I’ve been teaching for 20 years, but nothing prepared me for the challenge that I faced on Monday 23rd March 2022. Home schooling is not, and I repeat, not, an easy option…
When it became clear that the schools were on the brink of closure, I have to admit I was feeling pretty smug at the prospect of home-schooling Amy. My husband and I have both taught for many years, him Primary and me Secondary, so I figured that we had the home-schooling thing in the bag. Amy came home with a calendar for us to populate, which I did, barely batting an eye lid! I know how to structure a school day. I’m an ex Deputy Headteacher, so I know the importance of balancing the timings of subjects for when our children are most susceptible to learning V’s the need for rest time and space for our brains to consolidate learning. The schedule was then placed in its multi coloured splendour on the fridge for the world to see. I even posted a pic on social media displaying how I Sarah Ledger was going to flow seamlessly into the world of home schooling, filling any gap that may manifest itself, fulfilling my daughter with an enhanced love of learning and thirst for knowledge.
Monday morning arrived…the alarm went off…the alarm went on snooze…should we get up? Could we sleep in… No! It’s a school day. Get up get, get dressed, get fired up and ready.
We showered; Amy walked the dog; we ate breakfast and we turned to the schedule…Maths…Ok I can do this. I’m an English teacher but I have a C in maths GCSE so surely I can do this? I couldn’t! In fact, I was terrified! The work Amy’s teacher had dutifully set looked like something from a hierographic tomb! I was so out of my depth that I froze. How could I not know this? I’m 41 and this is Y6 stuff so surely, I should know this?
After pondering over it for what seemed a lifetime (20 minutes) I couldn’t bare it any longer, so I turned to familiar ground. Monday 10am the schedule clearly said English, so I got out the poem I thought we could work through which would then be a springboard for other project-based learning. My curriculum was set, and I was poised with my highlighter and success criteria at the ready.
What I hadn’t considered, was the fact that our children don’t want to be taught by their mothers. In fact, they hate it, well mine does! They want to be taught by their teacher, surrounded by their friends. They want to be taught in an environment away from home where they can be the person they’ve spent years developing within that context. They want to be able to make mistakes and make a fool of themselves in the safety of their classroom, with a person at the helm who they trust implicitly with their learning. Amy trusts me as her mum, but not as her teacher! Therefore, the English lesson was very brief and highly charged. I threw a strop, like I wouldn’t dream of doing in the classroom and she slumped on the settee with her phone, face down in Instagram!
I had failed! The guilt swamped me. How was I going to make sure that she didn’t regress? That she would continue to make progress and that she didn’t end up in Y7 miles behind everyone else?
I don’t mind admitting that I then went into the bathroom and had a little cry. I wasn’t crying about the lesson, but the fact that I felt as though I had failed. As I sat there in the loo crying, I began scrolling Facebook and here in front of me were countless parents doing incredible creative, engaging, expressive, innovative, stimulating activities and lessons with their 2,3,4 even 5 children. And that’s when it hit me. This new and crazy situation we find ourselves in which all the journalists on TV are flaunting as the ‘New Normal’ needs a real and true perspective. Our children are suddenly at home. They never spend this much time at home, and their parents have never spent this much time with them and let’s be totally honest we as parents don’t really want to! School is an incredible place for our children to grow, but it’s also an incredible place to allow families to have a gap; a space between them so everyone in the household can thrive and develop away from the strains of family life. So regardless of my 20 years’ experience as a teacher, me trying to establish that environment at home was never going to work. We don’t live in a school. We live in a home where we can learn spellings and develop our vocabulary and develop ourselves as human beings, but only if it still feels like and is recognisable as a home.
So, what did I do? Well, immediately I made up for my strop and childish sulk by raiding the snack cupboard and producing a white flag in the form of hot chocolate and a Curly Wurly, but then I went at this like a mum and not a teacher. We reworked the schedule and we started to have some fun. We got some white board pens out and played vocabulary games and spelling games on the kitchen tiles; Amy set me a challenge to learn how to play the piano (Glup! OMG! I’ll fill you on that one later); we made pom poms to try and start some sort of crafty project; we made macaroni cheese for a food tech assignment; we challenged her spelling knowledge by focusing on a couple of rules rather than trying to learn long lists; we did some reading of a book of her choice and we left the maths and IT to her Dad…in short, I stopped trying to be her teacher and started being her mum who happened to have to teach her a little bit in these crazy times!
But then I also asked myself the question: isn’t this what we do every day? Every time we run a bath and tell them to run the cold tap we’re educating them about sensations and pleasures; every time we make the beds we’re educating them about responsibility and togetherness; every time we have a bedtime story we’re teaching them about empathy and inspiration…
I also learned on Monday 23rd March that I need help. I’ve never done this before. I’ve taught in some of the North East’s most challenging communities, but I’ve never been a stay at home teacher, being a stay at home mum whilst teaching my stay at home daughter…I need to reach out…I need to find the best places for support and encouragement. Some people clearly have it all sorted and that’s marvellous, but I don’t and that’s fine too. My brood of 1 is stretching my capabilities, but we’re giving it our best shot and that’s good enough.
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