Home-schooling is hard

22 Feb 2021

Before Willow was officially enrolled in the public school system, I had toyed with the idea of home-schooling. It was something I wanted to do, because I had concerns about how school life over the years might damage her, like it did me, and a big part of me just wanted to keep my baby at home with me. Ultimately, when it comes to making decisions about your child's future, that decision is usually a two-person decision to make and my partner wasn't keen on the idea of home-schooling and firmly vetoed the idea. Who knew my feelings about that would go from mild-disappointment, to absolute relief; home-schooling is bloody hard.

A picture of a toddler pointing at a rainbow they made during lockdown

I didn't think it would be this hard; Willow is a very bright girl, she does especially well with maths and literacy and she's very eager to learn. Yet her enthusiasm for learning to a national curriculum whilst at home just isn't there, and it's so difficult to get a child to learn in their home environment when they keep telling you how it's not the same as being in school with their friends. At first it frustrated me, I just didn't understand why she wasn't engaging when she's so happy to do her homework at home - but I imagine I'd struggle to concentrate if I was at home around all of my toys and gadgets, and had my toddler sister running around wanting to play with me.

I keep reminding myself, and Willow, that this is something completely new to both of us. Children all over the world who have never had a home-schooling experience, have had their educations flipped upside down. For the right reasons of course, I am fully behind the national lockdowns we've had (and wish a few of them had been implemented sooner), but I'm not a teacher, and the relationship I have with my daughter is not the same relationship she has with her teacher. It's a completely different dynamic and whilst I thought, foolishly because of her age and only being in Reception class, that it would be easy, it's been anything but.

It's left me feeling full of guilt, that I'm not doing enough for her to ensure she's top of her class, doing every single piece of work set. I've dreaded talking to other parents who have managed to keep their little ones engaged every single day, whilst knowing Willow isn't doing much at all of the set work now. We add in learning in other ways. We bake together, we watch STEM videos on YouTube, we read books, and lots of play. We do maths at the most random times, like during bath time or when we're getting ready for the day. We spell out words together and learn interesting facts from Alexa. We craft and she builds giant space rockets with her daddy. 

Thankfully, her teacher and school have been incredibly supportive and so understanding of how hard it can be to keep her engaged. It's so important to talk to your child's school if you're struggling, they will understand, this is a completely unique time and way of learning, that no one is really prepared for. I know we're not the only ones who have struggled, I know for every proud post on social media about a child excelling in their home-schooling, there's another parent just like me wondering what the hell they're doing wrong and hoping it's safe enough to reopen schools soon so their child(ren) can catch up. 

The half term has given me time to get some guilt-free perspective on the situation. We'll keep at it, keep trying, keep working at the planned school work but adding in our own learning, and hold onto the hope that this will be over soon and she'll be back in the best learning environment for her to thrive. We do, of course, want Willow to learn as well as she can whilst at home, but we need to have a happy environment during lockdown where there are no unnecessary disagreements over doing schoolwork whilst she's missing being in school properly, wondering why she can't see any of her friends yet, missing her extended family. Right now, the most important thing to us is that she is safe.

I wanted to share how much I've struggled with home-schooling, because I think it's very easy to feel like you're alone if your little one isn't engaging how you'd hoped. So many things are intertwined in this lockdown, everyone's mental health is being affected in one way or other, the pressure is intense, most if not all of us have money worries and work worries, whilst the fear of the unknown and where our futures lie can leave us feeling on edge and anxious. I don't want anyone to feel guilt or shame if they are struggling; but I do encourage you to reach out, to your school and your child's teachers, to friends and family if you need to talk about how hard you're finding it all.

One day, hopefully soon, this too shall pass.