I don't have the patience: Why home schooling is the worst part of lockdown 

Ruth Davies says she doesn't think schools and nurseries are safe places for children including her own, pictured, at the...

Ruth Davies says she doesn't think schools and nurseries are safe places for children including her own, pictured, at the moment - Credit: Ruth Davies

I wonder if everyone else is as weary of home schooling as we (grown-ups and children) are? I realise it’s only been a week and we have many to go but truthfully, this is the worst part of lockdown as far as I’m concerned. Much worse than the fact it’s winter this time around and pool (paddling) parties in the garden are but a distant memory of lockdown numero uno.

The thing is I’m just not very good at the actual teaching (I use the word “teaching” loosely as the kids know more than me), I lack patience and find it frustrating to the point I wonder if I might combust. Plus I‘m having to look after my toddler and of course continue with my own work which is… well, there aren’t enough hours in the day.
 
So home school is not something I relish and yet despite this I pulled my kids out from the first day after Christmas based on not finding comfort in sending them somewhere I wasn’t 100% sure of their safety. Lots of schools across the country were closed from the off of course, those with high virus numbers like in Epping Forest.

Yet here in Norfolk, each individual school’s governance was asked to make the decision on their own. Teachers were advised by their unions, taking guidance from the scientists at SAGE, that as it stood last Monday, measures were not safe to be in work. A bit like a building site inspector telling workers their scaffolding isn’t safe and they should not climb it.

Numbers in my particular village were the second highest to anywhere else in Norfolk and with a rate double that of high risk Epping Forest (per population) I simply couldn’t get on board with my children going into school despite it being open with enough staff working for them to have made that choice.

So I kept them home and by the evening the PM had finally taken the decision away from everyone. Is it what I wanted? Well, yes. I suppose ultimately it was but as a parent, human being and supporter of the teaching profession (having come from a family of them), I didn’t come to that view lightly.

First off I have so many worries for the vulnerable kids who aren’t necessarily on the radar of social services. I wrote before that though they have places in school ensuring they go in is another thing entirely. Knowing the wellbeing of so many kids would be detrimentally affected fills me with dread.

Then for my own children, of course, in an ideal world I want them learning in a normal environment with people who are qualified to teach while they enjoy friendships and things we previously took for granted simply like leaving the house to go somewhere else!

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Deciding to keep my children home against their own school’s decision was not something I took lightly but ultimately I couldn’t have had them mixing with others while at such a high risk of coming into contact with the virus. Being outdoors going for walks is one thing. Inside a classroom with 30 other children? Quite something else. They say children aren’t necessarily getting ill themselves but transmitting the virus is easily done and with my 71-year old- mother in our bubble it made the risk too strong for my liking.

I’ve also chosen to keep our toddler home for the foreseeable for the same reason (he loves his nursery so it breaks my heart) regardless of the fact nursery provision, unlike school, is still available (nurseries are allowed to remain open – they can be money generators unlike state schools so I do question if this decision was based more on finances or because the well-being of pre-schoolers has largely been forgotten during this pandemic and that was to be remedied – let’s hope for the latter).

We weigh up the consequences individually as families and have to each of us make decisions, as hard as they are, for our own people. I absolutely don’t judge anyone else for making a different choice, these are hard times and our boats, though all in the same storm, are all very different; an analogy I revisit all the time when trying to consider how everyone else feels.

One thing I’m sure we all have in common though is the hard task of getting our cherubs to work well in home school – hats off to the teachers who do it every day, I certainly couldn’t! And thank goodness schools are now closed because though I’ve found the work my children have been set to be a bit hit and miss (a trick maths question for my year six daughter at the beginning of the week did not get us off to a good start), at least they are getting it and that’s a starting point every day.

On that first Monday I was emailed by their school clarifying we would only receive on line provision IF isolating due to Covid. Finding the resources myself as well as working out how to teach them felt very daunting, thankfully this did not seem to be the case in many other schools but it was a worry for me.

The teachers I am friends with and have in my life are working harder than ever to help us help our kids and they have my full support. To assume they are now having a bit of a jolly and time off is as closed minded as thinking ordinarily teaching staff start their day at 9am and finish at 3pm with the kids, while taking long holidays in-between. Anyone who knows or has lived with teachers will understand that they work all the time and for most it is a vocation, not just a job.

So, deep breaths everyone and remember, keep clinging onto the boat, be it a yacht or a piece of drift wood because the storm will be over one day!

Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk