimulated and developing mind – good for brain development – good for building valuable skills. More motivational than workbooks as well! (See the poster below – it’s true!)
You may not be able to get out to museums, galleries, workshops, libraries and public places like them right now, which make up part of a home educators week, but most of them have amazing sites online to explore with games and facts and videos that are intriguing. As do the Wildlife Trusts and organisations, Blue Planet and programmes like them, National Geographic magazine has a kids section, all full of educational activities. Not forgetting the BBC learning website, Channel 4 Learning, the Open University etc, historical films and documentaries.
To maintain freshness, pursue a mix of activities that contrast each other like the sedentary and the active, the indoor and out, alone or in company (when possible), screen based or written and the practical. Contrast helps motivation too.
Encourage separate times. Discuss and plan for each to have some personal time and space in the house without others interruptions and promote this as a valuable and important recharge time. (You might have to suggest things to do with it at first) Talk about respecting each others’ space and needs to help you keep sane.
Resist from leaping to solve the ‘I’m bored…’ syndrome! Instead encourage an exploration of how they might solve that for themselves perhaps with a few simple prompts but after that… it’s an important skill for them to be able to take charge of this independently.
You may not be able to get out and do it socially but you can exercise in the house as much as out of it. Exercise, or movement of any sort, is as important to the brain’s development as it is to the body’s, as well as overall well being. Google will provide a range of ideas.
Finally remember that this time will change, try not to worry that the kids are missing out – they’re just experiencing something different which can be just as educational, search some of the blogs I posted last March April for further inspiration and keep in mind what the poster says.
Here we go again; another Lockdown and worries about where this is all going to end.
It can make for tough times, especially if you’re home educating and worrying about the children’s learning.
Just remember you survived the last Lockdown and the children will be learning all the time from whatever you’re doing. I’m sure they still will despite more Lockdown restrictions.
And if you’re worrying whether they’d be better off in school you should also remember that there are no guarantees that school will work out either. Just as there are no guarantees any style of parenting will work. Or any lifestyle will be right for you – and home educating is as much a lifestyle as a style of learning, since it becomes so integrated with life. So don’t worry about that as well as everything else!
Just carry on without guarantees. Put in whatever’s needed to give home education your best shot.
The best tips I can offer for that are:
Listen to your intuition. If a home educating activity or style of learning feels intuitively right for you and your family it probably is.
Do whatever’s needed to help you all cope whether that’s education wise or personal; actually, it’s all education anyway. And remember there’s no rush, take your time. This won’t last forever.
Look to the Now. Take each day as it comes. Your child will grow and change. Your home educating will grow and change. Lockdown will change – just do what you can, much will have to be be virtual at this time.
Keep in virtual contact, learn from others. Observe what they’re doing. Remain responsive to ideas but be prepared to flex or adapt them for your use. Don’t stay stuck. We’re so used to systemised thinking keeping us stuck we forget we have enormous flexibility with home ed – a chance to do things differently. Kids learn from everything!
Nurture your relationship with your children through respect. Respect is a two way thing (unless you’re in school!). Use it to build a workable and happy Lockdown learning experience. Demonstrate respect to them, expect it from them. Do that through the way you behave. Create space from each other within the boundaries of your home so you can keep relationships sweet. Be inventive about room use.
Keep talking things through with the kids. Youngsters can be part of the decision making, require explanations, can take charge, have ideas. Lots of conversations are extremely educative.
Keep it light though. It’s not law that educating should be burdensome. It should be joyous. It’s there to enhance life remember! And it doesn’t happen overnight – be patient. times are tough.
You cannot guarantee outcomes. But you can guarantee that you’ll do the best you can to facilitate your child’s learning experience, however you’re managing it at the moment. Obviously it won’t be enjoyable all the time – life’s tough for everyone. Let go the bad days – they’d have them at school where absolutely nothing would have been learnt. Some homeschool days will be like that too! Quit worrying!
There’s lots more tips and reassurance in my Home Education Notebook which covers all the concerns people have when they home educate – whether in Lockdown or not. For a lighter read try ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ which is the story of our own home schooling life with tips and suggestions thrown in, along with a little laughter which is what we all need right now. It’s had some fab reviews! And if you’re still stuck making the decision try my ‘Learning Without School Home Education‘ which answers the FAQs. See the My Books page for more details.
This time last year was so different! Who’d have predicted what we’re going through now!
I was looking back at some of last May’s posts and came across these points about home education that may offer some comfort to any existing home educators having a wobble right now, and inspiration to those who might be considering continuing with it after schools reopen again:
Home educated children can go on to achieve good grades just like other children do. They go to university, college, or into work or businesses like other young people. Their academic, social and personal skills are reputed to be in front of those of their school peers. Education is a long term process with no guarantees – none with school either – but there are thousands of home schooled youngsters who’ve already proved the above to be true.
Home educated children are not isolated or invisible as has been suggested. Most interact with a wide range of people, in a wide range of places, doing a broad range of activities. Some have far more life experience than those children who just have school experience. Most have mature social skills, often exceeding some of the adults you meet!
Thousands of families turn to home education because schools fail to provide for their children’s needs, both academic and personal. In some cases this has been a life line for children who’ve suffered in school the kind of abuse that just would not be tolerated by adults in a workplace. Home educators are the parents who take initiative to do something about their children’s suffering rather than just ignoring it. And most of these children become as competent, intelligent and educated as their peers in school.
Children who have been written off by the educational system or labelled as having ‘learning difficulties’ or ‘special needs’, for example, have gone on to achieve a good academic standard through home education.
Home educating families are as ordinary as any other families who have the same ordinary aspirations for their children to achieve and be happy. They come from all ranges of the social, educational, financial and cultural backgrounds that make up our society.
