Hack turns teacher to explore home school hell vs the power of positive parenting

Home school hell

Playing a board game can be educational can't it? - Credit: Caroline Thain

“You know I love you and it’s not you, it’s me, right?” That’s how I started my ‘can’t cope’ email to the kids’ headteacher this morning. It might have been the third espresso by half eight.

If covering news as a journalist isn’t busy enough in a global pandemic, I have these four humans who depend on me for life.

And if preserving their lives while cases of humans who have caught this deadly virus passed the 3m mark isn’t tricky enough, we are surviving increasing demands of home educating.

I am usually working, undertaking chores and juggling any remaining marbles right about now. Suddenly I am a teacher, cleaner, pet owner, cook, homeowner, car owner and someone who used to write professionally for a living but who has used the word owner four times in one sentence - because pandemic.

Unlike the last lockdown, which was almost relaxing and exciting - not least because we experienced extremely sexy fitness instructor Joe Wicks, baked bread, watched Netflix and were merry - this time it’s more serious.

After almost a year of this, I want to run away. I want to run away from news, which doesn’t work as a journalist. I want to run away from home, which doesn’t work in a lockdown. I want to run away from my children but apparently you can’t as a mother.

I’ve got smug dinner lady friends who ‘don’t know how I do it, working at home alone with four’. They’re doing two hours a day at school, giving them a free pass to stick their kids in that wonderful institution I used to take for granted.

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How I moaned at constant email bombardment. Now I would feel like I was going to a star-studded celebrity bash, if I could don make up, sit in a dusty hall with 200 parents and watch children singing ‘One More Step Along the World I Go’.

I might join in. I might take gin and tonic. I might wear sequins. I might even enjoy it. I can’t be certain because my frazzled mummy brain is less recognisable with every failed glitched Teams meeting, but I think I may relish sports day.

If my crush on Joe Wicks continues, I might be fit enough to get myself a pair of those pretty organic yoga leggings. I can’t guarantee my appreciation of him extends to exercise. It’s more of an aesthetic watching it under my duvet thing. Have to find joy where y’can.

I want to get involved with the virtual bring your pets to assembly but can’t help imagining it as a traumatic live hamster-mauling by the cat, sparking psychological problems for those exposed to such video nasties. The ones the council sends regular warnings about in safeguarding online emails I never have time to read.

You become a parent and your life stops. Things you can predict – nappies, tantrums and schooling are all-encompassing but not unexpected. But who the merry heck could have anticipated we would be told by the Prime Minister to stay in our houses, we can be arrested for going for a walk or being masked in public would be a social necessity let alone the norm?

One of my friends sent me a photo of his balloon modelling efforts the other day. He decided the best way to prepare his six- and 12-year-olds for a future of uncertain career chances, global economic downturn and potentially more freak deadly diseases was to teach them to turn balloons into monkeys in trees. I love that. And in these crazy times, why not?

I’m a rubbish teacher. My kids learn stuff I’m clueless about. The technology is killing me. I love them too much to correct them. If I ask my four-year-old to count to 20, he says “one, two, three, four, five, seven, 19, 20!” My slightly broken 41-year-old heart is too aware how little it matters. I love him more for getting it ‘wrong’.

I told my nine-year-old to “Just wing it then” because I can’t stress myself. Between wiping my toddler’s bottom and sending him back to his iPod, my daughter informed me she’s “got PE soon and it’s a Joe Wicks workout and if PE’s not optional at school, it shouldn’t be optional at home”.

She’s one of those studious learners who is annoyingly keener than her rebellious mum. Hats off to you, if you’re parenting one of those with the knowledge of someone whose IT skillset is limited to stalking exes on Facebook.

Home school beckons...

Of course they look like angels now... Wait until home school starts! - Credit: Caroline Thain

Shrinking under live lessons I’m supposed to teach and remember the sign ins for while stopping toddler chatter distracting the others, interviewing actual adults for my work, I wish I was anywhere else.

I am scared to take a coffee for a walk, in case I get fined £200 by an overzealous copper accusing me of a picnic. That old crime. As I write, I’ve received 273 email alerts, typing to a soundtrack of my six-year-old obsessively Teams calling his classmates. So pro’ly won’t be long before the police turn up for harassment.

If the best I can do is stay alive and keep my children alive that will be good enough. Because like all parents in this pandemic, my best is all I have. Balloon modelling, caffeine and online connecting it is until Covid does one.