It’s common knowledge to say that we have now entered into a way of life that we would have never imagined having to do before. All thanks to the recent pandemic of COVID. Never would we have thought that our children's academic learning will fall into the hands of us parents.
When homeschooling first became mandatory many of us questioned our own ability to carry this out successfully. We didn’t do copious amounts of years at university specifically learning how to best support and educate tiny humans. And yet here we are at the mercy of homeschooling literature trying to wrangle one child, feed another, work through times tables with another, plus work from home all whilst keeping a happy healthy family system facade. Pfffftttt. I think it’s safe to say that this is a really shitty situation we're all in right now and the range of emotions we’re all feeling is absolutely normal.
Furthermore, if we turn our attention to our kids we need to acknowledge that they too are in a very unfamiliar situation also. We've been told for so long that children thrive on routine, structure, and familiarity, and yet all that has been torn away from them due to ongoing random lockdown orders enforced. The support, connections, and feelings of belonging they get from socialising at school cease to exist now, and some of them are too young to fully comprehend exactly what is going on and why they cannot see their friends or family, or go to school, even go to the shops or movies.
However, as horrendous a situation we feel we are in there are some things you can implement or just reflect on that can help parents and kids out there who are struggling with all of this. The following are some strategies, tools, and food for thought to reflect on that will provide support not just to your kids but yourself and your family as a whole.
1. Don’t be so hard on yourself
It’s important to give yourself some leniency right now. Remember you are not their teacher, you are their parent, these are two different relationships and you are not expected to play both. With that being said it’s still important to be flexible but firm through the new roles within homeschooling. Some things that can help this process is to set some ground rules for what you’re going to achieve together. Ensure you communicate that they are not alone in this, you’re helping them and supporting them through the whole process, and if they get overwhelmed they can say so. Secondly, it’s also important to remember that you're not replacing school, whilst learning has come home full time right now that does not mean you are now the entire school system they once received. Thirdly, this isn’t permanent, don’t lose your mind by entertaining thoughts that this is how everything is going to be from now on. Thinking too far into the future often leads to anxiety in the best of us, instead, let’s just take things one week at a time or even one day at a time if that works better for you. Lastly, you are not expected to deliver the level of schooling that your child’s school has been delivering. The school system is made up of numerous teachers with numerous skills and qualities that they generally specialise in and have an entire curriculum developed and planned out for the year.
2. Pace yourself
I don't know about other schools but the number of activities, resources, and communication being sent out is slightly overwhelming at the moment. I counted 16 notifications from Sunday night to Monday the next morning, 16 different notifications I had to be aware of before kicking off homeschool Monday morning. And that was on 1 communication app the school uses. There are actually 2 apps that I have to be across simultaneously. Not to mention the school's Facebook page as well and email communication. So first things first, I set myself time in my diary to go through all the notifications and I just write down a brief idea of what we have to get through, be aware of etc. For me this works when the kids are eating breakfast, I don't set a timer where I feel I should have this completed by as I personally find that creates a rigid structure for myself. Instead, I see it merely as the to-do item to tick off first. Same for the other tasks that the school sets for the day. I lay these out as to-do items and even see what the kids feel like tackling first. Some days they’re on a roll and will punch out a few tasks in a row and some days we’re a bit slower than usual. But that’s okay. In saying that, remember to give both yourself and the kids breaks if you feel they or yourself need it. Whilst you may want to push through and get it all done and out of the way. Stop. Stop and have a break, have a cup of tea, walk, stretch. Let the kids get the sillies out. Do what you need to refuel and refocus.
3. Acknowledge achievements
Acknowledgment of your achievements. Sadly, many of us don’t stop to take the time to actively reflect and acknowledge what we and the kids have accomplished both together and individually. Even if it’s small progress acknowledge it anyway. Acknowledge that you’re doing what teachers go to uni for around 4 years to learn, that in itself deserves a freaking medal and ceremony. Ensure that you celebrate with the kids when they complete a task or at the end of the day celebrate with a special reward or let them choose a reward off a chart of options. My kids get a special treat and if they do more than what was expected they even get pocket money. Is that bribery?…...Yes, yes it is, but it works, so I don’t care right now.
4. Don’t compare yourself to others
One of the primary contributors to mum/ dad guilt is comparing yourself to others. Look let’s face it there’s going to be those other mums that love to share how many tasks their kids are flying through and how easy homeschooling has been for them. And there’s going to be kids that take to homeschooling like a duck to water. But those kids are not your kids and comparing them to other kids or comparing yourself to other mums isn’t fair to anyone and won’t bring any positivity about the situation. Your kids are unique, you are unique, your situation is unique. Focus instead on your situation and what you and your kid’s needs are right now and how you can best meet them.
5. Talk about it
Talk about everything and anything that comes up for you regarding this whole situation. Talking is still shown to be one of the most valuable tools in promoting well-being and a great way to connect and reduce feelings of isolation. We are social creatures by nature so communicating what we feel with others is good for us and highly encouraged. Ensure that you have a few people in your support system that you can reach out to and have a vent or debrief with. It’s also encouraged to have an open dialog with your kids about how they are traveling through all this. Regardless of age, most kids can communicate to some extent what emotions they feel or what they think about something. Even if they give you a short two-worded response encourage opportunities to have these discussions with them. Helping your kids to learn about their emotions, connect them to situations, and make sense of them is called emotional intelligence and highly valued in the school system.
One last thing I want to add to this is that we are dealing with something nationwide and worldwide that we have never dealt with before. The way kids are experiencing school right now is nothing they have experienced before. Our routines have gone out the window, our ideas and concepts of how school, work, life in general should be have been changed, we don’t know really know what to expect anymore. The majority of us parents are now doing something we didn’t go to uni for years and years to learn. We weren’t even given a 3-day introductory course on homeschooling or whatever the hell it is that we're trying to do. Furthermore, we're trying to do this whilst still working, cleaning, cooking, exercising, keeping ourselves healthy and all the other things. So please, please, please, the most important thing right now is not maintaining appearances and checking all the boxes and doing all the things, the priority is getting yourself and your kids through all this insanity in the healthiest way possible. Be kind and gentle to yourself and your kids because what’s going to be more important in the long term, ticking all the boxes or your emotional and mental well-being?