I saw a screenshot of a post from Facebook this week which summed up my feelings of homeschooling so completely and eloquently. When asked if anyone was considering homeschooling permanently following this recent foray over lockdown one mum replied that she ‘would rather cover herself in honey and staple her tits to a beehive’. That pretty much sums it up for me too.
In fact, I think if I listen hard I can hear the sound of parents breathing a collective sigh of relief as children up and down the country returned to school this week (sorry if you’re reading this from Scotland as I realise your sigh won’t be for a few more days yet). I know we will all be paying the price by the weekend when our offspring are exhausted from having exerted themselves more this week than any this year and will therefore be in the foulest of moods. But for now, it feels like the shackles have been loosened just a little and we can put on one side our side hustle as primary educator.
There were some definite benefits of homeschooling. Anyone who has endeavoured to get a teenager out of the door in the morning in time to make the school bus will appreciate the relieving of this burden whilst educating from home. As has the lack of need to iron school uniform. Or the need to ensure that every required book/equipment/kit also made it out of the door with said teen on the correct day.
However, the return of these burdens is a small price to pay for the overwhelming relief of, at last, having resigned my role as teacher.
It is fair to say that I am not a natural teacher. I am not blessed with inordinate patience and my educational knowledge, which I had considered to be of a reasonable standard, is clearly woefully inadequate. If I never again have to explain the relationship between counterweights and pivots, it will be too soon. The merging of a parent and teacher role is not a happy match; whilst both adults, the relationship a child has with each is – and indeed, should be - very different. The ability to be entirely oneself at home inevitably means that a difficult or simply unwelcome task is met with moans and misery whereas within the school environment the work would be completed without complaint (and most likely in a quarter of the time!).
The inability to escape each other’s company has also taken its toll; never have we spent so much uninterrupted time together. And I am sure my almost teenager is totally sick of the sight of me and needs some different company.
However, the return to school is also very welcome from another perspective; I have seen my outgoing, gregarious daughter change into someone who is slightly reticent to leave the house, apprehensive about meeting friends in person and having lost so much of her normal confidence. The impact upon her mental health of three lockdowns has been frighteningly clear to both her dad and I. A return to school life and social interaction will therefore be beneficial and in my view the upside of that far outweighs the COVID-19 risk, and which the school appears to be managing both well and proactively. It also returns some of her independence to her, as well as her own life, both of which have seemed to exist only wrapped up with ours. She’s at an age where her privacy and independence is very important.
And then there’s our mental health, that of us parents, unified in a world of exhaustion and frustration. My word, it’s been tough. Working all day with someone who knows exactly which buttons to press for the biggest and most explosive reaction would test even Mother Teresa. And the juggling of the usual day job, alongside the home-schooling/supervision role, not to mention to perpetual production of meals and snacks, has driven me to the edge on more than one occasion. And I knew my kids were untidy but when they barely leave the house the levels of mess and destruction they create are obscene. They say pick your battles and the state of my daughter’s bedroom is a battle I am definitely leaving for another day (will 2023 be too soon?!). I will never grow to love the cloying aroma of Victoria’s Secret vanilla body spray and which I think I will forever associate with home-schooling and lockdown….
This is not to say that there have not been some high points of constant child company; there have. I have discovered TikTok dances (although the constant twitching of someone beside me will never be anything other than irritating), I have acquired a whole new level of knowledge of the Kardashians, Addison Rae and Charlie D’Amelio, and have learned phrases such as ‘glow up and ‘glow down’ (and which apparently from which both Prince William and I have suffered, according to my daughter), as well as being introduced to the heady world of James Charles and his makeup videos.So I am raising a glass to all of us – both parents and children. And I am raising an even larger glass to teachers all over - you deserve every medal known to humankind. We have all come through the toughest of times – but thank goodness it’s over!