Diaries Magazine

Home Education In A Global Pandemic - My Experience

Posted on the 13 January 2021 by Sparklesandstretchmarks @raine_fairy
Home Education In A Global Pandemic - My Experience
So...home educating through a pandemic, when the rest of the country and most of the world is suddenly home schooling too...that's been...interesting!
I think it's fair to say that long term home educators have been somewhat forgotten about during the pandemic, and it's not difficult to understand why...we're used to the whole home-schooling thing so the assumption from most is that this hasn't been a big change for us. It's been more of a shock to the system for children who are used to school being part of their daily routine, and for parents who are suddenly having to juggle work, childcare and educating without much warning and without choice.
Don't get me wrong...I completely understand.
But I can't deny that I would have appreciated it if someone had checked in on us at some point over the last 10 months since the pandemic kicked off. Because people assume that we're used to all of this, we've been pretty much left alone to muddle through.
When school children were able to return to their schools in September, our children remained at home but without all of their usual groups and social activities which were mostly unable to run due to social distancing restrictions. Nobody from official departments offered any assistance or checked in at all, despite their previous keenness to register us as home schoolers so they could "offer support" where needed.
For the past 3 years, I've been trying my best to juggle working from home alongside managing chronic illnesses and home educating my children at the same time.
By choice, of course. But let me tell you...the fact that I chose it did not make it any easier. 
I have felt overwhelmed more times than I could possibly count, I've felt as though I'm not doing enough, as though I'm failing, as though I'm the only person in the world struggling when the other home educating mums I know looked like they were smashing it and barely breaking a sweat.
Then...2020 hit, and suddenly...everybody was home schooling.
Everywhere I looked, I saw other parents struggling to juggle...trying to keep all of those plates in the air, feeling overwhelmed and worried they were failing.
I'd love to say that I found it reassuring...that it proved to me that it was normal to feel that way, that it IS hard to juggle all of this. But it didn't...instead it actually made me feel worse somehow...maybe because the realisation that it WAS hard made it feel more difficult. It reinforced the message that this is a difficult tightrope to walk. 
Maybe because seeing everybody suddenly talking about how awful home schooling was and how much they hated it made me question how much more straight forward life must be with school involved, whether the grass was truly that much greener on the other side.
In all honesty....It made me doubt our choices.
I'm sure this wasn't helped at all by the fact that EVERYTHING is made more difficult during a global pandemic...including home education!
Although we were more fortunate than most in many ways, because our kids routine didn't face as much disruption as those who were used to school life and because we were already set up to spend a lot of time at home together, there were still challenges.
The biggest one for me has been the complete lack of ANY break at all. Usually my parents would babysit the kids a couple of times per month so that we could go for a meal or do some shopping on our own, and occasionally they'd have them overnight so we could get jobs done in the house...something that is really difficult when young children are always around...but it's now been almost a full year since they've been able to babysit like they used to.
So while most people got some sense of normality back briefly when the schools returned in September, we didn't. I found that tough and a bit overwhelming.
It makes me feel so guilty to say that I've found the lack of time away from my kids over the last year hard. It feels like something a mother shouldn't admit to. 
But it's the truth. I don't drive and my health issues make it difficult to go out alone, so I haven't been away from my kids for more than a couple of hours in the best part of a year.
I feel guilty because I know how privileged we are to have had the couple of evenings break each month, when so many home educators don't get even that.
But comparing struggles helps nobody - the fact is that this year been difficult in many ways, we've experienced some of our toughest struggles yet as a family and to face it largely alone thanks to the pandemic has been incredibly hard on our mental health.
It's been hard for the kids too - there are friends they haven't seen since March, when most of our social groups stopped. The ones they have kept up playdates with, we still haven't seen as often as they were used to. Right now it's been about 10 weeks since they last played with any other children. They're lucky to have each other of course, but they've started to talk about the friends they used to have as though no longer exist. 
Their clubs and groups are either paused indefinitely, or running sporadically under strict social distancing rules...keeping people in their household bubbles.
I, too, have missed the comradery of social groups - that chance to sit and talk to other home ed parents about our ups and downs was something I never fully appreciated the importance of before.
We chose to educate at home for many reasons, but most of those are no longer applicable....Things are so different now than they were before.
Most of the usual perks to our home ed lifestyle are suddenly gone  - no travelling, no last minute trips, no off-peak visits to theme parks or museums, very few hands-on learning experiences. 
We're left with none of the things we loved about living and learning this way.
This is tough on all of us and I'm worried sick about the long term impact on the children.
The one big thing in favour of our home ed lifestyle during the pandemic has at least been the ability to learn autonomously and the ability to greatly reduce our exposure risk without having to answer to anybody else...we've returned to full lockdown this Month and the chatter among school parents of Zoom lessons and strict school-imposed home learning regimes has  reassured me that, even in a pandemic, home education is still the right choice for us.
The freedom to tailor the children's learning and routines to meet their needs and interests is a very positive thing, allowing us to focus fully on their mental health and ensure that learning is kept fun and light hearted right now.
But I can't deny that I'm counting the minutes to getting some sense of normality back...for clubs and groups to start again, to see our friends more regularly and, as soon as we possibly can, to get out into the world and experience it instead of just reading about it in books.
The pandemic has been devastating for every person, and home educators are no better equipped to deal with the demands of it than anybody else.
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