No, let me rephrase.
Dear Super Parent,
This letter is for you.
The Super Parent that’s had enough of online homeschooling.
I’m a mother to four children under ten, a teacher, a business owner and a trying to survive this second lockdown er.
This is #hard.
Firstly, let me shout and announce with huge flashing lights, that however you’re feeling, whether it’s loving every moment of homeschooling (very jealous) or ready to walk out leaving your darling children to their own devices (more me) it’s okay.
There is no right or wrong in this crazy new norm of ours.
I am a qualified teacher of over fifteen years. I’ve led departments in both the independent and state school sector. I’ve trained countless teachers, seen hundreds of students aged 11- 18 years through the education system, I’ve written more UCAS references than I can remember and I have founded and grown my online tuition company.
Yet, I can’t get a handle on homeschooling my own children.
I started off my homeschooling in lockdown 1 with meticulous planned daily timetables for my children. I filled each child’s timetable (yes even the two-year-old’s) with carefully researched activities to stimulate learning and fun. I printed off worksheets to accompany my carefully researched activities of learning and fun. I gave the motivational pep talk in the morning to the children. I was pumped up for this.
Pah. This would be a breeze.
This was my domain, my thing. It would be easy, no not just easy, it would a joy.
Fast forward to lunchtime.
Just a mere three hours later.
I was done.
Running between bedrooms overseeing the online learning, not finding a charger for the laptops, not being able to explain the two-step maths problem to my already irritated daughter, changing my two little ones, feeding my two little ones. Gosh PE, didn’t include that in the weekly timetable. Right now who cares about PE! What crazy person wants to be a teacher?
Oh yes. Me.
Lockdown 2 arrives.
In light of my experience of the first lockdown, I’m now on a mission to just survive. Getting four children to bedtime and being sane at the end of the day is all I’m aiming for. Surely this round of lockdown would be easier.
Now the children have organised school remote learning. Big tick. But trying to oversee, monitor, check, attend all meetings and reply to all emails, why so many emails? This is still #hard.
So after two lockdowns, with all my hats on; a teacher, mother to four and owner of an online tutoring company, here is my humble advice to the parent feeling overwhelmed by homeschooling.
Let go of the guilt.
As parents, we are constantly fighting the guilt battle and often feeling like we’re losing. But right now, in this time, with the whole world facing battles and challenges never imagined, guilt is the one emotion that has absolutely no authority in the life of the family that is simply trying to their best. The word guilt doesn’t exist in lockdowns. It magically disappears from the dictionary.
Work with your child not against them
Our young people have had their world turned upside down. School is different, home life is different, the entire universe is different.
When it comes to home learning, working with your child is going to be more productive and healthier for everyone than pushing against them. If we swim against the current, not only do we not go anywhere, we completely wear ourselves out.
It doesn’t mean that we let our children do what they want, but if there’s a day when it’s just not happening (you know the days I mean), everything is just a major, over-exaggerated, out of proportion effort, then it’s just not the day to homeschool. Your child will learn more from talking about why it’s okay to take time out and feel more positive about things if they know it’s okay to take a ‘down tools’ day every now and again.
Recognise the wins and victories
My life can be insane. By that I mean the two under two years olds are screaming wanting to be held by me, the two older ones are arguing about who sits where in the car. We’ve lost the dummy for the millionth time, my husband calls to say the job he’s on will be a ‘late one’ and I’m now crying.
I’ve learnt that to get through these days, I need to recognise the small wins. Sometimes the smallest of wins. My children being ready for their online learning 5 mins before it starts, win. Before lockdown that would have been an expected standard. Now it’s a win. My children eating together at the table without a spilt drink. Come on, that should be the norm right? No, it’s a big win, in fact, it’s a trophy win. Small little things that bring a sense of achievement to help me to get through. Yes, who doesn’t love a glowing victory, but right now I’ll take the little ones. They go far.
And my biggest top 3 homeschooling survival tips (notice the word SURVIVAL)
1.Gin or wine?
One survival tip of mine is a parent ‘reward’. If I could set up my own rewards chart I would. (I wouldn’t have stars though, more an amazon purchase or glass of something delicious). But in all seriousness, you the parent need a reward, whatever it might be. A chick flick, a takeaway, a hot bubble bath, a walk alone (my favourite). Whatever your reward is, it’s important. Perhaps just as important as helping your child complete their next online task. A happy parent equals a happy child. Take time for you, treat yourself and schedule it in.
2. Don’t try to do it all
The Duchess of Cambridge released on 29th January 2021 that she is finding homeschool ‘exhausting’. Man does that make me feel good, (did I say that out loud?) But if the future Queen of England is finding it hard, then us humble parent folk can feel reassured that we really are not alone. One way to ease the overwhelm is to not to try to do it all. Out of your child’s’ daily school timetable, you could choose the bits that will be the most helpful and meaningful to your child instead of doing it all. If there’s a project they need to complete, start with a small part of it and scale up to complete it when the time is right and everyone is in the right space. If your child needs some help with their Maths or English, ask the teachers for support or consider some additional tuition. You don’t have to do it all and that’s okay.
3. Keep your child’s wellbeing and mental health as the priority.
At the end of the day, above all, we want our children to just be okay. We want them to feel safe and secure in this turbulent and unpredictable time. If my children have a wobble, I shower them with cuddles, affection and words of life. We make space to talk, walk and sometimes just ‘be’.. Lockdown has given me more time with my children. I’ve got to know mine a lot more than I did before lockdown, and I’m grateful for that. Although at times I find parenting impossibly hard, I might not possibly ever have time like this again.
Wellbeing is at the heart of why I founded Grow Achieve Soar Academies. It’s the reason I wrote the Growth Journal- a 14-day self-development journal for children. I believe that our education system misses this part out, the part that focuses on the self-growth for students. For me and my company, for young people to thrive, it’s not just their academic growth that needs watering, it’s their personal growth and wellbeing too.
Super Parent, let me finish by saluting you. You are doing amazing. Right where you are with what you’ve got. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.
Thank you for reading the first of our blogs; ‘A Letters to..’. You can read more ‘Letters to..’ by following the Grow Achieve Soar Academies blog here. To find out more about our approach to tuition and try us out with a free tuition session just visit here.
Jemma Roye is the founder and managing director of Grow Achieve Soar Academies. She is passionate about the education of young people and works as a diversity and inclusion consultant, youth mentor and academic coach. Born and raised in London, she now lives in the New Forest with her husband and four children.