If I was to be graded on my homeschooling efforts it would be an ‘F’

Parents were left with an impossible ask yet I can’t help but feel I’ve let my kids down

What will school look like for the children of the coronavirus era? Photograph: iStock

What will school look like for the children of the coronavirus era? Photograph: iStock

 

I’ve lived by the school calendar since 2005 when my first child started. January to December stopped meaning anything to me and I became a September to June kind of gal – with July and August being the months to rest, recharge and brace myself for the next school year.

By resting, obviously, I mean running around like a lunatic, picking up stationery that would require full replacing anyway within two weeks of the new school year, schoolbooks that I’d leave to cover until the night before, and various bits of uniform that had either been lost, outgrown or were now embarrassingly threadbare.

And here we are coming to the end of yet another school year. It’s a time I normally look forward to, with the finish line in sight and two glorious, comparatively stress-free months stretching ahead. No school runs, no activity runs, no matches, no school lunches, no homework. Our time is our own for nine marvellous weeks with the potential to do as we please with the long leisurely evenings of summer – and it generally feels great.

Except this year it doesn’t feel so great. Instead of the sense of achievement I normally feel at the end of the school year , I have a sense of frustration and worry at all that has not. If my children’s schools were to award me a grade based on my homeschooling efforts, an F would be a certainty – if not an NG, considering how little of their work I had time to photograph and upload to the many different accounts.

Bothered

The teens finished school almost a month ago. No sense of relief followed. With the closing of the schools one has missed a significant portion of a year that should have been about settling in, making friends and adjusting to life in secondary school. Another has missed the Junior Cert. Like my sons, I’m only bothered by one of these things.

For the college student, the promise of the new and exciting stage was cut short. She’s old enough to understand, but it doesn’t stop me lamenting the exciting and formative experiences she’s missing out on.

Montessori has also finished for the youngest . He didn’t get to say goodbye to his friends and he didn’t get to spend important weeks preparing with his teachers for the transition and huge milestone that hopefully awaits him in September – starting big school.

Failings

In one week’s time the primary school year will finish too and I’m worried about my failings. Across my children’s schools, remote learning has mostly involved work being sent for completion and comment via apps. In the younger children’s cases this has meant a dependency on Mum to download, print, explain, supervise, support and upload. A job in itself some might say, if Mum didn’t already have a job which also required attention. I’m upset about how much they’ve missed out on as I failed to manage an impossible ask.

The logical side of my brain reminds me that the task in hand was never achievable, but the mothering side worries that I’ve let them down.

There is trepidation about September. The certainty that normally exists is gone.

What will it mean for my curly haired dude, due to take those first steps on the formal education ladder?

What will it mean for my transition-year student, with many of the typical experiences no longer an option?

What will it mean for my other children, who have had a vastly inadequate level of homeschooling over the last few months?

And what will school look like for the children of the coronavirus era?

Two months of summer stretch ahead, this time without the novelty of leaving school behind. The appeal of leaving homeschooling behind, however, is just as attractive, even if it’s not guilt free. It will be a different summer this year, with many of the tools and trips no longer available.

The back-to-school shop will still happen, though the queuing involved makes the prospect even less enticing than usual.

But they hold a very different appeal this year. Coinciding with the end of the school year, is the beginning of phase three, which will finally allow my children to see their grandparents and cousins after months of being apart.

All that is certain in these uncertain times is that I’ll never take things for granted again – and that I won’t find two-month-old, unemptied, school lunchboxes and beakers in their bags come September.

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