Homeschooling has really ramped up for lockdown 3.0. Three weeks in, I’m still not sure how much of what I’m trying to teach is actually being absorbed by my two children, but I’m definitely learning a lot about myself.
I’m not talking about the fact I now know all about 3D shapes and can name the layers of the rainforest – this is the more soul-searching stuff, which I’m hoping will make me a better human-being in the long-run.
Here’re my top five lessons so far:
Homeschooling lesson 1: Focus is a discipline
During the first national lockdown, I became aware that I’m a huge hypocrite. How could I sit there berating my son, who was then only in Year One, about not focussing, when I was also very easily distracted?
This time around, I’ve been determined to at least try to practice what I preach, which is often: “Just get on with it!”
Living and working in the same environment requires some serious focus, and I’m getting much better at throwing myself into work, tuning out everything else that’s going on around me.
I used to be someone who couldn’t work with music on in the background, because it stopped me concentrating. I don’t think that’s going to be the case from now on.
Homeschooling lesson 2: New things are difficult, and that’s just the way it is
When I think back on how daunted I’ve felt when doing work-related things for first time – the first time I sat down and interviewed a politician as a journalist, the first time I presented a pitch for See Media – it helps me to understand why my daughter (who’s in Reception) can be reluctant to put pencil to paper now she’s learning to write.
Research professor, and superstar TED Talker Brené Brown calls them “FFTs” (effing first times), and they’re a fact of life: “When we have no relevant experience or expertise, the vulnerability, uncertainty, and fear of these firsts can be overwhelming,” says Brené. “Yet, showing up and pushing ourselves past the awkward, learner stage is how we get braver.”
I tell my kids that it’s good to find things difficult, because that’s how you know you’re learning.
And if my little girl can tackle phonics like a boss, I can certainly start pushing myself out of my own comfort zone a little more often.
Homeschooling lesson 3: Little victories are huge
This whole lockdown experience has taught me that acknowledging the little successes, day in, day out, is what keeps you sane.
Getting outside for some fresh air before it rains – amazing. A child remembering how to spell “the” – fantastic. Making it through a Teams call without something embarrassing happening – winning.
With a massive crisis going on in the world around us, focussing on the small things is the only way to get through.
Homeschooling lesson 4: The kids are watching
People often tell parents all kinds of scary things, such as: “Your kids are watching you and they will copy you,” and, “You’re the most important role model they’ll ever have.”
As if this wasn’t overwhelming enough, these days the pressure has intensified. My partner and I are the only two adults our children get to see, and those four little eyes are on us all the time (when they’re not fixed on the TV or their tablets).
My daughter often pops up on calls with my See Media colleagues, and she regularly tells me she wants to work with me when she’s older, so I must be doing something right?
In some ways, I’m grateful for this current wake up call. Life before lockdown was so hectic in a completely different way, and with all the running around, it was too easy to overlook the impact my actions could be having on my two little kids. I like to think I’ll be more mindful of this in future.
Homeschooling lesson 5: Just breathe
Friday in our house is no longer just “Friday”, it’s “extended writing day”. A page of handwriting, complete with capital letters, full stops, and plenty of adverbs and adjectives, is now what marks the end of our week.
Maybe it’s because I’m part of the generation that never got taught the basics of English grammar at school, but, for me, dissecting subordinate conjunctions and noun phrases sucks the joy out of writing. I think that if I’d been forced to endure grammar lessons, I’d never have ended up writing for a living. The level of desperation I’ve felt getting through this particular weekly task has been a complete overreaction.
The class WhatsApp group is constantly buzzing away as we make our way through our various homeschooling assignments. One of the mums, who’s a yoga teacher, tells us to concentrate on our breathing – and it really does help. Who’d have thought that focussing on something I’ve been doing unconsciously my whole life could be such a game changer?
That’s it for my attempt at reflecting on some of the positives I’m hoping to take from the strange experience many of us are having.
None of us know how long it’s going to go on for, and while I’m sure we’ll have plenty more ups and downs in this household, I’m also certain that when homeschooling is over, I’m going to miss this time spent with my kids, learning about ourselves together.
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Lydia Stockdale is Public Relations Director at See Media