How To Survive “Home Educating”

We’re a week into the official lockdown due to Covid-19 and for those of you out there with children who are usually in school, you’ll be a week into education at home. As well as working for The Outdoors Group as an administrator and Forest School Leader, I also home educate my 10, 8, and 5 year olds so I thought I’d pop on to share some thoughts about the situation and some tips on how to survive!

Firstly, I’d like to reassure you that this is not an accurate representation of Home Education. I’d quite like to shout it for the roof tops – this is not home ed!! In fact, I think it would be helpful to rename it and I’ve seen a few suggestions online, crisis educating, pandemic schooling…take your pick! Us home educators are an incredibly social bunch; it’s how we survive. Our days are usually filled with educational outings, social meet ups, Forest School, sports classes, brownies/scouts, trips to beaches, moors, stately homes, museums and much more. In fact, it’s a running joke that the struggle as a home educator is often fitting in the structured work at home.

This situation we find ourselves in is completely new and strange to us as well. To be with our children, 24 hours a day, mostly at home (save our allowed ‘exercise’), with no friends or family to break the monotony is…challenging. We’re all in this together, for however long it may be. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share my three main tips on how to make your lockdown a little easier. They are based on my experience with my own kids and obviously won’t apply to everyone, but I thought they might be helpful to some.

Before our daily ‘exercise’ was restricted to where we can walk to!

The first thing I’d say is that a lot of children really thrive on structure. This doesn’t have to be incredibly rigid and inflexible, but my kids love it if they know what the plan for the day is. My eldest is a teenager in the making and loves to stay in bed but generally I try to have everyone up, eaten and dressed by around 9am to try and simulate normality. Then we’ll have a chat about what we’re going to do during the day. Sometimes this is a bit heavier on the ‘work’ side (we’ve got ongoing projects on Changing Climates and WW2 in particular) and sometimes it’s just their music and maths practice and some creative stuff. If you’ve got instructions from school, hopefully that’ll make this part easy for you. I’ve seen lots of primary teachers saying to take it with a pinch of salt though and be flexible according to how your kids are. I’m happy to accommodate their requests and change my plans, giving children some control in what they do makes all the difference in their eagerness to engage. Hopefully you can do this too, even if you do have work sent home.

Secondly, promote familial harmony wherever possible. And believe me, I realise what an absolute task this is! My kids fight all. the. time. About who gets the last banana, about an accidentally flailed limb that connected with the aggrieved, about whose turn it is to play video games first, about a tiny previously discarded bit of junk that inexplicably everyone suddenly needs for their game. From sun up to sun down, I feel like I’m putting out fires. But I do try to pro-actively promote better relationships. It’s an ongoing battle but one worth fighting, especially when we’re all stuck inside together.

There is a camp of people that argue that we should leave them to it and whilst I sometimes agree with this sentiment, I feel that especially at the moment, they might need a little extra help navigating their emotions and disagreements. Usually, they fight less when I spend more time with them. I’m not thrilled by this. I have things to do, I’m still working from home and I still need to feed them and keep my house not looking like a pigsty. Plus, I would like a little time to myself! But I try and spend some concentrated time with them in bursts throughout the day (with my phone nowhere to be seen) and this does seem to help a little with their moods. Sometimes this is time when I’m helping them with work and sometimes it’s just playing board games, baking, reading or colouring with them.

And although I’m not the parent of an only child (with no siblings to bicker with), I would assume that the latter advice would still help with keeping them calm and grounded and not constantly talking/whinging/following you around like a shadow!

Thirdly, we try and practice an attitude of gratitude (and yes, I am cringing whilst writing that!) to keep demons at bay. It’s so easy to get stuck on everything they’re missing and for fear of what’s going on to manifest. My daughter has had her LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts) exam cancelled, her dance show (which they’d be working towards for a year) postponed, middle is missing football and of course all of them have had their forest school sessions, social groups and general playdates taken away.  Middle is also a worrier by nature and keeps picking people we know at random to ask if they have coronavirus and if people we know will die. It’s heart-breaking. They are feeling so sad about this and it’s easy to see them on the verge of slipping into misery.

So as well as keeping them distracted, spoiling them a little more than usual and trying to have as much fun as you can from the comfort of your own home, we also take a few minutes at dinner to talk about a few things we are grateful for during the day. Sometimes they are deep and meaningful, sometimes they are as simple as ‘the sun shining’ or ‘my zoom playdate’ but they always lift our spirits and help us focus on the good things still happening. There are tons of ideas online about how to practice gratitude as an activity with kids so well worth a look!

Finally, cut yourself a bit of slack. And cut your kids a bit of slack. These are not normal times. They shouldn’t feel normal. If you’re feeling up and down as an adult, it’s stands to reason that our children will be even more unsettled and out of sorts. Their life as they know it has changed. So, try and relax as much as you can, love and laugh lots, take a break when you need it (a little extra screen time in a time of crisis is not gonna hurt!) and know that this too will pass.

Stay Safe, Stay Well, Stay Home.

We’ll see you in the woods when this is all over!

Author: Hannah Durdin, Administrator and Forest School Leader at The Outdoors Group, home educating Mum of three
Date: 1st April 2020

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