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What We Learned Homeschooling

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Before I start, let me just say how incredibly lucky I am. My kids (8.5 and 10) are old enough to be independent, and not yet old enough to be annoying teenagers. They are generally well-behaved kids (as per their teachers), and they are both strong academically. We are also lucky to have a big house for a London residence, with four bedrooms, which means that we can each work/hang out in a different room without getting on each other's nerves. We are super lucky to still have a steady income (partner's company is doing well) while I don't have to work, so my time is flexible.

At the beginning of the lockdown, the kids and I devised a beautiful schedule, and they had pretty much stuck to it in the first two weeks. Then it was Easter holidays and the routine kind of went out the window. We still kept the bedtime and morning routines, but there was no school work and so a lot more reading and such. However, I did talk to my kids, and we agreed that I get two hours a day during the week to write. We set up a desk for me in the master bedroom, and I even have a little vase with some flowers that I nicked from the main bunch we usually have. My two hours are ten-noon, as that's my best writing time.

Since the Easter holidays, the children mostly elected to do their school work in the afternoons. So our new routine is more like this now:

I'm also refusing to invest a lot of time coming up with fun educational activities for the kids. They love reading and sometimes read for two hours in the morning. Sometimes I send them a museum virtual tour or something, but I don't supervise to make sure they do it. I just put it in their messages so that they have it if they want it. And I do not do their schoolwork, obviously. They have to figure it out, and if they can't, they need to ask the teacher. I make sure they put their bums in their seats for a reasonable amount of time and at least try to do the schoolwork. But, for instance, my daughter (8.5) was having a hard time towards the end of last week, and I said she's getting a day off on Friday (which was a Bank Holiday, so I'm not entirely sure why they had schoolwork that day), and made sure she only does what she absolutely had to. I think it totally paid off, by the way, she was much more positive after that day.

Because here's the thing: I'm not homeschooling them. If I were, I would have stopped everything else and would have built a curriculum which would have included a lot less using fronted adverbials and dividing by 10 or 100, and a lot more exploring and doing research online. But my kids don't want to have two schools, nor do I think it's a good idea for them. They are worried, they miss their friends, and they want to go back to school. They don't have their social support system or the environmental cues of "learning" (classroom) as opposed to "relaxing" (home), and they're doing the best they can. Like all of us, they're not doing that great right now. I see no reason to put extra pressure on them when even grownups are struggling.

So, what do my kids learn? Not much by ways of Maths and English. In terms of curriculum, it's mostly maintaining as far as I can tell so that when they come back to school, they don't have to be reminded of everything they've learned before. But they also learn to work independently. They learn to engage with the material in their own way, and sometimes they do their own research if there's something they're interested in. They learn self-motivation, time management, and how to keep themselves entertained on- and (more importantly) offline. I think these are invaluable skills, and I'm grateful for the opportunity we've had to learn them.


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