I have to admit, before the lockdown came into effect, I was really worried about it. By nature, I’m not a worrier, I take life as it comes. However, talk of mass deaths, pandemics, indefinite school closures and food shortages, is enough to put even the most laissez faire attitudes to the test.
The lockdown was looming…when, not if, the virus had been making it’s way across the world, we had tracked it from east to west, it felt that country after country was falling to this creeping, insidious disease. And I for one, was concerned about having my three small children at home, aged 4,5 and 7. How on earth was I going to entertain them all day…but not just entertain, educate them?
And here comes the funny bit…I’m a teacher. Yep, I know. I should have all of the answers up my sleeve. Curriculums a-go-go, laminated time tables, strict routines, healthy snacks, learning at every opportunity….errrr…no. At the end of the day in my kids’ eyes I’m just their mum, muddling through and wondering why time slows down when the four of us are attempting to do a Joe Wicks workout together (sorry Joe you’ve done a fab job, but I’m not buying the whole “I’ve always wanted to be a PE teacher” line).
So, 7 weeks later, it’s been, well, not exactly a joy, but certainly enjoyable and much, much better than I thought. When people’s worlds are falling apart, lives are changed for ever and frontline NHS staff are dealing with terrible situations every day, it is easy to feel guilty when you admit that this time has genuinely been “enjoyable”.
This is how I managed it. I have been working from home for most of the lock down period, so I haven’t had reams of time to set up wholesome activities and create adult led play. Having said that we have had a routine, that, by and large, we have stuck to. And yes, this routine does include quite a lot of TV! But it also includes gardening, cookery club, Lego challenges, walks…a lot of walks plus home learning aided by the support of the children’s teachers who have been brilliant at sending through tasks and activities.
Every walk becomes an adventure.
Perhaps unusually, our children really enjoy walks. We turn them into an adventure, the ditches, hedges, fields and woods are suddenly filled with dens, bases, hideouts and fortresses. Sticks and stones become buried treasure, catapults and pirate traps. We have noticed that since the lock down our children have become more and more adventurous, racing ahead of us, ready to welcome us into their dens with a cup of tea created out of leaves and soil (yum!).
Of course, we do more academic activities too. Reading and writing, using pasta to count out the sounds they can hear, learning about fractions by building Lego towers and splitting them into halves and quarters, using egg boxes to count buttons into the holes in order to practice times tables, but these lessons are short and focussed, 20 minutes to half an hour.
What I have learnt is that it’s best to split my children up when they are learning. My eldest insists on telling the youngest two how to do their tasks, understandably this annoys them. So, I work with one of them while the other two are watching TV, playing with their toys or in the garden. The children love one to one attention, and it works both ways, I like my one to one time too.
At the beginning of the session I start with something I know that they can do, something easy for them. Then they have the confidence to continue, after all, it’s hard to continue if you fail at the very beginning. We then use stepping - stones to get to the harder work and the main focus of the learning. Once children know they can achieve they are much more likely to risk failure.
Make it real. We don’t write for writing’s sake; we write for a purpose. The children have written cards and letters to their grandparents and friends. My little boy has copied out the recipes he has enjoyed making and sent them to my parents. They made the flapjacks and sent photos, my dad in a pinny and my mum sampling the baking! As you can imagine, Charlie loved this, and it encouraged him to write more letters with recipe recommendations.
There are a huge number of educational websites and apps out there, especially now that we are all home - schooling. You could of course spend hours trawling through them, trying to find the best ones or wanting to have back up after back up. I suggest just having three or four, the best ones are those that the children can use independently (you need down time!)
Here are my top picks:
BBC bitesize – lots of curriculum based activities
Top Marks – simple games for all ages
Twinkl – Free home learning packs for all year groups
At the end of all this I am unsure whether my children will be any further ahead academically than when they left school. However, after these months of lockdown I think we have had an opportunity to get to know each other better than we ever would have done before. Now, I really know them as people, and I love them and my family unit all the more for it.
They have learnt a lot. They can spot different birds in the garden and the fields, they can recognise the tap of a woodpecker in the woods, they can point out the buzzards’ nest high up in the trees. They can cook and have an understanding in preparing food and have experienced the joy you feel when you serve up something delicious to your family.
Yes, they’ve watched far more TV than they should have done, there have been squabbles and tears but on the whole I deem lockdown learning a success…..after all I think we have learnt more about ourselves as a family than I could ever have predicted!