The days of remote and home schooling my children during the COVID-19 pandemic seem like ages ago. Nonetheless, many of the memories I have of that time, a time I hope we never go back to, are fresh in my mind.
The immediate challenge we faced was making sure our daughters, Helen and Izzy, had the equipment they needed, plus space to work. To get the space to work, we cleared the family dining table for the girls and I, thereby allowing Mrs Adams, who was having video meetings several hours each day, to use the home office.
The Raja Workplace Survey
Just before I get on to detailing my other memories of lockdown learning, Raja Workplace has published the results of a survey focused on mums and dads’ experiences of home and remote schooling. Follow this link to read all about it. You might be surprised at some of the findings. For instance, now they’ve returned to school, two out of three children are saying they’re the happiest they’ve ever been at school but 69% said they were distracted while being schooled at home. The results are very interesting.
Challenge one: Creating a workspace
Although we created a reasonable workspace on the dining table, it became a dumping ground over time. Bits of old school work, my office equipment and so on steadily built up and, if I can be totally honest, it got ridiculous.
Later on, during the third lockdown, we took a different approach and the children worked at desks in their own bedrooms. This led to a particular issue with Helen, but I’ll come on to that in a moment.
Challenge two: Having the correct tech
The other big challenge we faced was making sure we had the tech in place to facilitate home learning. As our eldest daughter, Helen, was about to start in Year 7 so we were going to buy her a laptop anyway. We simply bought that forward a few months.
We were reluctant to spend any more money than necessary, so for Izzy we tried to make do with my tablet and a WiFi keyboard. Within a day or two, however, it quickly became clear this was not going to work.
I had a conversation with Mrs Adams and we made the decision we’d buy her a laptop as well. I appreciate we were very fortunate to be in this position, although don’t get me wrong, having to buy a second laptop did hurt financially.
It was all very well making the decision, I then had to find her a laptop to buy. Courtesy of lockdown, laptops were in incredibly high demand because every employer was snapping them up for home-based staff, as was every mum and dad with the means so their children could learn from home.
I eventually found Izzy a laptop. While I still feel a bit guilty at spending so much, I have to concede that those laptops turned out to be a massive investment. Izzy in particular has spent more time being schooled at home than in school over the past year. This means buying that second laptop was the correct, if expensive, choice to make.
There was one other item we had to buy. During the third lockdown I found Helen sat on her bed, hunched over her laptop doing schoolwork. I asked why she wasn’t using her desk. She explained the chair she’d been using was causing her to get a bad back. With no end to the pandemic in sight, I felt I had little option but to get her a proper office chair. I picked up a pre-loved item for £60 and rather like the laptops, I think it was a wise investment. It certainly had – and continues to have – a lot of use.
The other challenges
When it came to learning and teaching, we were very fortunate. Both my daughter’s schools had prepared superb packages and Mrs Adams and I were informed we should set them up in the morning and then step back and let the kids get on with it. That’s the approach we took. The assessments they’ve had since the lockdowns have shown they made good progress, much better than I expected.
We faced an interesting challenge last June when Helen, who was then in Year 6, returned to school for the final month of the school year (Year 6 being a priority year group, she was invited back for the final month). Once Helen was back at school, Izzy just lost all motivation. It was incredibly difficult to get her to do more than an hour’s schoolwork each day.
Unique experience, but school still rules!
Those months of homeschooling at the beginning of the pandemic were a unique experience. At first it was, dare I venture the opinion, fun and exciting.
The weather was great and we had lots of outside adventures. I also encouraged my kids to learn various practical skills. As I said, to my great surprise the assessments they’ve had suggest they made great progress.
The last period of home learning, from January to May this year, that was tough. I feel jaded and exhausted and I worry about the social and developmental impact on my kids. I salute those families who homeschool permanently, but for me and my family, school rules and I hope they stay open from now on.