“We’re just like you now!”
“At least nothing has really changed for you”
Just a few comments I have received in the last few weeks. My mouth hovers between putting on a polite English smile, or give a rather abrupt answer the Dutch way. I do feel for all the mums and dads suddenly finding themselves at home with their children all the time. You see, what you’re doing is not homeschooling at all. It’s doing school at home. Your children’s school in your home, following your children’s teacher’s plans and methods, but at your kitchen table.
I can just imagine the stress and upheaval, your children’s grief at not seeing their friends and not living the same familiar and safe routine. I’m quite competitive, but I promise you that this isn’t a competition in whose children suffer the most. We’re all in this together. What might be a real struggle for some will be a piece of cake for somebody else. Some children might be thrilled to escape the school run. Some of you mums might be relieved that buying those pyjamas in the sale finally pays off.
It also reminds me of the first few weeks of homeschooling. Determined to give my daughter a good, solid education we filled up all day everyday with activities, meetups, clubs and worksheets. By Christmas we were beyond exhausted! I also learned a lot, maybe even more than my children. I learned how necessary play is. I learned how important relationships are, and how a stressed child won’t actually learn, even though outwardly they might look as if they’re a model student.
On the surface, and even that’s stretching it a huge amount, but on he surface you might think not much has changed for us. After all, we were learning at home anyway, right? Wrong.
You see, every single day we were out. Every day. Occasionally we had the Monday free, and we stayed home, and might do something very homeschooly, like bake or paint. All other days we were out attending classes, groups, clubs, meeting with friends and learning skills. My children had friends that they had chosen to be friends with, people they really liked and loved being with. They loved their teachers that they had chosen, classes they had opted in for. I can’t say I miss the packing lunches in a rush, or the racing around. I do miss listening to stories and music together in the car though.
We had to change the curriculum we use, as my older ones have such high stress levels at the moment. This means that outwardly they will look as if they’re learning, but nothing is being processed inwardly. They were convinced that we would run out of food, thanks to inconsiderate adults hamstering in shops. If your favourite food has disappeared from every single shop in the county, life is dire. Early years of neglect have made them struggle with object permanence. (Struggling to still sound enthusiastic when picking up that toy key set for the 500th time for your tiny one? Don’t worry, you’re doing an incredible job. It’s an essential as well. And yes, keep building that block tower. I know, sixty times in a row gets tedious, but you know what? You’re doing essential key work there!)
You see, lack of understanding how object permanence works means that there are no exceptions. No French class for a week? My children have figured out for a fact that they will never ever see their kind French teacher again, nor their funny friends from French class. Of course, adults can’t be trusted, so no amount of assurances from me can change their mind. When their French lessons were resumed via Skype it took a few weeks before they could handle that. After all, that is definitely not how French classes should look like. We always sit in a circle, now we sit in front of Mummy’s tiny laptop. Life is wrong. What’s worse, it will always be wrong.
Fortunately shops are selling pasta again, so Mummy might accidentally be right, and things might just about work out. Maybe. Of course, birthdays coming up are another source of stress. I bet there won’t be presents. No cake either, that will be hamstered the day before my birthday, even though Mummy assures me nobody seems to bother with cakes, there is plenty to go round, I know Murphy’s Law will mean no cake.
So we read, paint, play and hug, with me feeling grieved for them, for all they are missing and sad that it comes with an extra layer of fear and stress. It also comes with my inability to soothe, explain and promise their fears away. After all, adults have gotten it dreadfully wrong before, so who’s to say this woman will get it right this time?
So I sit back, pray and trust in a Sovereign God, drink my coffee, Zoom with friends and avoid looking at amazing projects done by angelic kids, sitting on chairs for hours on end, whilst my kids hang upside down in trees, play with action men and dolls, their faces only recently looking more relaxed. Yes, you’re like me now, as in, we’re all at home, making the best of things, counting our blessings. But no, this is totally not how my life is in the real world. This is just as new for us, and just as stressful. So breathe, pray, drink coffee and eat cake. And count your blessings, hug your children and let them play. Once they’re happy and safe, they will learn. Even whilst hanging in a tree!