I was going to write a different blog post today, but my inbox has crashed under the weight of sad e-mails about the homework being sent out during lockdown number 978. As one fabulous mum wrote:
School are throwing so much work at us it causing me sensory overload let alone my daughter… It’s very stressful as a parent trying to keep up with it. In my email to school last week I reminded them ‘I’m a parent, not a teacher’. The only positive is, I’m so stressed by the school work it’s taken my mind off the virus!
If the homework set by school is affecting your own resilience – please stop!
Our mood as parents is more important than anything you can teach them right now. We make the weather in our homes (sunny, stormy, gloomy or icy). With everyone stuck inside, the atmosphere inside needs to be as good as it can possibly be.
But my child’s school keep sending work home…
Teachers are under huge pressure to set work, mostly from tiger parents. As an ex-teacher, I’ll let you in on a secret – 90% of teachers genuinely don’t care if you do it. And the 10% that do care whether you do their activities during such awful times, well they deserve your pity, not your time. There is pressure to give four hours of work each day, which some might be able to cope with, but my eldest and I simply can’t.
But everyone else is coping fine!
Mums are superheroes. Yes, but we are also overwhelmed and deeply traumatised human beings right now. I find listening to the funny and wise psychologist Emma Kenny really helps with mental health tips. Most mums work, raise children, do most of the household chores and now we are supposed to home-school, as well. Say, what?! That’s four jobs. Even if you are lucky to share things or not be working, that’s still always going to be more than one job.
Trust yourself. You are amazing. We can get through this, but not if we ruin our own mental health and our relationship with our children.
What do you suggest then?
If you get the schoolwork via email, then stop opening the emails, just file them in a folder. If they get set on an app/website, just don’t login. Or just choose your teenagers favourite subjects. Teachers are scrambling in panic for things to send out, often whilst trying to home-school their own kids. Most of the work is not thought-out or differentiated.
You know your child. You know what they need. Whatever you can manage to get them to do by way of home-schooling is enough.
What if I get in trouble?
When I was doing teacher training, I quickly realised that the school system only works if pupils don’t realise that there are 30 of them and only one of you. And that (as a teacher) you don’t really have any power, especially over parents. Our own school days have made us deferential to teachers, but we are in a global pandemic. No one’s going to come knocking on your door, except perhaps the postman.
I’m still worried…
Just send a blanket e-mail to each teacher explaining that your child is overwhelmed and that you are focusing on their mental health right now.
If your child has additional needs and you get any kind of blowback from school, feel free to say that you are in contact with a specialist assessor (i.e. me) and that they advised you that since your child was anxious, you should initially focus on activities which reduce their anxiety. Then to work activities which build your relationship and establish trust in you as someone who can meet their needs. Next, work on confidence-building activities.
If your child has individualised targets, you are sorted if you just find some fun games and activities which focus on these targets.
If we decide not to do the activities from school, what else would you suggest?
My best suggestion would be to keep a scrapbook (we are taking part in history right now). Or if that seems a bit much, then just keep a list. You will be amazed at how much you actually do over the weeks and months. Then if you really want, you could link the activities to the curriculum targets.
For example, today we did:
forest school (really just climbing trees and running about like nutters) PE1/1.1a master basic movements including running, jumping, throwing and catching, as well as developing balance, agility and co-ordination, and begin to apply these in a range of activities.
made some edible slime out of starburst and chewits Sc2/3.1c find out how the shapes of solid objects made from some materials can be changed by squashing, bending, twisting and stretching
played some maths and spelling apps En2/3.1a. iii learning to spell common exception words. Ma2/2.3a recall and use multiplication and division facts for the 2, 5 and 10 multiplication tables.
tidied the house (as a family) with mummy’s happy playlist blaring PE1/1.1c perform dances using simple movement patterns.Mu1/1.1 use their voices expressively and creatively by singing songs
curled up with a free David Walliam’s audiobook and chatted about how awful the children were in the story. En2/2.2d explain and discuss their understanding of books, poems and other material, both those that they listen to and those that they read for themselves.
Is it what we were supposed to do? I don’t know, I’ve stopped opening the emails/apps!