Home educators may not do mainstream school, but they do all other aspects of mainstream life – sports, clubs, extra-curricular lessons and activities etc – interact in mainstream community and ‘fit in’ just the same.
Home educated children go on to achieve the same successful outcomes, if not better, than children in schools.
Contrary to what most parents think, children learn in a multitude of different ways, not just in the conveyor belt style of the educational system. Home educating gives children the opportunity to learn in the way that suits them best, increasing their chances of success. This doesn’t necessarily mean academic cramming. It means acknowledgement of the myriad of alternative approaches there are to learning, to opportunities, to qualifications, to being educated, and making best use of them.
In my experience as a home educator within a wide network of other home educators, and whilst researching for my books, I have never come across an incidence of abuse or neglect, which has been cited as a risk home educated children are under. However I saw plenty of cases of abuse and neglect when I worked in schools.
Lots more in my home education notebook – from which this is taken – also to comfort and inspire!
I’m finding it tough now! I’m sure you’re the same. Some days I get to the point where I’ve lost the will to be cheerful or motivated.
Bet you know the feeling? Which is what prompted me to doodle this.
This Lockdown – or rather the awful pandemic – is a catastrophic challenge for us all, whoever we are, whatever we do. Perhaps a way to help ourselves is by being realistic: We’re not going to manage upbeat, or busy, or motivated all the time as I’ve been trying to. Some days just have to be got through.
Staying in is hard, despite sweet moments we may have. It’s incredibly demanding mentally and spiritually being home based all the time. Our resilience will wear thin at times, without the dilution of going out.
I especially feel for those who are not used to it and the kids who are used to school. Some families, who are not used to being together so much like home educators are, perhaps have it doubly tough. However, home educators have it tough too because they can’t go out as they’re used to. Everyone’s facing challenges if for different reasons.
But we’ve all got to screw up the courage to keep going from somewhere for a very important reason; because the kids will learn how from you. And courage and endurance are important life skills.
So think how you’re going to do it – when you can, that is.
If your children are working at their school stuff online help them keep motivated by talking about how you’d push through your tricky bits. Perhaps you promise yourself a walk/treat/cuppa/Netflicks when you’ve worked for an hour, for example, or start the day with warming exercises or a good dance and a giggle to get you going. Or by discussing what you’re going to enjoy when the tough bit’s done. Explain how you do it at work.
Having conversations in the family about motivation and how to energise it will help your kids learn about motivation and getting through boring bits, another essential life skill.
If you’re a home educating family already used to working in a DIY or self-directed way maybe there are school kids you know who could link up with yours online and share what you’re doing. That’ll help yours keep motivated too.
Children are inspired, remember, not so much by being taught but by the experience of seeing how others tackle and overcome challenges.
This closeted time is a tough one. For all the family. It’s a time for being inventive about living and working together – and surviving amicably with as little damage as possible! Even the bad days.
But on those days remember what it says above – some days it’s enough just to get through and stay well. And even the ability to do that, will be teaching your children something!
It’s threatened by schools constantly. A kind of subversive blackmail to keep parents in check. Keep them sending their kids to school so they can be kept on the conveyor belt of test scores, thus keeping schools high up the dreadful league table competition that the business of education has become.
Did you realise that’s what the education system is mainly about?
The irony is: this is NOT a complete education.
And the tragedy is that this propaganda – this threat of ‘getting behind’ – has made parents desperately afraid; has created at FOMO of education, if you like!
However, true education has no ‘in front’ or ‘behind’. It’s the competitive and political system which has created it. A system which has become less about what’s good for the child and more about what’s good for the politics.
It doesn’t happen so much when home educating because most home educators treat education as something different from the prescriptive hot-house process based around child control and mass teaching. They generally see education as a personal process that a) is for the whole development of an individual not just the academic and b) doesn’t have to measured or scored or graded in order to be successful. And they’re proving this approach works.
But that aside, in these unprecedented times, when everyone’s in the same boat, it’s therefore true that no one is really missing out or getting behind.
What’s more important to focus on is addressing the trauma that everyone’s going through, particularly the children, with the unsettling disturbance of what they knew to be life, and having the concept of mortality brought much closer.
In fact, we’re all suffering a major emotional trauma that has disrupted work, family, life as we know it. And this is what we need to be nurturing ourselves and our children through, not worrying about getting educationally ‘behind.
Even more importantly; this time now is an education in itself.
It doesn’t look like the grade getting, measured process that most parents equate with education, but it is building many personal skills which are an essential element of it and without which grades are of no use at all.
I do understand that this is hard for many parents unfamiliar with this way of thinking to grasp. But maybe now’s the time.
The value of education, and what use it is beyond school, is not only based in grades. It’s also based in the learner’s ability to apply themselves to living and earning and working with others. To do this they need a whole range of non-academic skills; relationships skills, conversational skills, empathy, self-motivation, social skills, confidence, budgeting skills, respect, creative skills – not just for creative activities but to thinkcreatively enough to solve challenges life throws at you, this current crisis being a great example. We’re all having to think creatively, beyond what we normally do, in order to get through it.
This time at home away from the normal institutions, is an opportunity for your children to develop those other aspects of themselves, through their personal pursuits at home and the way you respond to this crisis and live together as a family, that they never get the chance to develop in the treadmill of school. Everything they do out of school is as valuable to their development personally and educationally as that which they do academically.
So don’t worry about ‘getting behind’. Rethink this propaganda – which is what this concept is to keep parents and kids doing what the government wants – and take the opportunity to rethink what are your priorities for the education of your children and how those might be best facilitated. And trust that time will even it all out anyway.
And take care of yourselves whilst you do. Your children are learning from you!
(Scroll down the ‘About Home Education’ page to read about a philosophy of education)