How are we all doing? The recent news about closing schools here in the UK is a huge shock to parents, even if we knew it was in the pipeline. I must admit, my first thought was one of utter dread and panic. The six weeks school summer holidays are hard enough to fill and juggle. The thought of having to manage work, childcare, keeping well and safe and throw in a bit home schooling too is just a bit much.
My daughter is honestly distraught. She is in her final year at Primary School and although she had SATs looming, she was looking forward to enjoying these last few months of school with her friends and joining in with the celebrations of being a ‘leaver’ which the school does so well.
We don’t know how long this situation will last for, but I think it will be more like months, not weeks. I have tried to soften the blow with my daughter and try to explain to her that life will get back to normal soon and that I’m sure we’ll be able to celebrate her Year 6 leaving in some way once we’re out and about again.
I also explained that this is happening the world over and that we’re not the only ones. I tried to reassure her (with the limited knowledge I have) that normal life is just being putting on hold for a little while and we’ll catch up again once this horrible virus has gone away.
My daughter is old enough to watch and understand the news, but her interpretation of it can be a little confusing and overwhelming. Heck, it’s overwhelming for us adults too! I explained that we all need to work together to stay well. We need to follow the advice for social-distancing and self-isolation, keep washing our hands and to eat healthily so we can banish this horrible virus. We are like ‘Avengers Assemble’ – coming together to fight the "baddie". And the way we fight is to follow the advice from the Government and health professionals.
I have to be honest, the thought of being cooped up altogether as a family, for months is a little scary. I may be reaching for the gin! But we cannot fall into a slump during this time, it’s important to have structure and routine. Kids especially need routine, and in these unsettling times, they need a little bit of normality. It’s important for their mental health and general happiness. And if our children are happy, us parents are happy.
I’m not a teacher (would not have the patience) and I’m not sure yet how my daughter will embrace doing school work at home, so I’m not going to expect my daughter to do work from 8.30 until 3pm. That’s just not achievable at home on her own.
As much as I need to work, I need to also be honest with myself that I won’t get the same level of work completed during this time. However, I will still wake up early and get an hour or so of work done before she wakes up!
I’m lucky in that my daughter is old enough to work on her own (unless she gets stuck), so I spent time last night putting together a daily timetable for her and me. We will do work at the same time, but also have breaks for exercise, fresh air and playtime in the garden. My husband and I already try to squeeze in a two-mile power walk down the lane every lunch time so my daughter will come with us on those too (much to her horror).
You may have already seen this, but if not, Joe Wicks The Body Coach is going to do a PE lesson for kids, live every weekday morning at 9am on his YouTube channel. This is genius! I’ll definitely be making the most of this. It will give my daughter energy for the day and will keep her occupied for a time when I can do a little bit of work.
I’ve factored into the timetable, breaks for getting out in the fresh air when we will play in the garden for a little while. We may play football, jump on the trampoline, play catch or maybe some skipping. Something simple to get the blood pumping and to have a fun break from school work.
It will be hard for our little ones to do school work at home, because home is usually the place where they relax, have fun and switch off. We must keep this in mind as we try to get them to keep up with their school projects.
They won’t see their friends either so we must try other ways to keep in touch so they don’t feel like they’re on their own. I’m usually nagging my daughter to get off various technology devices, but during this time I’m going to relax a bit about this. She can chat to her friends on the phone and message them. And she can play with them via online games. It’s important for them to have this interaction.
It’s her Birthday next week, and we can’t have a party or even go out for a Birthday tea so I’m going to try and make her day as special as possible at home. As she won’t be going to school we can take our time with a special breakfast and opening gifts. I’ll decorate the house with balloons and bunting and make a Birthday cake. It will be gluten free as she is Coeliac. I must admit I have stocked up on gluten free basics for her as they are sometimes hard to come by at the best of times.
I will see if I can get her friends on a group video call so they can sing Happy Birthday to her when she blows out her candles on her cake. I’ll also give her a break from school work and we can play games and go for a bike ride. I may also hide little treats in the garden for her to find. We'll maybe have a carpet picnic tea and have snacks in the evening whilst we watch a film. Just little things to make her feel like it’s a special day.
During this odd time, we need to think outside the box on how we do things. And we must remind ourselves that people suffer much worse things on a daily basis and still manage to get on with life the best they can. I know this is really scary, but hopefully we can manage it safely, with staying at home and being sensible.
Don’t get me wrong, I am honestly worried about what’s going to happen and what the outcome will be. I’m gutted for my little girl that she is having to leave her primary school early as we’ll never get that time back. But I think we need to stay positive and strong, and get the most out of this time as we can.
Cherish the extra time we have with our families. Time goes by so quickly, so let’s make the most of this unplanned time we have with our partners and children. Without the commute to work you already have an extra hour or maybe more to do something fun at home.
· Stay safe and follow the guidance from the Government and health professionals.
· Be realistic about what you can achieve when juggling work and home schooling.
· Get outside in the fresh air if you can but keep a good distance from others.
· Keep washing your hands. Ordinary soap and water works perfectly.
· Eat healthily.
· Give yourself a break. You're juggling a lot at the moment.
· Exercise to keep fit, stretch, and for good mental health.
· We’re all a little jittery and out of our usual routine, so be patient and kind.
· Make home schooling fun for both your child and yourself.
· Keep smiling. This won’t last forever.
· Cuddle your children - reassure them.
· Help those who are vulnerable and be mindful of the bigger picture.
· Keep your sense of humour throughout this time. Laughing is the best medicine!