Anna Dusseau | 31st March 2020
“This is Homeschool HQ to Gavin’s mum. Put the pjs down and step away from the biscuit tin! I repeat: PUT. THE. PJS. DOWN. This is not a drill!” Hello. Are you Gavin’s mum, by any chance? Or Gavin’s dad, come to think of it? Because we are now just over a week into the official ‘stay home’ guidance and – trust me; I know – it can feel like there’s absolutely noting to get your ass dressed for. Nevertheless, take it from an official homeschool mama, this party phase will eventually wear off and at some point you’re going to have to suck it up and take a shower. Because whether you are full-time homeschooling or whether you’re just surviving the quarantine, the point is that there’s a limit to living every day like it’s Sunday and the sooner you re-establish the ying yang of productive weekdays and chilled out weekends, the sooner you’ll start actually enjoying this new routine and making the most of it. So, seriously, hang up the unicorn onesie and follow me. Let’s get today off to a good start.
The funny thing is, if you’re actually all enjoying this newfound liberty of spending every day like monkey-masked extras from the Bruno Mars Lazy video, then you’re probably natural homeschoolers. I get it. Nothing gives the finger more satisfyingly to the education system you grew up thinking you had to swallow, than seeing your slipper-clad 7 year old slide behind the sofa with their cereal bowl at 11am to make Shakespeare sock puppets. It feels good. And it feels even better if you’ve got a second coffee on the go and are still wearing some kind of offensive slogan tshirt and pop socks yourself, but here’s the thing. Moments like this only feel golden because they are special, so the trick is trying to keep it that way. Sure, go ahead and enjoy all the privileges of being homeschoolers, but abuse it and you’ll lose it, people! Perhaps it’s time to locate your toothbrush? Let’s not forget that this global quarantine has disrupted everyone’s schedule, including us homeschoolers who – believe it or not – actually have pretty packed weeks filled with extra-curricular classes, activities and friends who are close enough to say: “Yo, Carol, you’ve got Weetabix in your hair. Do you need a wet wipe, or were you saving it for later?” Now, homeschoolers are all about zero waste, so I imagine Carol was saving it for later, but you take my point. There’s a limit to letting yourself go.
I notice that mental health is all over the news at the moment, following Will and Kate’s big push at the start of the week. I’m no royalist but they are absolutely right here. With the world brought to a standstill and everyone’s social lives reduced to looking up each other’s noses on video calls and waiting with unprecedented desperation for Friday night’s Gogglebox to remind us what being around other people felt like, it’s true to say that we are all at risk of suffering from some form of depression or anxiety during this time. Significantly, both the government guidance for the pandemic and the World Health Organisation’s updates have shifted toward the range of psychosocial considerations, including pressure, stigmatisation and the effects of long-term isolation. I mean, I love my kids and teenwolf to bits, but absence really does make the heart grow fonder, doesn’t it? Jeeeeez. So, what can you do to keep your family buoyant and focused in a world where politicians are seriously asking for psychological resilience in the face of the most intrusive deprivation of liberty safeguarding measures seen for generations? Well, get up, get dressed and get the Weetabix out of your hair, for a start.
Surviving an international quarantine is new to me, but homeschooling isn’t and, if you are feeling lost and lacking structure, I can assure you the kids are feeling it too. Whether they’re five or fifteen, you are still the adult and you set the vibe. If you have small children who are up early, I recommend setting your alarm early so that you can take a shower, get dressed and have a coffee in your hand before the dawn chorus begins. Homeschooling works best when you step back a bit, so try laying out a selection of ideas for activities every morning and just seeing what the kids feel like. Radio or relaxed music is a nice way to get things going before breakfast and I always make sure I have the newspaper to browse through over toast and hot chocolate bowls (we are so continental; you wouldn’t believe). Importantly, unless you are actually feeling unwell, you need to get up and get going at least twice a day. This could mean an hour in the garden before lunch and a yoga video in the afternoon. Believe me, I don’t always feel like it either and my kids would generally rather finish their sock puppets than play piggy in the middle, but this kind of routine creates a solid structure around which you can shape the rest of your day and keep things flowing. I always agree to TV time around late afternoon when I need a quiet moment to get dinner ready and I view this as ‘my time’ to put on an interesting podcast or TED talk for 40 minutes and snarf a load of olives or chocolate from the fridge. Fuck it. It feels good. As does our evening routine which involves either reading, music practise (so far, the baby just whacks the piano with his light sabre) or skateboarding round the kitchen listening to Busted. It’s not rocket science. Keep your weekdays varied but fairly organised, make sure everyone’s in pants by the time Ruth and Eamonn are done with soundcheck and save the onesie for the weekend.
And there you have it! As Uncle Biggie said: “If you don’t know, now you know.” So this week, don’t let spiraling statistics and sibling spats get you down. You’re better than that, right? And something tells me you’d make a fantastic homeschooling parent if, under different circumstances, you could enjoying the freedom and variety that this lifestyle has to offer. For now, though, we are all doing the truffle shuffle to join Joe Wickes at 9am every morning and praying that Trump will come out with another stable genius comment to punctuate the newsfeed for the 24 hours or so. Today you might not feel like doing anything and hey, hibernating for a week has been sort of fun, but now it’s time to take off the monkey mask and get your family on track for coping long-term during this crisis. Starting with getting dressed.
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