Thursday, May 7, 2020
COVID19 and the Housebound Heroes

It can be such a conflict of emotions. One moment feeling so lucky that we have been given this time to spend with our families, time that is usually so scarce and sought after. The next moment shoving headphones in your ears, blasting out the most calming music you can dig out of YouTube and hiding yourself away in some distant corner of your home in search of a moments peace.

For many the initial thought of working from home was a pleasant one, with visions of reclining on the sofa, tea in hand, laptop gently rested on your knees and relishing in the additional time to be productive and get more done.

Then two days in realising your generic email response is “sorry for the delay in getting back to you” or “apologies this is late, I will have it over to you as soon as possible.” Cups of tea go un-drunk, back pain sets in from sitting on the sofa all day long and you are pretty sure that the walls are moving slowly inward.

And this is before the homeschooling has even begun!

My little lad is only 8-months so I am fortunate enough to not have to tackle the tough role of teacher (and I’m not sure I could at the drop of a hat). The parents at home who are juggling remote working with homeschooling and the teachers remote-teaching (not to mention the front liners still going into school and of course all of the other key workers) are in my opinion all true heroes.

Heroes that deserve a voice. One that shares the good the bad and hopeful from all of their personal experiences what these parents, teachers and carers love about the current situation, what they are finding difficult and to share a few pro-tips with others in the same boat.

So, without further ado - Here are the stories of our five parental pedagogy housebound heroes.

Sophie Manning, Director - Outspoken Education - Mum of two

Nursery stopped for for my toddler Harry, first, and then the next day Jack's Reception class closed down. The days that followed were a whirlwind: my first instinct was to plan and organise my way out of the crisis. Evenings were a frenzy of lesson planning and my days were spent marching the kids through a packed curriculum of phonics, salt painting and 30 Day Lego Challenges. My husband and I tried to keep up the same pace with our work - and it was a four-or-five-person job.

I've gradually learned to slow things down.

I've gradually learned to slow things down. We spend a lot of time in the garden, scratching about with sticks, and an equal amount of time roller-skating around downstairs (one foot each). And in the meantime I've focused in on what really matters at work. I run, which provides sex education support for parents.

Each day at 3.30pm the kids watch a film and I write another sex education home school session plan (they're available for free on the homepage of the Outspoken website). It's been helpful to have Jack at home so that I can test out ideas on him. A little human body diagram here, a little body image scavenger hunt there. I'm hoping I'll look back on these months as a time we took to pause and play with ideas - me as well as the kids.

Full time Mum - West London - Mum of two

I find the current “school at home” situation that parents have been forced into due to coronavirus is less like home-schooling and more like policing the children to get on with the never-ending list of assignments being sent from the school.

As a home-based business I’ve found the hardest part is having to schedule/beg time on my own computer as the children need the screens to get through their assignments.

The best bit is probably around having control of the whole family’s schedules and being able to jigsaw everyone’s needs into it.

Amy Shocker, Executive Director and Founder, Invincible Me - Mum of one

I am finding that having a child (year 6) at home during this pandemic is a really mixed bag of emotions, of good days and less good days, of enjoying time together and really wishing we had two separate homes! We started out the homeschooling inspired by those uber-organised parents who posted neatly written schedules of how their days would play out… but within a day or two, we saw that was not going to work for our family.

We also started exercising as a family, something we had never done before!

We have two computers between three people, and my son gets up earlier than my husband (and usually me), so we kind of fell into a routine of him getting up and starting his work on the computer as soon as he was up (usually by 8am), and then my husband and I work around various meetings and deadlines with the other computer. We are lucky as we have a fairly responsible and self-sufficient child, so we’ve let him get on with his work and let his teachers deal with the quality of the work! As a trade off, I have had to be more flexible with video game time in the late afternoons, which is hard for me to swallow but necessary to keep the peace in the house.

We also started exercising as a family, something we had never done before! First it was workout videos in the house, but then we figured out that it was more fun and we were more motivated if it involved the dog. We get outside for a long walk with her all together at least every second day, and of course she needs multiple short walks every day, sometimes in pairs or sometimes my son takes her in the morning to the local park.

Sapna Pieroux - Author, Let’s Get Visable - Mum of two

Our homeschooling? How is it going? Well, my husband Andy and I both run our own businesses, so lockdown was a massive shock to the system. How could we cope, where to get food from, how to stay healthy, would we have work? I'm used to working from home - but with two energetic boys to amuse/homeschool and a husband in the house and an extra mealtime to prep for!?

Every weekday we also fill in a family gratitude journal (3 things each we are thankful for) and Andy will take the boys for a bike ride.

