We’ve been ‘homeschooling’ officially for almost a year now in Quebec. Our learning is loosely child-led, but we are very restricted by the current rules and regulations. The learning we do has to be adjusted to make sure that our paperwork shows we are diligently following the mandated Quebec curriculum.
As homeschoolers there’s an assumption that unlike school children, ours can continue on as normal. That’s not the case at all. The pandemic doesn’t discriminate when it comes to this. As soon as the lockdown began here, we were unable to continue homeschooling and changed to coronavirus schooling like everyone else.
Overnight we also lost all our external activities and time to socialise and play with friends. Our weekly routine has gaping holes where we once had sports, group activities, library visits, trips to museums and many other outings. Noisy games and free play are greatly restricted by having someone in the apartment who is trying to work full-time. We can’t just take it outdoors. We don’t have a garden, we’re on a busy street, and the icy Montreal spring weather is just miserable most of the time. For every hour of sunny but extremely cold, there’s torrential rain and stormy weather forcing us indoors.
For all of these reasons the kids have no motivation for doing any traditional learning. I can’t blame them. I don’t feel motivated to do anything either. We’re all under-socialised and lacking physical activity. Bedtimes are running later and sleep quality is poor. It’s not conducive to learning at all. We are firmly entrenched in coronavirus survival mode and have been looking to just find our way through this along with all the other families.
The first week adjusting to this new reality was overwhelming. My inbox was inundated with emails from any company that ever collected my email address. There was a deluge of suggested educational activities from these, and even more suggestions all over social media. Various artists and content creators stepped up to provide material to help entertain and reassure children during this period.
It’s great that we have so many resources, yet it results in a total overload. I’ve had the same experience when looking for educational material as homeschoolers. You get tied up in knots trying to decide which one of twenty similar curriculums to choose.
The biggest problem with a lot of the materials I was seeing shared, was most of them were focused on schooling from home which is very different to the current situation where parents are also working and stressed out. Many of them seemed to involve a lot of parental involvement. I don’t have the time or motivation to do these kinds of activities right now.
Some children thrive on routine and structure. For them they may enjoy and benefit from daily worksheets and lessons to keep them busy. For others the change in how we’re living is stressful enough without forcing them to sit down and struggle with completing all that work.
However we did need to find new ways to spend our time at home. Ones that were new and different enough for the kids to feel inclined to do them for fun and entertainment, not because they ‘need to learn’. Screen time rocketed as we tried out different options. This resulted in crankier more irritable children.
The ipad is a great learning tool, but up to around age six, my children react like it’s a highly addictive drug. Obsessive about wanting it, unable to switch it off without an epic tantrum. Wasting hours that they would otherwise spend happily playing with their toys and each other. My eldest is able to manage his time on an ipad now, but we are restricted by the youngest who absolutely can’t.
Now that the dust has settled we have settled into some kind of routine for coronavirus schooling. The focus is less on education, more on mental and physical health. We have almost daily activities with other homeschooling friends online instead of in person. It generally involves drawing or writing in some form, which can be shared at the end of the session. This works best for holding the attention of a group of children of mixed ages and is our only option for socialising outside of our family unit right now. I’ve limited it to one online session a day at most because while it provides some social aspects, it’s also quite draining.
Other than general free play, my children do a LOT of drawing. Their paper usage is insane, though they are learning to be less wasteful as the stash depletes. We do our morning and afternoon 15 minute walk if we’re not too busy with other things. If the weather is mild enough we get out for longer, or take a very long walk to our nearest green park area on the weekends. We have a bunch of activities and resources that the kids are currently enjoying when they need something to occupy their minds. Here are our favourite coronavirus activities if you’re looking for inspiration.
We’re still trying to find the right balance. It changes from day to day and hour to hour – along with everyone’s mood. For anyone who is thinking they could never homeschool after experiencing this… this is not what homeschooling is. This is a tough time for most of us. The only priority is doing what helps get us through to the other side intact. I’m grateful for all the resources we’re able to use, but also mindful of not trying to do too much while our minds are more fragile.
Eventually the lockdowns will end. When that happens, we’ll catch up on the important things. I suspect very little of that will be ‘educational’ activities.