Leona O’Neill: Homeschooling is a chore, but one day we’ll look back at these mad times and laugh – maybe

HEY homeskoolers, how are we doing? Good days and bad days, yeah? Days when you think ‘I could totally do this school teaching stuff for a living’. Days when you think you could actually teach a class of 30 people pure mathematics, not just one. Days when things work out fabulously. Other days when you think number bonds, columns, rows and diagonals would be better just disappearing off the face of the Earth forever, thanks very much. And that you’d appreciate it if characterisation and narrative voice analysis would get out of your face.

I have three homeschooling with me at the moment, one in primary, two in post-primary, and keeping them motivated is extremely difficult. Their teachers are beyond amazing, and doing a fantastic, difficult job. They all provide brilliant work, check in with the kids and with me, provide such great support and are absolute superstars. But there are times when the relentless daily routine of getting out of bed, sitting at a computer working on school stuff, getting dinner, going to bed and waking up doing the same thing again and again and again gets a bit wearing.

Sleep patterns seem to have gone array, which makes getting people up for home school akin to waking the dead in the morning. My kids all work from their bedrooms and there have been occasions when I have gone in there during breaks in my own teaching to find one of them having a power nap during their break time. Trying to establish routines is difficult. There are times when it can just get a bit much for everyone involved.

Parents are carrying the weight of working from home and also the huge responsibility of keeping their child’s education on track. No one wants to see their child’s future disappear. It’s such pressure and it often seems like an uphill struggle to get anything to sink in. We are left wondering if they are learning anything in the most stressful and surreal era of modern history. Are we are any good at this teaching malarkey?

Teachers are having to adjust to a completely new method of teaching, changing the way they deliver classes, focusing on online engagement and trying to motivate and keep the education ship afloat in choppy seas. It is exhausting for them too. And kids themselves are struggling, learning during the stressful and anxious times we find ourselves in is extremely difficult.

It is no-one’s fault. It’s the pandemic’s fault. And I for one would not be calling on schools to reopen until our teachers are vaccinated and protected against disease. These are just the times we find ourselves in and I want people to know they are not alone in not totally enjoying the home schooling era.

I saw a few mum friends posting during last week that they had given their kids a day off to chill out on the sofa in front of some movies, to forget schooling for the day. I thought that was a great idea.

My boys’ school gave them a day off screens last week. A day when they could switch off their computers, work on their school stuff in their own time if they wanted, or do something they like to do themselves. But it was more a day – during Children’s Mental Health Week – to wind down, rest, re-charge and rejuvenate. And it was most welcome, for students as well as teachers, not to mention parents.

Some day, we will all be able to look back at these times and wonder how on Earth we managed to get through them. Some day we won’t have to worry about juggling mathematical methods and concepts or audience, purpose and form in English, with Zoom calls and work work and making dinner and keeping everyone including yourself sane.

Some day, we may even look back at these mad times and laugh. Some day, we might actually understand what Discrete and Decision Mathematics actually is. But that day is not this day.

Some day, all of this will be all a long off, distant horrible memory. And we will be stronger and more resilient for getting through it. Keep going, champions.

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