Homeschooling in Canada: ‘There was a complaint on the first day that the teacher was hungover’

Dubliner Fiona O’Brien is a stand-up comedian in Toronto, now homeschooling three children

Fiona O’Brien’s 11 year-old son loves home schooling in Toronto, Canada

Fiona O’Brien’s 11 year-old son loves home schooling in Toronto, Canada

 

Fiona O’Brien, originally from Sutton, Co Dublin, lives in Toronto in Canada where she is a stand-up comedian. Home schooling her three children has wiped the smile off her face

Each day at 11am in Canada, Justin Trudeau descends the steps of Rideau Cottage, his residence in Ottawa, to address the nation. It is the highlight of my locked-down day. His salt and pepper beard is looking a little scruffier, his hair is getting longer and has begun to cascade into his dark smouldering eyes. He gently runs his fingers through his hair, as if in slow motion. While looking straight into the camera, he explains in English and then in French (I can’t cope) the next steps the Canadian government are taking to help all those affected by Coronavirus.

Fiona O’Brien’s 11 year-old son does PE with Joe on YouTube
Fiona O’Brien’s 11 year-old son does PE with Joe on YouTube

JT, as I like to call him now, has declared his support to all those in need. The government will provide support to the frontline workers and all those who have lost income as we all stay at home to protect each other. Only time will tell. I want to believe him.

Lockdown officially started here on March 15th. We do not have the five kilometres boundary you have in Ireland and people over 70 were not told to cocoon. Other than that, the same rules are being applied in Canada as in Ireland.

Of course there is lots and lots and lots of screen time

The schools are shut indefinitely here. I have three children ages 15, 12 and 11 (I know, bad planning). The kitchen table has now been transformed into a makeshift school. On the first day of “school” I make the kids, minus the teen who won’t buy into me being her teacher, stand in the kitchen and sing “Oh Canada” the National Anthem. This is how they normally start every day at school. To my surprise, they actually do it and they can’t believe I don’t know the words.

Then we all log on to see what assignments the teachers have sent. We try to do about two to three hours of school each day. Some days are more successful than others and adding fractions nearly brought me to tears last week.

Parents: Share your experiences of homeschooling during Covid-19

There was a complaint from a student on the first day that the teacher was hungover. I was. I am coping any way I can, and a glass or two of wine at night is my poison.

We play board games most evenings, my advice to any parent is to avoid Monopoly. The banker in my house got very upset one day and threw the money everywhere. Of course there is lots and lots and lots of screen time. We try and get a daily walk in and a few times we have done `PE with Joe’ on YouTube.

I try to limit my trips to the supermarket. I take my disinfected shopping bags and my latex gloves and hand sanitiser and head to the store every four to five days. There is usually a small line-up outside the shop and everyone is 6ft apart. Eventually we all get in and there are plenty of toilet rolls Despite the rumours doing the rounds that they were scarce, thankfully the shelves have been restocked and there is no need for panic.

My neighbour is a conspiracy theorist and has been preparing for this lockdown since November. Each time I come back from the shop, he stands on his porch and tells me that I should leave all the shopping in my basement for three days until the germs die. I smile and nod at him knowing that on the other side of my front door are three kids who are ready to attack this shopping like ravenous wolves attacking a lamb.

As for my job, all comedy gigs are cancelled or postponed to later in the year, which gives me another few months on Weight Watchers to get ready for my first TV recording with CBC, the Canadian Broadcast Network. Thanks be to Jaysus I have been doing some online comedy shows, which were strange, but fun. I miss the interaction with the live audience.

I contact my Mam in Ireland each day by Skype to chat with the top of her head.

I have Zoom meetings with friends and it’s lovely to have the chats and laughs that relieve some of the tension we are all feeling.

I contact my Mam in Ireland each day by Skype to chat with the top of her head. Each day she tells me she has no news, gives me the figures for reported Covid-19 cases in Ireland and then tells me what she had for dinner. She has been enjoying the weather in the back garden and got sunburnt from falling asleep while reading a romance novel. When she tells me she is fed up and bored I suggest that she polishes the silver in the living room She suggests that I feck off and let her cocoon how she wants to. She is right. There is no right or wrong way to do this, let’s just get through it.

She ends every call with “I’ll let you go now” as if she is doing me a favour. I laugh and then I have to hang up first because she doesn’t know how to end the call. I miss her and wish I could hug her. I feel very fortunate that we can stay in touch through technology and I am grateful that so far my family are safe.

If you would like to share your experience of how Covid-19 is affecting you there, email Irish Times Abroad at abroad@irishtimes.com

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