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A Diary of a Teacher During COVID-19 Home Schooling

Partial and full school closures  during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic have been unprecedented and have put huge strains on both parents and teachers. In this blog post, experienced former teacher and mum of three children Heather talks about the challenges and joys of home schooling as a teacher during this difficult time.

I will never forget Wednesday 18th March, it will be forever emblazoned on my memory. It was the day we found out that schools were to close – most only partially – due to COVID-19 for an unforeseeable amount of time. I must admit that the plight of NHS staff and those affected by COVID-19 were not at the forefront of my mind at that moment. All I could think about was, how the heck was I going to work as well as ensure that my three children carry on learning? How was I going to tolerate being in close confines with them and my husband for weeks on end without an end in sight? I must confess that in those moments I gave in to tears and panic – much like many parents across the world I’m sure.

When the reality of the situation had sunk in, I decided to try to make a plan to make me feel more in control. My first thought was to lay out a learning schedule with more academic learning in the morning, and creative time in the afternoon when hopefully I would be able to get some work done myself whilst the children had some down time, followed by a family walk before we had an evening meal. I was determined also that the children would learn some life skills that we seem to have never had time to impart – namely:

  • how to make a cup of tea
  • how to cook a full English breakfast
  • how to use basic tools
  • how to sew
  • how to bake

Not too difficult – right?

I had high hopes for week 1 as it was all still fresh and new. On the Sunday night I didn’t sleep well, worrying about the week ahead, I felt under internal pressure to have a good stab at things, especially bearing in mind I’m a qualified teacher. I was determined to at least TRY teaching the children – even if just for short periods each day. On the plus side, some of the positive things that I felt immediately were:-

  • there was no more school run rush
  • I didn’t have to buy the ingredients for or make school lunches
  • I no longer had to hunt out and iron uniform
  • no more evening homework
  • no more evening clubs or classes to rush around for
  • no more worrying about other children being mean to my children or vice versa
  • I would get a clearer idea of where my children are in terms of their learning

My children are 4, 9 and 11 and this is how I wanted to structure our day:-

9-9:30 – Joe Wicks

9:30 – 10 – silent reading (whilst I check my work emails and react to anything that’s happened overnight) – and dough disco for my 4 year old via YouTube.

10:30 – 11 – phonics/writing

11-11:30 – outdoor play  (work time for us)

11:30 – 12 – maths

12-1 make lunch together and eat it

1-3 – creative time/topic work (again, whilst I’m working again) (lego, non screen indoor play and outdoor play also fine)

3-4 – family walk

4 onwards – kids can watch TV/play whilst we work.

To achieve all this I realised I was going to need to look at online learning resources that I knew worked well from my teaching days, as well as reading and learning books we already had. A quick look on the internet made me realise that many learning resources – for example workbooks – were already out of stock, but I did manage to do a large order of craft equipment such as:-

  • quick dry clay + tools
  • paint sticks
  • sewing kits
  • huge box of coloured pencils
  • sketch pads and sketching pencils
  • plastic letters
  • oil pastels
  • small canvases
  • jumbo paint markers
  • A4 card and paper

I also started keeping hold of any cardboard boxes/tubes for junk modelling and potential crafting equipment.

And the online resources (many of which I used when I was teaching) that I thought would be useful – especially when I needed to concentrate on work stuff – and found the following websites very useful and also had free access are:

So far so good!

We started off the week in fine form, settling down to at least a few hours “work” a day, but it soon became clear that anything involving a pen and paper was going to prove quickly challenging- even though Mummy is a qualified teacher. The children really needed help and supervision, and the constant interruption to our working days as parents was causing a lot of stress. Not the fault of the children at all, but not a long term practical plan. It also really tired them out. Regular breaks and outdoor play became a life-saver, and as the week progressed we noticed the children gravitating more and more towards creative play and crafting. To be honest, although I want to keep the reading and maths going, I’m also discovering a whole new creative side to my children that I had no idea they had! Now that they have the time, and a few more resources at home, they were able to make amazing creations and do problem solving at the same time. My daughter, who is 4, managed to make her very own castle with working draw bridge using twine and craft sticks – amazing!

All in all we managed well and I was actually dreading the weekend as we had no plans (obviously) aside from going for a walk each day. However in the event, we basically let the kids watch TV all weekend whilst we caught up on work!

 

home learning diary

After the seeming success of week 1, I felt the pressure again on Sunday night (especially being a teacher myself) as I realised the children were tiring of the learning ideas I had used up in week 1. Luckily Kapow Primary came to the rescue again, and I got some inspiration and ideas from their home learning pack.  The timetable went out of the window but I had three non negotiables:

  • each child had to read for at least half an hour a day – the 4 year old reading with her older brothers as well as with us.
  • each child had to do SOME maths each day.
  • each child had to write something each day

Aside from that, I was prepared to be flexible and focus more on creative learning as it was more engaging, and they were less likely to interrupt us during work calls.

Some of the learning ideas that I thought worked best were:

We’re still on week 2, but I will keep updating this blog post as each week progresses.

  • have your non negotiables and let your children know what they are – stick to them
  • follow a timetable if you can, but be prepared to be flexible
  • concentrate on your own self care as well – even if it’s just a shower or wearing headphones for a while
  • let your children be creative! You’ll see a whole new side to them
  • read, read, read, read READ
  • take advantage of online learning apps and tools especially during work calls when you need quiet
  • be prepared to switch your working day around, possible working in the evening when the children are in bed
  • invest in some craft and paint equipment from online stores
  • ask your children to teach each other things – if that’s feasible
  • have realistic expectations of what can be achieved each day
  • even qualified teachers like me are struggling teaching their own children
  • if you’ve just had enough, put on a movie

On a positive note, we are much closer as a family and have more time for things like cooking proper meals and doing all the things we’ve been putting off for ages like gardening, baking, decorating and more! Let’s see what will happen as the weeks progress.

Written by:
Kapow Primary