My thoughts on homeschooling are this: don’t do it. It is stressful, chaotic and the only thing a child learns is that their parents haven’t got a clue.
I probably need to caveat that I can say that as my daughter is not at secondary school studying for exams or even in the final years of primary school psyching herself for the Eleven Plus. She is of an age that other countries consider too young for formal education. So I can shrug and say ‘well, in Finland she wouldn’t even be at school.’ (This line is just as useful during normal school time for anyone with a reception child who can’t get the difference between a ‘d’ and a ‘b’, no matter how many times you yell it at them.)
My child, however, thinks homeschooling isn’t so bad. She misses her friends and the playground but she doesn’t miss my packed lunches (which she had informed me were ‘boring’).
A lot of homeschooling, as far as she is concerned, involves asking me a question and then running off halfway through my fascinating answer on why moles live underground. Most of all, homeschooling to her seems to just be screen time. In the past I have given grey hairs to limiting her screen time – the irony that I now cannot get those same grey hairs dyed properly is not lost on me.
First of all, there are the videos from the teachers, then there is the Zoom class gathering and then there are the activities all done via the medium that is my iPad. The novelty of this has yet to wear off (for her, that is, for me, the novelty of never having any battery power wore thin long ago).
And even when we are doing non-screen lessons, it almost always ends up reverting back to the iPad. Take the other day, for example, when we were reading words that had ‘sh’, ‘ch’, or ‘th’ in them.
I pointed to a word:
‘Shed,’ said my daughter.
‘No,’ said I, all patience and kindness, ‘read it again. Ch…Ch…’
Her eyes never leave my face. ‘Shhheeeeed,’
‘No, it’s not shed. Sound out the letters, don’t guess.’
She barely glances at the carefully written out word, ‘Shhhheeeed.’
I unclench my jaw. ‘No honey, it’s church.’
I suppress a sigh (or try to).
‘Here’s my iPad, why don’t you play your monster game?’
For anyone who has a child learning to read, I can highly recommend Teach Your Monster to Read as a great way to not have to do it yourself.
All this homeschooling reminded me of a letter I found when researching one of the women for my book. The woman’s name was Charlotte Burne and she went on to be the first female president of a learned society but when she was 9 years old, her mother wrote to her requesting that she improve her handwriting and provided a sample of a previous letter where the writing was better. At the time, I laughed to think of such an overbearing mother. But that was pre-Lockdown. I now appreciate that she had the tricky task of homeschooling her child. I thought of this after I lectured my 4 year old on the importance of writing between the lines and not letting her sentence cascade down the page like a waterfall.
This is what I chose to make a fuss over – not the fact she had missed out words or that she had spelt castle ‘caser’. No, I focussed on her handwriting style. So it would seem that you can inherit more than just features from your ancestors!
I have not missed my calling as a teacher and I am even more grateful to them for taking on the task of learning my child so I don’t have to. When we all meet again, I am gonna give them all a ginormous hug and then run for the hills before my child realises I’ve left.