On what feels like the 500th day of lockdown, my 7 year old son is spinning upside down on a swivel chair for “inspiration” and my toddler is emptying out all the cereal boxes on the kitchen floor for a doggy tea party. The “we-can-get-through this, can do attitude’ of March 2020 is long gone. We are in the thick of it and it is hard. Logging onto social media can feel soul destroying as we are often greeted with picture perfect variations of home schooling and it can be difficult not to compare yourself to this distortion of reality.
Home schooling is not what many of us have signed up for, let alone home schooling during a pandemic. Add to this the pressures of any other outside responsibility, such as work, can cause stress and anxiety. This is not the norm for anyone. As time passes it can feel that we are in a never-ending cycle of school, work and home life and failing in every aspect. However, there are ways to get back on track.
- It’s all about the routine.
We humans love routine. As babies we thrive upon it and research has shown that it is significant throughout our lives. It helps us breed healthy habits, achieve goals and reduce stress levels. As tempting as it is to stay in pyjamas all day and snack on biscuits, waking up at a regular time and getting dressed establishes the start of a routine and signals to your brain that the day is about to begin. If you are not having all day Zoom classes, start your own schedule by treating your home schooling morning as you would a normal school day. Remember to build in regular breaks and have a beginning and an end time. Of course there will be times where your day does not go to plan and remind yourself that that too, is ok.
- Create a work station
Not many of us have the luxury of a home office and if you have not then find a quiet space that you and your home learners can make your own. Sometimes the hustle and bustle of family life can make a quiet space difficult, especially if you have several home learners but by carving out this space and making it clear that it is for work will give you all a solid base. There are some excellent ideas online involving using cardboard boxes to divide up work stations which your child can have fun jazzing up.
- Focus on the core subjects
A pandemic has never happened in our lifetimes. If you are sailing through the work and finding you can fit in all the school work then that is great, but if you are finding it a struggle it is so important to be kind to yourself and keep the communication between you and the school going. When you are faced with the prospect of teaching a whole curriculum it can feel overwhelming and this is not how your child’s school will want you to feel. Focus on the core subjects such as Maths and English or if that fails, gauge what your child is interested in and hone in on that. Schools should always be there for support and explaining to your child’s teacher what you are focusing on, will help both the school keep up to speed with where your child is at and will alleviate some of the stress.
- Mix it up
If you are feeling lessons are getting monotonous then feel free to mix it up! Get your child to read a story to a grandparent over the phone or vice versa. Wrap up warm and take a lesson outside. Whether it is simply to brainstorm for an English lesson or incorporate some maths with nature, fresh air is a great mental healer. Time away from your work station can sometimes give your child, and you, a renewed enthusiasm for a lesson.
- Take care of yourself
As the saying goes ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’. It is so important to keep your well-being in check in order to be strong enough for your family. Find the one thing that helps you relax, whether it is a solitary walk or a candlelit bath and make it part of your ritual. Times like this are testing for everyone so it is also important to keep your communication lines open. Talking to family and friends over the phone or Zoom will help you feel less isolated and sometimes a good chat with a familiar friend is just the medicine you need. If you feel that your mental health is really suffering then don’t try to just carry on, make an appointment to talk things through with doctor.
Most importantly remind yourself that life will one day return to normal and these times will pass. As my children create havoc around me it is something that I have to remind myself of, often!
by Karen Olney