‘It’s not going to be easy’. That’s one of my partner’s favourite sayings. Doesn’t matter what we want to achieve, he trots it out; unhelpfully!
At this present time, I have to admit, that very saying has slipped into my mind. We are all facing challenges we never could have predicted. The least of which is being cloistered together most of the time, without the work, school, outings which are more the norm for family life and which affords necessary space from each other.
Irritations can escalate, tolerance lower.
We’ll have to learn to live round one another in harmony and respect if the family unit’s going to survive. Something it was very necessary to do whilst we were home educating, even though getting out and about was very much part of our routine.
There is much to be learnt from home educators’ way of living and learning. Not so much about education because this short period of parents doing school at home is not like home educating where you grow into learning together gradually and have time to work a completely different approach to it. Rather, we can learn a lot about how to develop a relationship that’s respectful and harmonious enough to work together.
Managing the continued close contact that we’re dealing with at the moment, and which might go on for a while yet, takes some working out and working at. It’s not going to be easy, says she!
Of course, home educating families don’t manage it all the time. There is just as much conflict and discord as in any home. There certainly was in ours, some of which I describe in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. I think I had a complete meltdown at times. But we got over it – I was supposed to be the adult I reckoned; I had to find ways to mend, rebuild, and help us all learn.
Learning about relationships and living together is an essential skill to be passing on to the kids, one that’ll be useful for the whole of their lives.
Some of the ways we nurtured this were:
- By finding ways to be apart, discussing the fact we all needed it regularly and that is okay; everyone needs it for their sanity, it’s not to do with love
- By discussing how this might be achieved especially in small living spaces
- By being ingenious with spaces to be apart, using the rooms/spaces we had, corners, hallway, outside, wherever
- By making it okay to say; ‘I need some head space right now, so am going to switch off for a bit’ and everyone understanding that this means not to intrude, even verbally, if they’re in the same room
- By building reciprocal respect and empathy for everyone’s need for these times, whoever it might be, child or adult
- By getting creative with den making. A den is a perfect private space for kids, even if it’s just a blanket over a clothes horse or corner of the bathroom. They’ll occupy it for hours, especially if you keep creating new ones, giving you some space too
- By having a regular time scheduled into your day which becomes a habit, when you ask for your lone time to be respected as you respect others’ needs for time to themselves too
- By not being afraid to use the word ‘sorry’ when it goes wrong, thus showing the youngsters how to do the same, and that no one is perfect.
Building respectful relationships is an essential part of learning to live together, and education. But it does take consistent practise, ongoing respect, reviewing regularly especially what’s not working, and maybe a bit of teeth gritting!
I don’t know how long we’ll be shut up together. But I do know that it’ll be far better if we find ways to be so with harmony and respect.