If Homeschooling Has Taught Me Anything…
8 things I’ve learned from the hell of homeschooling
- I could not be a primary school teacher
So, let me be clear before we begin talking about homeschooling. I am a qualified teacher. I have a PGCE in Further Education and teach PE in a school, albeit only one day a week. And I also know I’m not speaking for every parent here. Some found the experience altogether more palatable! But primary teachers..? I’ve realised they have the hardest job of all. And I don’t mean because of the imminent risk of someone bursting into tears, wiping snots on the desk or throwing up on their friends during carpet time. No. Primary teachers have it hardest because they have to pretend to be interested in everything. Think about it. Secondary school teachers who love literature train to teach English. If they love nothing more than chatting about the life cycle of a butterfly, they train to teach Biology. There is no time for ‘pet’ subjects with primary teachers. Number bonds (that’s Maths for anyone born before 2005), gymnastics, plastic pollution, french, adverbs and adjectives, critical analysis of pieces of art… the list is endless. And don’t tell me they’re enthused by all of this. They must sometimes get their copy of the syllabus and think “Bollocks. I hate teaching fucking fractions.”
- My husband has infinitely more patience than me
I think I knew this one anyway, or at least had a sneaking suspicion. But now I know it for sure. We open our laptops, switch on the ipads etc at 9am ready to start schoolwork. By 9.07am I can be found banging my head off the kitchen island screaming “But how do you not understand? It’s easy! Are you deliberately being a pain in the crack Jonah?”. By 9.10am Jonah is crying and refusing to do anything else and by 9.30am when Rob comes off his morning zoom call; he agrees to come in and take over while I go into the garage and breathe into a paper bag.
- The parent/teacher line gets horribly blurred
I’m pretty sure my ten year old would never say to his form teacher , “You need to chill bro.” But that’s what I get every time I enquire about seeing the work he has submitted today (if any). Bro. That’s me. One of the trickiest things about this whole process has been balancing my sympathy for them, with a need to keep their education going and prevent them becoming complete Xbox-addicted morons. Because let’s face it; I don’t actually blame them for kicking off from time to time. It is shit being locked out of school, especially this second time, when it has seemed like the world and his wife managed to get their kids into school. We live super close to the school and it’s been tough watching their forlorn little faces seeing their mates troop past the window into the yard. Dylan frequently turns to me and says; “Eh? That kid’s Mam doesn’t work and his Dad works from home/is a ballerina/piano tuner/recruitment consultant/candlestick maker/circus ringmaster… How come he gets to go to school!?” The teacher in me wants to say “Well, the government widened the key worker criteria due to furlough regulations being tightened.” But the parent in me, angry on behalf of my kid blurts out; “Cos some people will always take the piss son. Come here and I’ll give you a cuddle and we’ll just leave the Maths for today eh?”
- I make a better dinner lady than I do a Science teacher
I have frankly flabbergasted myself at the standard of lockdown lunches I can cobble together in under ten minutes between zoom calls and homeschooling tasks. 12 o’clock comes around and it’s like bastard ‘Ready Steady Cook’ in here. I was determined they wouldn’t miss out on nice, varied lunches just because they weren’t having school meals. Recently I’ve had to have a strong word with myself though as I’ve become aware of my new habit of photographing them. As we all know; people who take photographs of their food are the type of people you don’t want to get stuck talking to at a party…
- Behaviour contracts are not worth the paper they’re written on
At the start of lockdown 1.0, approximately 17 years ago, I had the hilarious idea that if we were going to be homeschooling, we needed some boundaries, some hard and fast rules. I know, I thought, we’ll do some behaviour contracts like we use for the more difficult students in college. The ground rules will be agreed, fair and realistic, and my children will feel all the more secure because of knowing what’s expected of them. Oh what a naive fool I was back then. We actually wrote them down and stuck them up. Joke’s on me right there.
- Drinking on the job is frowned upon
I had a lovely history teacher back in the day. Let’s call him Mr Smith for the sake of anonymity. Always had the faintest whiff of whisky on his breath. did Mr Smith. No wonder he was lovely! He had taken the sensible precaution of anaesthetising himself against the sheer torture of the teaching experience. During the heady sunshiny days of lockdown 1.0, it seemed absolutely fine to pour a little G and T and sit in the sunshine at 3 o’clock. I mean, this was a once in a lifetime experience wasn’t it? And surely it wasn’t going to be long before the kids were back in school right? Whole different ballgame in this winter homeschooling hell though innit. There’s something frighteningly… well, alcohol-dependent, about pouring a drink at 3pm in the afternoon on a pissing down Tuesday in February when you really should be teaching your offspring quadratic equations. So you just don’t do it. Which in turn makes your deep hatred for quadratic equations even more intense.
- My standards were too high. Now they are shockingly low.
It took me a long long time to realise my standards were too high. A clean house, a busy work schedule, three kids to keep alive and possibly educate. And I was putting them on screen time limits!? I mean seriously. It took a tearful conversation with a friend who told me I was being “fucking ridiculous” and advised I let them play on fortnite until their eyes fell out and they stopped using the toilet and just shit directly into their gaming chairs. Since the announcement of them going back to school on the 8th March; my already slipping standards have shot off on a downhill slalom.
“You want crackers with Nutella for breakfast do you son? No problem.”
“What’s that? You arranged to do an all-night FIFA tournament with some kid in China? Crack on son.”
“Oh and you’re not going to bother doing any more spellings until you go back to school cos spellings make you angry? You suit yourself sugar plum.”
- Finally, I have learned that anybody who chooses to homeschool rather than send their kids to school should donate their brains to medical science. I mean… how do these people do it? Why do they do it? And how do they not all end up in jail? I apologise profusely in advance to my children’s teachers. They may well be unrecognisable to the child you last saw in December (well, their handwriting most definitely is). What can I say? I tried my best. Wrote a behaviour contract and everything didn’t I. You’ll be pleased to hear I’m taking proactive steps though. I’m currently retraining as a piano tuner so they can come in as key worker kids if there’s another lockdown.