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Homeschool beginnings - April 2020

Updated: Feb 6, 2022

Like so many others I struggled deeply to find my own way through navigating #homeschooling, (only a few short months after being asked to navigate school homework for the first time!)Max's school were in the first handful to close in the UK during the Covid lockdown of Spring 2020; the first community transmission case was a local teacher gathering and first death at Royal Berkshire hospital just up the road. The school is understandably cautious. While we've all been reeling from the shock, I find that I don't know anyone else who works full time, is married to a key worker and has a child of compulsory school age with a toddler. Obviously I know there are millions out there like me, I just don't personally know any! How the hell was I going to cope with a stressful job and ensure the kids kept up?

I have ALWAYS joked around that a teacher would be my last choice profession. We've always been lucky that Max (age 5) has always loved learning and been fairly advanced but surely I could undo all of that in 5 minutes as a strung out teacher with my head up my own arse about work and a toddler around too - stakes seem quite high...I'm also going into this pandemic in a really crap place having only just started to recover from my complete breakdown in 2019. Much more recently however, we spent a harrowing 3 nights in the childrens ward with Quinn during the first weekend of lockdown - her life was never at risk, but her face swelled up beyond recognition due to an orbital/cranial infection out of nowhere. It was a terrifying experience of being locked in a hospital ward, unable to have visitors or even freely go to the toilets, listening to other parents and children cry all night and day. We were one of the first patients to have a covid test in March 2020 and the eerie creepiness of empty corridors in a usually bustling hospital will stay with me until I die! Anyway, she's fine - I digress!

Quinn is 16 months now and what I consider to be the worst age for this lockdown sh*t - besides needing other toddlers for social development, she is old enough to climb curtains/open drawers/get into real trouble, but young enough to still eat things she finds on the floor!! I immediately realised that home schooling would only work if I kept her entertained with as much hands-off stuff as I could and/or QUICKLY got over the eye-twitching amount of mess she makes with any activity.

It has at least been more gently eased with the Easter break which allowed for a bit of headspace for planning and research. The sudden first few weeks of lockdown before Easter were a blaze of guilt and panic - making the timetables/plans every night at 8pm after bedtime/dinner, collecting all the resources together, making whatever playdoh or messy play tray until midnight, and then completing my "7 hour day at work” until 4am. It has already been truly one of the worst times of my life running on 1-2 hours sleep to get it all done. Our school haven't really provided anything to guide us, so with Easter buying me some time I've joined some education, teacher and homeschooling Facebook groups, as well as Twinkl and DoodleMaths. I schooled up on this Read Write Inc phonics stuff - in our house Rosie is "Poo-Poo Lady" and we enjoy pausing her trauma-inducing videos randomly to see how ridiculously we can get her expression to freeze (thanks Rosie btw). I finally felt like I had an idea of how and what Reception year children learnt and was ready to make some plans.

However broken I've been, something has been going “well” as I gained a surprising amount of interest from colleagues at work and was asked to share my ideas, timetables and collated resources to inspire the firms partner network and provide some activity on their website at an otherwise scary and dull time for the business. As tough as it, this new way of working has kept me in a routine and has now given me a great set of go-to lists and ideas for any rainy (or sunny) day. Who knows how long this will last for, but I might get to a point in the long term where I get to put in minimal effort plan a day at home – and hopefully you won’t have to either! It also might serve as a beautiful record for the kids to help them remember how much fun they had (and how much bloody effort I went to!) in ensuring they thrived at home. Whereas I remember the very moment I lost my sanity, I hope that’s not the focus for them!).

__________________________________________________________________________________ On the 20th April 2020, we had a great first day back "at school" after a much needed Easter Break - and I've come with organisational tips! We played "Tricky word twister", dressed up, did some White Rose maths using ladybird inspired books, PE daily challenge, writing this weeks menu, writing kind notes, counting animals, Phonics online, played in the dinosaur garden, ate potato owls, and made garden dens (yes, apparently an Engineering PhD isn't enough to get the angles correct on this poxy structure!!!).

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