Homeschooling returns: ‘Children are more relaxed...they’ve been here before’

Everybody was caught unawares in the spring, but families are now better prepared

 Ryan and  Shane Kenny  with their mother, Claire,  and sister Karina during some homeschooling in Kilcock, Co Kildare. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Ryan and Shane Kenny with their mother, Claire, and sister Karina during some homeschooling in Kilcock, Co Kildare. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Once more unto the breach. Parents and their children returned to the kitchen tables and tablets for another round of homeschooling on Monday.

Hopes that lockdown three would be more like the second, when schools remained open, than the first, when they closed for months, were dashed last week when the return of classes after the Christmas holidays became an inevitable casualty of the unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases.

Before the pandemic there was no template for homeschooling, but having gotten through months of it last year, Claire Kenny says she, her husband Stephen and their boys, Ryan (9) and Shane (7), are better prepared this time.

“The children were more relaxed about it because they have been here before,” Ms Kenny said of the boys, who attend Scoil Uí Riada Gaelscoil in Kilcock, Co Meath.

“The schools are better prepared and the teachers are more engaged, that’s just based on the information that came through at the end of last week.

“The last time I just felt from talking to people in different parts of the country and in the different schools in our town, there was a huge difference between how schools managed things.”

The early part of the day was spent watching múinteoirs Clíona, Ray and Don on RTÉ’s Home School Hub, followed by lessons on the ClassDojo app.

“The lessons we learned from the last time is that if you run into difficulty, take a break for a half-an-hour or an hour,” Ms Kenny said.

“I’m a stay-at-home mother. I’m lucky in that I am not working from home. So I have the little bit of time to give to them.”

It was fortunate, she said, the children were at an age where they “love school” and were “interested in doing the work”.

“They enjoy it, but I can’t say they bounce out of bed excited, but when they get into it, they do enjoy it. It is so different from when we went to school.”

More realistic

Eva McDonnell, a HR consultant, and her husband Barry Dignam, who works in telecoms, are both working from home and trying to help homeschool Sophia (9) and Elise (5), who attend St Raphaela’s School in Stillorgan, Dublin.

“We are both a bit more realistic in our expectations this time around,” she said. “We have devised a plan whereby, if my eldest helps my youngest daughter with her work, that is a bit of an achievement. It’s been a win-win for both of them.”

Stay-at-home father Marcus Quinlan said he “hadn’t a clue” what was going on during the first lockdown. His children, Jasper (8) and Anika (5), go to Gaelscoil De hÍde in Oranmore, Co Galway. His wife works full-time in HR.

Mr Quinlan said his children’s reading was “all over the place” after the last lockdown, but they managed to catch up.

“With this lockdown, I decided to do a little bit every day. The school is a little bit more au fait with what is happening. Last Friday we picked up all their schoolbooks,” he said.

“My approach to schooling is not to beat ourselves up...If you had a kid doing the Leaving Certificate, you would be under pressure, but schools are learning through play now rather than through regurgitation.”