Well, what a year, what a rollercoaster, what a nightmare. But that fact that I'm writing this blog, means that I have survived it and I mean survival on a physical and emotional sense, but more to the point, my two boys have survived too. I'm not sure about you, but when they first announced lockdown heading our way, starting on the 23rd March 2020, I thought, ok this will be ‘nice’ a couple of extra weeks off for Easter, time away from work, time at home with my boys and my partner, the weather was looking ok and this could be fun. At this point it all didn’t seem too bad, yes it was horrendous that the death rate was increasing, but it hadn’t touched us as a family unit, or in my extended family or friends. It was something that was happening to other people and apart from being off school, I didn’t see it impacting on me that much – wow was I wrong, on so many levels.
My partner John and I made a plan. Between us we have 60 years of early years experience between us. My eldest son was 12 and my youngest 5, we set a plan, a routine, roles for each of us and on the 23rd March, we turned on the TV at 9am and started PE with Joe Wicks.
I then took on the tasks of literacy and phonics and my John went for maths. We decided not to follow the work set on Google classroom, there want the expectation to do it, so we decided that our way of teaching would suit my youngest son much better. We played spot the sound with shaving foam, and splatters, we made forts with numbered water bottles on them that were being blasted with tennis balls. We baked, we made balloon jellyfish and we learnt all about Captain Tom Moore. It was fun, it was creative, it was everything we loved about early years and learning through play.
Then holidays began to be cancelled, Joe Wicks became such hard work, we were fed up of the local park walks, we were exhausting all ideas and the ‘lockdown fun’ wasn’t that much fun anymore.
September came by and schools went back, thank goodness. My son was so keen to get back to his friends and transitioned well. Its clear that the 1-1 input he’d had over the summer, helped and he returned to school eager and with a better grasp of early literacy and maths. John and I were able to consider the return to work and the much needed focus on finances and pushing forward with plans.
So all good so far, right? Then lockdown 2.0.
This wasn’t going to be so easy. We now had to juggle working and home schooling with compulsory home schooling on Google Classroom this time. The fun of the initial lockdown was far behind us now, the screen time, the monotony of pre prepared power points and videos, the worksheets, this was so far removed from what we knew my son would enjoy, gain from and what we believed in as early years educators. But as a parent there is a pull. Do we carry on with what is ‘best’ for my 6 year old who learns best by doing, being outside, fixing, building and moving? Or do we do what we are ‘supposed’ to do to ensure he returns to school at the same level as his peers, so he doesn’t fall behind in the curriculum, that although we disagree with, is the one he needs to be following? Suffice to say we aimed for a bit of a mixture, whilst keeping an eye on him and deciding lesson by lesson whether or not it would be an effective use of time and would support him.
But this has not been easy. This changed the relationship between me and my son from parent/child to teacher/child, it brought school into the home, into his safe space and without doubt has had an impact. But for me, I’ve been reflecting on the positive impact. How many parents over time can say that have spent a year with their children, making memories and laughing and growing together? I’ve been able to see my son develop skills that I wouldn’t have witnessed first-hand as it would have been with a teacher, I’ve developed skills as a parent that have stretched me and enabled me to reflect on what I want and need as a mum, a women and as a human being. Its has definitely reinforced my 27 years in the early years sector. Learning through play, learning by doing, following the child’s lead and interests, making learning sensory and engaging is far more productive for everyone than sitting, listening to a teacher and using worksheets.
As parents we know our children, the way they learn, what motivates and engages them and we need to use this to support their growth and development not only academically but also as an individual with grit, a desire to succeed, positive self esteem, confidence and commitment to their own growth.