Parents: Don’t Add Guilt to the Burdens You’re Already Carrying

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Which New Year’s Resolutions did you make this year?

I’m going to hazard a guess that home schooling wasn’t one of them.

(Unless you’re a home educator. In which case I imagine the 10,000% increase in online educational resources over the last week has felt rather like all your Christmases coming at once.)

In a former life, I was a teacher. But I taught one subject, to children older than the ones I parent now.

I have no friggin’ clue where a Year 5, Year 3 and Reception child are meant to ‘be’ academically – let alone any wisdom on how to teach them all at the same time.

There are resources, of course.

OH MY GOODNESS there are resources. I have them coming out of my ears.

PE with Joe. Free Audible stories for kids. Phonics apps. Cosmic Yoga. Maths games. Facebook Lives with artists and authors.

Then there’s social media. This blogger does sensory play. That home-schooler does projects. This friend raves about her daily schedule. That Facebook meme says it’s all about nurture.

And let’s not forget All.The.Printables. I could spend six hours a day printing and laminating all the free stuff flying around the Internet to help educate our children right now. Which is kind of ironic, seeing as I’m three days in and this honestly sounds like a break.

You name it, I have seen it.

The thing is: the overwhelm.

I’m sure it will die down within time, but for now the endless barrage of free downloads, ideas and resources is just too much. It starts off being helpful, but morphs into just another way for parents to feel guilty.

“Don’t do worksheets! Teach your kids through playdough and oobleck!” (Look it up.)

“Don’t make your own worksheets! Use my free stash of 65 million!”

“Don’t forget to teach life skills! This is a great opportunity!”

“Don’t worry about work! You just need to love and nurture your kids!”

The honest truth is that some of us will go with the flow and some of us will set up schedules. Some kids will watch too much YouTube and some will argue too much with siblings. Some will learn via worksheets and others will learn via active play. Some will read daily and others won’t pick up a book.

While I’ve been writing this, my three youngest have delighted in finding the beak of a dead bird whose feathers we discovered in our garden yesterday. Creative parents would use this as an opportunity for an impromptu Biology lesson.

I am not that mum.

I mentally clocked off from Biology several months before I took GCSE Science, and am instead using this as an opportunity to delve into my rapidly-diminishing stash of chocolate, as a reward for surviving yet one more gross moment with my kids. I’m ticking them off until they leave home.

This morning I read a post about life-skills we could be teaching our children during this season. While it sounds like a great idea to familiarise our kids with the washing machine, teach them how to make their own sandwiches, or show them how to change a bulb, I honestly don’t have the energy right now.

My background in music education has also served as a major guilt factor in all of this. “You’ll be great at this!” a friend encouraged me last week. “You’ll be able to do amazing music lessons with your brood!”

Yeah – but I’m not doing any of it. None of my kids seem fussed about learning music from Mummy, so why put that burden on any of us? (They are, however, loving French with Daddy every day, so thanks for that extra nail in the Coffin of Disempowerment.)

All of us are just surviving. None of us are home-schoolers. Most of us are, in fact, invested in a different profession – which, by the way, we are having to ‘fit in’ alongside the joke that is non-elective home ed.

Where I once was busy ferrying the kids to and from their array of predictable middle-class activities, I’m now busy arranging times for them to video call their friends. I’m home-economising like a 21st-century Marguerite Patten, squeezing in work to every available crevice, and my Skype schedule could rival that of a CEO to a multi-national.

But I want you and I to hear this.

Children are children. That means – contrary to the evidence we see when we interact with them – that they are also human. And humans are incredibly resilient and adaptable – children in particular. They are wired to develop, to move forward, to increase in confidence and skill with each passing day.

Unless a child is in a neglectful or abusive situation, this development is still going to happen, and – here’s the news flash, folks – us making a pig’s ear out of home education isn’t going to stop it. Children grow and learn through everything they do: a completed Maths exercise. A half-hour in the mud kitchen. A piece of creative writing. A hug. A TV show. A bounce on the trampoline with siblings. A prod around with a dead pigeon. Or a fully-immersive lesson in bird anatomy.

When all this is over, and our children return to school, I’d be interested to know whether teachers will be able to spot which kids had routine and which didn’t. Which kids kept up with academic work and which kids played. Which kids improved their reading and which kids learnt how to cook a meal from scratch.

Whilst I expect the most perceptive teachers might be able to discern these things, I also don’t think that it will have harmed anyone’s development. The difference is that, without all journeying through an identikit education together, each child will have carved out a unique path for themselves. It may take teachers a while to get everyone back on the same learning track again. But the variety of new skills our kids will have picked up may well be the basis for some exciting and more independent learning than was taking place in their classes previously.

This season has the potential to make us all kinder, calmer and more grateful human beings – our children included. Let’s not waste time feeling guilty for what we’re not doing, but remember the job we are doing: being the parent, teacher and guide that our children need.

And whether you’ve spent today watching your child make great strides forward in their reading or in their knowledge of YouTubers, whether you’re feeling you’ve got this nailed, or keep nervously checking the time to see when it might be socially acceptable to crack open that bottle of wine (hint: we’re social distancing, which means normal social etiquette rules don’t apply), I want you to shed the guilt and know just how much your kids are benefiting from increased time with you.

Because, however productive or slovenly you’re feeling right now, there’s no doubt that you are your child’s best teacher. I promise.

3 Comments

  1. You’re completely on my wavelength Lucy, this post is perfect. I’m halfway through writing a post about the relaxed approach we have taken to this isolation time. My goal is to create beautiful family time memories, not to school the kids in a traditional sense. God bless you all, stay safe. Mich x

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