Thriving at Home: Embracing Family Connection and Learning Beyond the Classroom During Uncertain Times

Thriving at Home: Embracing Family Connection and Learning Beyond the Classroom During Uncertain Times

boys playingLess than a month ago all our lives were completely different, we had routines, jobs, a life created to fit within society and culture, one that kept us financially stable if we were lucky and allowed us freedom to explore the world. Now we all find ourselves in what feels like an alternate universe, at home, cut off from friends and family, isolated, and for many suddenly with no school. I am a home educating mum and have been for 4 years, I feel I am now a seasoned home educator with enough crazy experiences under my belt to come to you and reassure you of this; your kids are going to be just fine without school. I see a lot of panic right now about how you are going to manage your children's education and I hear you, it is a scary thought.
Many of you are still working and feel this is impossible and are worried about your children falling behind and whether you have the skills to teach them. I want to reassure you that you do, but that this isn't what's important right now.
I want to share with you how I'm coping, how I've learnt to cope through other upheavals that have thrown our life off course, and really it boils down to these four things. stop, breathe, observe and connect.


Take a minute to realise that this is a crisis, for everyone. We are all panicking in one way or another. At the moment it doesn't matter what work school have sent home, what is necessary in a crisis is that the unnecessary things in life stop, because that allows us to enlist our coping skills and prevent a crisis from becoming a trauma. Some of you still have to work so can't stop completely, but you can stop requiring yourself to be more than you have to give.
The first thing to let go of is the idea that you need to teach.
Ask your children what would help them cope with time whilst you work; freedom will actually be your saviour. They have an opportunity to spend the whole day in the garden, or building Lego, or painting and drawing so let them. But the first thing to do for all of us is stop, not just physically, but mentally to, stop analysing how you will do this.


artistic activitiesYou can take a breath now you've stopped. Take a deep breath and realise that in 2 weeks most schools would be off for Easter If your child was in private school they'd be getting the whole month off, and now they are in the home they are actually in the most elite of all schools, private schools have longer holidays because they can do it. They can provide an education in less time when there's less pupils and less demands. So you can take the next month and not think about it. School routines and systems don't fit into home life, if you jump from one structured environment to another it is just completely overwhelming. If most schools aren't returning until September then there is 5 months between now and then. You may not realise it yet but eventually you will see that any structured learning from the school can be done in a much quicker time frame. An hour becomes 10 minutes when you can sit by them and they don't have to wait, and now instead of being done at 9am it can be done anytime, holidays, evenings, weekends.
Children are all different and some may love to sit and do a whole load of something in one day, and then have rest of week doing whatever they choose. Others may prefer to have a little most days.
There's no rules anymore so children can do it at the time that suits them best. So you really can, for now, just keep breathing, there is time. Step into your garden, your balcony or lean out your window and breathe in the fresh air, there's still a world out there, there's still love and happiness waiting to be had and opportunity, you just have to stay in the 'here and now' breathing.


Once you're feeling a bit calmer you can then observe, and this is really important. Take time to do this, making it a habit, observing what's around you, what your children are absorbing, what they are practising, how they navigate situations. Go and watch your children play, before long you will notice something you didn't realise your child knew. You will notice them practising skills and developing knowledge without you doing anything, just like when they were toddlers. Go ask your teen if you can sit with them whilst they play online, let them teach you, go play with the Lego or bounce on the trampoline, but mostly practice watching how your child was born to learn. Realise they will learn things they feel are important and they will decide what is important based on the examples around them.
As hard as it is to be socially isolated, this is the time your children will really get to observe too. They will get to observe how to handle a crisis, and what family values are important to you.
They will learn far more right now about love, consideration, patience, the value of freedom, community, friendship, than they ever have in the past. So this is why the priority is not recreating school; in a crisis there is far more value in developing the above than anything that could ever be learned through a worksheet.


Finally; connect. You know your children, and if you felt a bit like you didn't, then if you've spent the time observing you will remember that you do, and you will have seen the wonderful sides of them. So connect. Do the things that makes their heart sing. Start to appreciate and realise just how much joy it brings them when you sit and play their favourite game, when you do races in the garden and act silly, when you do the things they assume you wont want to do. You already know this, I'm not saying anything new, I'm just saying this is more important than ever, this is the only thing that matters right now.
This is the time to build the relationships with your children that may have been interrupted by busy schedules, extra curricula activities, and play-dates with friends. This is the time to heal as a family.
Even if you are working, you inevitably will be together more. this is an awful situation to be in, but many of us have just been given the gift of time. We've also been given a reminder of how fragile we are, how there is no guarantee that tomorrow will come, or if it comes that it will be the same. Itslittle boy a reminder to live in the here and now with your kids. And whilst you are connecting you will be observing still and you will see all the little things in everyday life that sparks learning. Your children are now not cranky at 4pm after school, maybe they will help you in the kitchen. One of the questions I've liked least is how would I prepare my daughter for the adult world? I would feel uncomfortable but say that I don't think about preparing her for an adult world because she's a child living a childhood. But now it can be seen that the fundamental reason for not being caught up in preparing a child for adulthood is that you have no idea what the world will look like in their adulthood. You prepare them for that world by meeting the fundamental basics for developing self belief, confidence, resilience, passion, a loving and giving soul, and these things always come from the home.
What curriculum they learn and how well they achieve within it says nothing about how happy they will be in life, so your children having a 3 month break when the whole of the country is doing the same is not going to impact their future, not in the grand scheme of things. But how your child experiences this time will influence them for life, so give them a memory of the time they didn't go to school but found out all the amazing things about being at home.
And remember, this isn't home education, this is not what my life normally looks like either. Our life is full of other people, music groups and dance classes, its full of days spent outside exploring, museums, galleries, parks and woods. There's normally face to face connection almost everyday, and none of this is happening. We are feeling as isolated and thrown off course as you. But we have the advantage that we've spent much time observing not just our own children but our friends too – and none of us do things the same. We get this unique view of how we can all do things differently and all have children who are learning, engaged, happy, friendly, caring. As years pass we relax into this knowledge, that our children will be OK whatever way we approach this because they are born to learn and absorb. we discover that children learn because its impossible not to. You have to figure out your rhythm, not create a structure. A rhythm for me means including the things that let you breathe a little easier each day, things that allow connection – sharing meals, reading together, watching something.
Rhythm promotes connection, this will ease your days, nobody has the answer of what the best days look like for you, only for themselves, so timetables and other peoples structures will only serve to disconnect you.
The next few months are going to be hard. But we are born to adapt; it takes time but we do adapt, and its much easier if you don't cling to what life was like and try to recreate it in your home. Don't focus on becoming their teacher, you already are, you are already the teacher of everything important they need to know. Stop, breathe and observe, and as you practice that skill you will connect more and see your children are learning everything that is truly important in life.