Parents all around the world are in a flat spin. Understandably so, because what’s happening right now is not normal – it’s not part of our daily routine, and we certainly didn’t plan for it. COVID-19 is wreaking havoc in ways we cannot even begin to describe.
Parents have been placed in a very difficult situation. Work expectations have increased, stress has doubled, and, to top it all, we also have to look after the education of our children – a responsibility we had long ago “outsourced” to qualified professionals. This is a frightening new reality for many, and anxiety has sky-rocketed as working parents scurry to find free online worksheets that align with their children’s curriculum.
But let’s also spare a thought for our children (especially the younger ones) … They’ve been ripped away from their social norm. A routine away from home that’s difficult enough in the first place has suddenly been replaced with this strange new reality of being on holiday, but not really!
Let’s face it; their freedom has been shut down as much as ours.
But back to the parents… those who are reading this… Pressure is escalating with an increased demand that we are now expected to educate our children as well.
It’s crucial right now, to take a step back and re-evaluate a few things.
This is not homeschooling
What parents are doing right now is “crisis schooling”. The two concepts are very different. Homeschooled children are not imprisoned within the walls of their homes as kids are now. They often participate in just as many extra-curricular activities as formal school going children do. Homeschooled children explore, create and investigate their learning through experience, as well as written work. It takes months even years to get into a well-structured routine. They are suffering just as much.
Crisis schooling is anxiety-ridden, trauma-inducing and suffocating to say the least for all parents – and for many children.
Why is it important to start with this simple distinction? It’s because, in a crisis, we simply do the best we can to make it through. In a crisis, “excelling” takes a quick back-seat to her more serious big sister, “surviving”.
Take a deep breath. It really is quite okay for you to simply maintain some of the things your child has learned in recent months; do revision, read a book together, build a puzzle or invite them the join you in a DIY project or to cook dinner. In all these things they will learn a great deal. And you’ll keep a hold of your sanity.
Like most crises, this too shall pass.
Honour your emotions
Frustration is real for everyone. We are all feeling lost, unsure and mourning the comfort of our usual routines. Parents, as well as children, are experiencing loss. But we need to be kind to ourselves and allow space for these emotions.
In other words, you are allowed to feel what you are feeling – just don’t let those emotions dictate your behaviour (especially towards your children). Acknowledge the feelings of each moment, be alive to them and own them; but allow that awareness to become a sense of comfort instead of pushing you over the cliff.
Remember, this is crisis schooling. And in a crisis like this, we should expect to be confronted with all sorts of emotions that are not normally part of our psyche or our usual experience of things.
It’s perfectly OK to not be perfect
This leads to the next point. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. And the sooner we stop pretending that there is, the sooner we’ll feel freed up to be the best parents we can be rather than the kind of parents others seem to think would be best.
We are all striving to do what we believe is best for our children. Social media is on a rollercoaster frenzy at the moment with schedules, worksheets and hours of formal academic learning. While having some kind of routine or schedule is important, it is not THE most important aspect. No parent should feel the need to measure up to societal expectations right now – especially not when those expectations are determined by images on Instagram or memes on Facebook!
Educate with simplicity
For some, teaching might come naturally, for others, it might be a frustrating process. Education does not only happen on paper. Learning can be inspired by almost anything. There is so much that a child can do that will harness their energy, stimulate their conversation, and drive their curiosity while keeping them from getting frustrated and bored.
As parents, we need to simplify the way we see the process of education. We need to change our perspectives about academic norms and expectations – especially because this is a time of crisis and the usual norms simply don’t apply. The main aim is to learn – it doesn’t matter how that happens.
Hit the reset button
There is so much that is out of our control right now. And we have a choice to make; will we allow this period of lockdown to be soul-destroying, exhausting, and crippling, or will we embrace it as an opportunity to refresh ourselves, our relationships and our families?
The way we view this period will make all the difference to how we emerge from it, and how our children emerge from it. It’s okay to be anxious about the future, our children’s academics, our financial burdens. It’s okay to be scared and it’s okay to be angry.
But we have also been given an opportunity to re-assess our priorities, our spending habits, our values and principles, what we truly treasure and how we measure our success. This is a moment of rebirth for our families, and we get to spend it with our children!
Do something together that you wouldn’t’ normally have the time for. When I first started home-schooling the one thing that struck me was how little I actually knew my children. Yes, we all talk to our kids, but how often in the rat race of life do we really take time to get to know them beyond what we assume. Have those conversations that you wouldn’t normally get the chance to have. Talk about aspirations, dreams, feelings, friendships, and the world.
Know when to tune out
We also need to know that what our children need at this time is to receive some academic guidance. But the key here is guidance. Not teaching. We need to tune out all of the unnecessary expectations and continue doing what we can and know.
At the end of the day, we are what our children need more than anything else!
Jacqui Bester is a homeschool mom to 5 children. She holds formal qualifications, and has years of experience, in the fields of education and psychology. She is the former co – editor of the Citizen’s online parenting platform and her writing has been featured internationally. Jacqui blogs about her day to day adventures, and misadventures over at One Messy Mama.