Lockdown Ramblings Part Five – Homeschooling from an Adopter

Lockdown Ramblings Part Five – Homeschooling from an Adopter

This blog is not written by me – we have a guest blogger today who is one of our BraveHeart Trainers and a fellow adopter. She posted on our Facebook group for Parents this week about some homeschooling challenges and I wanted to share for two reasons. One, for those teachers who might be wondering how their pupils are getting on and this gives a different perspective on what this time is like at home for some of our vulnerable children. Secondly, for those at home with children this may resonate with you and give you some comfort that you are not alone. So over to our guest….

How are you all doing with the whole home schooling thing, those of you that don’t normally home school anyway? Our youngest’s teacher phoned yesterday to encourage me yet again to get him to do more. I wrote this in response – I haven’t sent it, and probably won’t, but I’m posting it here as it will probably resonate with a few of you. And it will make me feel better to know that someone gets it. A bit long, sorry, feel free to scroll on by!

Safe at home, not stuck at home.

A couple of weeks into the Coronavirus crisis, as the novelty of lockdown started to wear off and a sense of national cabin fever began to set in, a meme was circulating on Facebook reminding us that perspective is everything. We weren’t ‘stuck’ at home, but ‘safe’ at home.

Being safe at home is of huge importance to our three adopted children, all scarred in different ways and to different degrees by their early childhood experiences. They’ve racked up losses most of us can barely imagine – their birth family, their foster carers, their first nursery friendships, their birthplace – and now they’re coming to terms with the sudden loss of their school routines, friends, teachers and social groups. Home, with its’ predictable rhythms and routines, is the only safe anchor they have in a world turned upside down.

Our youngest, who turns 11 this week, has always struggled with the blurring of lines between school and home. For him, and hundreds of children like him, the rules and demands of the school day are a constant source of new anxiety. I’ve learned to dread the days when his teacher tells me he’s had a fantastic day in class, as this almost always means the effort of keeping the lid on his internal pop bottle all day will result in a spectacular, messy explosion once he’s safely through the front door. Homework is a perennial challenge as he needs school to be school, home to be home, and me to be Mum. I concluded long ago that the stress, tantrums and meltdowns involved in getting him to do the smallest of homework tasks were simply not worth it for either of us. On a good week we do about half of his tasks. Most weeks, none at all. At home he reads for pleasure, has a vivid imagination and writes fantastic stories. When in school, he has a highly experienced and patient teacher, and a full time teaching assistant to support him when his anxiety bubbles up enough to make regular classroom learning impossible.

To say that home schooling under Covid-19 lockdown has pulled the rug from under our feet would be an understatement. Now, home is no longer the safe place he comes home to after an anxious day at school. Now, it IS school. And I’m not just Mum any more, I’m the person who makes him do more ‘homework’ than ever before. He flat refuses to engage with any of the clever, creative tasks his teacher sets online and the smallest piece of offline work becomes a major battleground.

A little vignette from earlier this week. We are supposed to be studying the weather using home made instruments to collect data. We managed to make a simple rain gauge, and to monitor the rainfall for three whole days. That morning it took me 20 minutes to persuade him to check the gauge. Another 10 to get his shoes on and go out to collect it. We poured the contents into a measuring jug and needed to take 100ml from the total of 260ml to get the day’s reading.

Me: So, 260 take away 100?

Him: I can’t do that, it’s too hard for me!

Me: That’s not really true, is it, you can do this easily

Him: I can’t! You’re not listening! Leave me alone! (runs out of room)

Me: (finds him upstairs, calms him down, leads him back) Relax, concentrate, 260 take away 100…

Him: 100? 200?

Me: Let’s write it down…

Him: 100?

Me: look at it on the paper…

Him: I told you, it’s too hard, leave me alone! (runs out of the room again, slamming the door)

So, 50 minutes to not fully complete a small task that should have taken us seconds, a tantrum that lasted the rest of the morning, another emotionally draining cycle of anger, guilt, remorse and repair. Why on earth would we both want to do that 5 or 6 times a day? Every day?

Leaving aside his off-the-scale levels of anxiety, lockdown home schooling assumes that at least one parent has the capacity to support and facilitate their child’s work. At the moment, I’m running on empty. I’ve lost my income, my independence and my identity. I can feel the familiar hand of depression resting lightly on my shoulder. I’m making sure there’s food in the fridge, meals on the table, clean laundry, consistent bedtimes, and that all the comforting rituals and routines of home endure. That is genuinely the best I can do.

Meanwhile, like many (most?) parents I’ve allowed our children to have much more screen time than they would normally. They’ve all retreated into their various online worlds, the older two turning to theirs after their daily school tasks, our youngest for much of the day. He spends hours in Minecraft worlds of his own invention developing elaborate characters, settings and stories. He tells me about his successes and achievements. He talks animatedly about the characters he’s invented, and how much he looks forward to getting back to his virtual world when he’s been away from it for a while. Watching him today absorbed in his game I realised that he was comfortable, relaxed and happy. Because he felt safe there. Truly safe. Maybe safer than at home, which isn’t quite as it should be, with Mum (who isn’t either).

At the moment we don’t know how much longer the lockdown will last. It’s likely that our children won’t be back in full time school until September, at which point skilled teachers and support staff will help him make up for lost time. He won’t be the only one. Slowly the familiar rituals and routines will be re-established. School will be school, and home will be once again be home. Boring, predictable, reliable. And safe.

 

Nicola Marshall
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