Homeschooling: Two big lessons from lockdown

Three months of homeschooling her three children has taught Leyla Gambell some very important life lessons
25th June 2020, 12:01pm


Homeschooling: Two big lessons from lockdown
Coronavirus: What I've Learned From Homeschooling My Children In Lockdown

At the start of lockdown, I began homeschooling my three children. I would love to tell you that three months on, my children jump out of bed each morning, unable to contain their excitement at the prospect of learning new knowledge; that the three-year-old will independently occupy himself for hours, building towers out of Numicon whilst reciting the three times table. Unfortunately, this would be a lie.

In reality, not much has changed. The nine-year-old still sulks through our daily walks, the seven-year-old refuses all offers of help with his maths, then explodes in righteous anger when he gets the answers wrong. And the three-year-old has perfected the timing of his bowel movements for the middle of online meetings.

Back at school last Monday, a colleague asked me what new skills I had learned during lockdown. "How to mix the perfect gin and tonic," was my immediate reply. 

On reflection, however, I decided that I had undersold myself. Despite the daily dramas, we have all been learning - just not necessarily what we planned to learn.

Coronavirus: What I've learned homeschooling in lockdown

So, here are the two most important things lockdown has taught me.

Drop the 'mum guilt'

I have had three maternity leaves during my working career. Leaving a child at nursery for the first time never got any easier. I always felt the twang of "mum guilt": Was I depriving them of time that would have been better spent with me? Was I placing my own career above the needs of my family? I, and many mums I know, have struggled with this dilemma each time we step back over the workplace threshold. 

Well, I am pleased to report that I have categorically solved this age-old quandary once and for all: if lockdown has taught me anything, it is that I am a much better mother when I spend some of the week out of the house. Hats off to all the full-time mums out there; raising small people on a full-time basis takes serious mental strength and physical energy. For me, however, lockdown has been a revelation of sorts - a shrugging off of years of mum guilt. Last week, I gave my husband a cheery wave as I headed off to school, inwardly smirking, knowing that I'd left him to teach double fractions and science.

Prioritise wellbeing above everything else

Homeschooling has clearly had its ups and downs in my house. The older two have become marginally more amenable as the weeks have rolled on, although only after I pulled out the trump card and threatened to send them into school key worker provision if they didn't buck their home-learning ideas up. 

Some weeks, however, have been really tough, and I have been forced to take my own advice (which I hand out liberally to parents at school): to prioritise wellbeing over everything else. Several days have begun with, "It's an Inset day today, boys - your teachers need some time out to learn some new skills."

I am pleased to inform you that Inset days in our house have featured a multitude of teacher skills development, such as film critiquing, cocktail mixing (it's always 5 o'clock somewhere!), chocolate tasting and identifying the key features of an excellent Uber Eats delivery. The children, meanwhile, particularly enjoy maths lessons that involve calculating the end time of their chosen movie, or letting me know the total number of zombies they managed to defeat in Minecraft.

As we start to emerge from isolation, it has been an interesting exercise to reflect a little on the past few months. While I haven't learned to crochet or play the ukulele (like some of my more industrious colleagues), it is clear that I will have "take-aways" from the experience (and not just from the local Indian restaurant). As it is looking like we might be heading for several weeks more homeschooling (at least!), I might start scheduling in those Inset days now…

Leyla Gambell is a primary Sendco based in Kent. She tweets at @AgentSenco

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