When the schools finally closed, the true, chilling reality of what this would mean gradually dawned on me. My husband was still going out to work and hadn’t even considered that maybe we both had a responsibility for the kids. It was clear that it all down to me. I was going to have to be parent, teacher and worker. It was going to be a living hell.
I am lucky that I am able to work remotely and at home but even so, this was pushing it (a fact that I spent the whole week before the school closing explaining to my husband in minute detail). The kids are 9 and 11. As great, capable and able as they are, they both need guided learning. I knew that there would be no way that I could just plonk them down in front of a laptop to receive remote instructions from school and expect them to get on with it. Nor should anyone expect them to. But that also meant I would have no uninterrupted time to do my job.
Just getting my 11 year old son to put in more than 10% effort has been challenging for a while. His move from primary to secondary education last year has been really hard going and he hasn’t found any of it easy. The problem isn’t that he can’t do the work, more like he is a lazy little devil who finds any possible way of distracting himself whilst only doing the bare minimum. Getting him to do academic study is hard at the best of times but now I was being faced with it becoming non-existent.
In a very determined attempt at finding a solution, I worked out a daily schedule for both kids. It was built around my son’s timetable, so that what he did each day mirrored what he would now be doing at home. My daughter would follow the same schedule.
Flicking through Facebook for ideas, I found that Joe Wicks was going to run PE for thirty minutes each morning, Monday to Friday. Fab, I thought. That will get the kids off to a good start, whilst I catch up on emails and things for half an hour. The rest of the day would then follow that nice and calmly, with hopefully everything being done by mid-afternoon. We would have structure and routine. I would be model mother with model children. I’d got it all sorted out.
I worried about how all of this was going to work and how I was going to deal with my new role for the whole weekend before what will forever be now known as “The Great Home Schooling of The Great Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020”, on Monday 23rdMarch 2020. I felt really stressed and the night before I had a migraine. Monday dawned though and I got up, head banging, and made myself determined to be positive about our new routine. I got the kids up and dressed and put on Joe Wicks on YouTube at 9am. The kids (mostly my son) entirely refused to co-operate. I didn’t spend thirty minutes catching up on my emails, I spent it yelling at the kids, telling them to get on with it, that it was good for them, that this was it and it was going on for a long time to come.
The rest of the day that followed didn’t go much better. We struggled with the internet, I worried about the cost of the printer ink, my son refused to follow his timetable and in the end I had to go to bed at lunchtime when the flashing lights started in front of my eyes and yet another migraine began.
The next day was not much of an improvement on the first. My son did some work until he hit meltdown point at around 11.30am (when I refused to draw cloud formations for his geography homework for him), at which point everything had to stop. My only option and hope of getting the kids to do anything even remotely educational was putting Horrible Histories on iPlayer for them.
I had three migraines in three days. All the while, Joe Wicks was being interviewed saying how great his sessions had gone with nearly a million hits, videos were being posted online of well-behaved kids doing their home schooling and Joe’s exercises, (all in pristine surroundings too, which made me feel even worse looking around my untidy house). Even the school WhatsApp group was full of happy upbeat messages showing smiling children doing as they should.
I muted the WhatsApp group.