On Monday I set out the train tracks for Finn. He has always loved them but the bigger two have never shown an interest. They are quickly moving away from playing and towards anything involving a screen so it brought me so much joy to see them getting stuck in. They know that this isn’t school, but they understand that during the traditional ‘school day’ they aren’t watching TV or gaming and I love seeing them rediscover toys. It is a much slower journey for Archie but Dylan is embracing it and it makes me so happy to see him acting more like the 8 year old I remember being.
This week I have learned that ups and downs are going to be part of this new normal for a while. We will have a series of good days, days where I wonder whether school really is the right place for them or whether this home-school life could work for us. We have a series of days feeling connected and like we are achieving something and then a bad day, where everything seems to go wrong, where we argue and struggle to get anything done. Days where everyone cries and my heart is broken by a just turned 5 year old desperate to go back to school with his friends who just doesn’t really understand what is going on but is more than aware that everything has changed.
These adjustments are tough and some days we thrive, others I focus on just surviving. I miss seeing my friends but I try and stay connected in any way I can, watching the same TV shows so we can have a debrief after, video chats on apps on my phone and a constant stream of whats-app messages that come through the day reminding me that there is life outside this bubble I live in.
This week we left behind a structured timetable and instead went with a list of daily activities. I sat down at the weekend and wrote them out on a grid, some form of p.e each day, something outdoors, something academic, something creative and something fun. It gave our days structure without being glued to a timetable and it feels like the right move for us. Every day we started out at 9 (or 10 if I was tired) and the TV screens went on around 5pm. Every day was different and I can find moments to hold on to in every day, the moments that get me through that inevitable tough one
We are going ‘out’ less and less and making more use of our garden for our exercise and fresh air but sometimes I really need to walk further and Ed was taking part in a big webinar in the afternoon for work that would be really tricky with noisy children in the house. We walked down to a quiet part of the beach less than a kilometre from our house. Watching the children run in and out of the waves felt like medicine for my soul. I am a naturally outdoorsy person and I need the crashing waves and the feel of sand beneath my feet. I need to feel small in a big world rather than big in a small world for a while. Obviously they all got completely soaked and walked home dripping wet.
Today I set them the task of making a den in the back garden, digging out a duvet that is waiting to go to the launderette and lots of blankets. They made a fort (with a lot of help) and filled it with books and puzzles. We had an alfresco coffee shop (they love a coffee shop) where they ordered off the menu and it was a good day. Technically they would have all finished school today for the Easter holidays but we are going to carry on our routine which has very little academic work anyway because I think it is best for our family.
We stayed close to home again and our outdoor activity was washing the car which is parked on our driveway. They weren’t terribly sure they wanted to do it but once the bubbles came out they didn’t stop laughing and soaking each other. Doing these things with them that I remember loving in my childhood makes me feel connected. There are so many differences between the way they are growing up and the way I did, most of them due to the changing availability of technology but I want to make sure their childhood is still that and these things reassure me (before I let them play minecraft for 3 hours on the TV). Archie is the most reluctant to get outside usually but was the most absorbed in the car wash. Somehow it looks just as dirty afterwards as it did before they started
I had high hopes for today, I had come up with a really fun idea, I had prepared things for it and I was ready for fun. I woke up to the sound of Archie breaking the TV though and it went downhill from there. Everyone was tired and emotional, unco-operative and aggressive. Finn burst into tears because he missed school and I felt ready to give up. My plans had been to host an un-birthday party though and as I had done all the preparation we did it anyway. We got dressed up, played pass the parcel, music statues and music bumps. The children drew invitations to their favourite teddies and we played with balloons. We danced and had a Colin the Caterpillar birthday cake and it gave me something good to balance out the rest of the day. I had a long bath with my book and some deep breaths whilst Ed put the small people to bed. Today felt overwhelming, exhausting and I felt desperate to escape but we made it through with a lot of Disney+. The weeks feel so long and I find that being on facebook and seeing all these parents educating from home so well and with so much creativity makes me feel worse. Sharing how tough my day was on instagram stories and having responses of solidarity made me feel less alone and that is what I need to take from all this. We are all having bad days, we are all crying over little things, we are all muddling through with no real idea how.
I want to continue to write daily about how we are making this work, how we are getting through this unsettling time because I need to get it out, for me. I hope you all had a better week