I'm lucky as Andy is very organised so he sits down every night with my work diary and his open and plans a timetable where if I'm not on calls, I might have the boys for a bit of 'Garden Maths', hangman or other word games for 'English' or even cooking. Andy might read to them or he's been teaching them video editing whilst I'm busy and then if we both are?

They have a combination of Oak Academy classes from school (roughly 2 hours a day), online STEM classes with Laura Cross (things like Stop Motion animation and App Building!), they look forward to David Walliams Elevenses and fitness classes and challenges from their karate and football clubs (unfortunately Joe Wicks wasn't a hit). We still build in slots for free-play (no screens) and we all eat lunch together. From 4pm they can have screens if they've been good.

Every weekday we also fill in a family gratitude journal (3 things each we are thankful for) and Andy will take the boys for a bike ride.

My big tip: a timetable helps the kids feel there's some structure - and helps us too. I plan my kid hours into my diary so clients can't book in then.

Frustrations: very little support or input from the school - sometimes this may be a blessing but a lack of direction and no actual lessons from teachers does make us feel a bit left to fend for yourselves.

If you've been furloughed, that might be easier but as two business owners, it's a real struggle!

I've said to friends, that even if we spend 1/2 hour with them doing maths or something, that's more attention than they would get in an hour with one teacher and 30 children - an average of 2 minutes attention each! So not to beat themselves up. Happy, healthy children is more important than anything - last Friday I was exhausted, so 'homeschooling' was cuddling on the sofa, with both boys, listening to David Walliams and read Fing whilst we 'read' the book.

Having said that, I'm getting into the rhythm of it, most of my clients are in the same boat and very understanding and  I'm making the most of this time we will never have with our children again.

Kavita Trevena - The Unlikely Mummy Blogger - Mum of one

Current situation: Sitting next to a toddler eating his grapes, blueberries and strawberries while watching Peter Rabbit and it is only 8.36am on a Thursday.

The new normal

We haven't changed much in terms of our routine, apart from everything. We used to have a normal 6.30 am wake up, playtime, maybe some telly then it was nursery or in-laws. Now, we wake up any time from 5 am, playtime, telly and then us! What do you do with a toddler all day? Breakfast times, nap times have all changed. The only thing that has stayed the same is that I am his mum. We have tried new activities which last for 10 minutes maximum, all that effort for 10 minutes, that is incredibly soul-destroying.

Positivity: What does this even mean? Everyone will just be economical with the truth on social media, so they don't come across weak or a failure during this time. Let's face it, we have all thought about it, but let's just say not every day has been easy. Yesterday I gave him a biscuit for breakfast because that is what he wanted, the way I see it is it's one day and it won't hurt him. Don't get me wrong, if it was every day then I will need to do some serious reflection on my parenting skills.

What have I done differently?

Well for starters, the little man doesn't want to nap in his bed, so we have been taking him in the pushchair (I know, gasps at that terrible habit) however, it works for me and because of that, I will continue it and for these following reasons:

  1. We are able to get out of the house and get freedom, exercise, fresh air and see what is happening in the world.
  2. I can exercise
  3. Little man can see there is more to life than the four walls and Bing!
  4. A talking opportunity and to explore our surroundings
  5. Speak to neighbours that you never see
  6. Spend that time just focusing on my child.

To me this time is something I know I will never ever get back, so I don't want to waste it fighting him to nap somewhere he doesn't want.

What I tend to say to my husband "pick our fights, this isn't one of them".

What I would like to change is the limited interaction, I feel my son is missing on social interaction and experiences.

What will I keep and what will I change?

That is a tough one, as I have enjoyed so many elements of lockdown. Having my husband home more and my son enjoying daddy time. Being able to cook more and more from ingredients, rather then a takeaway or quick meals. Having fewer headaches and having better mental health.

What I would like to change is the limited interaction, I feel my son is missing on social interaction and experiences. As a result, I will really look to do more and more activities to make memories and be mindful that not everything has to cost a lot of money. The simplest thing is quite often the most effective.

Working with a toddler

At first, I found it really hard to find a balance and have the flexibility to work and be a mum. I wasn't able to work in the evening instead of weekends, which I understand, but that added additional pressures and as a consequence affected my home life and my relationship with my son. I felt like I was abandoning him because I had to get a piece of work done, which as a result made him grumpy, upset and reliant on TV.

Now on reflection, I spend more time with him within my working day and if the work doesn't get done, then that is what has to happen. I need to place my family as a priority and at the start, I wasn't doing that. I was nervous that I would lose my job or risk being 'told off'. However, when I had an honest conversation with my manager, I quickly realised that this is a strange time and there were options for me. Since then working with a toddler has become much more enjoyable.

It doesn't mean I am a genius and cracked everything, we still struggle with every meal time and he hardly eats the food I put in front of him, but we are all here, healthy and (mostly) happy.