It has been well over a month since lockdown began due to Covid-19. The majority of parents are currently ‘homeschooling’ their children; schools remain closed at the time of writing this, except to children of key workers and those classed as vulnerable. As long-term home educators, some might assume not all that much has really changed for us. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth! Lockdown homeschooling is nothing like real home education for so many reasons…
This is not a normal situation for anyone
The most obvious point is that these are exceptional times for absolutely everyone, regardless of previous circumstances. We are in a state of national, and international, emergency. Drastic action has been taken to save lives and nobody is immune to the impact of this on their lives. So, whilst for some the situation may have brought about greater change, we are all struggling with lockdown in one way or another. For children, and adults, who are sensitive to even subtle shifts in routine, often also needing careful preparation to cope with this, every change feels magnified. It is hard for all of us. Which brings me onto the next point…
Stressed or unhappy people can’t learn
The changes in routine, the worry about the virus, and missing friends and family will naturally lead to some level of stress or unhappiness. As Squiggle quite rightly pointed out during lockdown, how can she be expected to do her education if she is not feeling happy? She is struggling with missing out on the things she enjoys doing, and it is a logical conclusion that children cannot learn if they are not in a good place mentally; our brains will not be able to effectively take in new information when stressed or unwell. I think it is a normal response to an exceptional, and very difficult, situation not to be able to function as normal. Especially for a child with complex SEND, but for anyone. In short, it is ok not to be ok. And focusing on wellbeing comes first.
(Lack of) Freedom is a big thing
Here’s the other thing. One of the many reasons we choose to home educate is the freedom it provides. Squiggle is used to being able to go out whenever she feels up for it, and has alot of choice on where to go. Even for a child who needs to rest often and go at a slow pace, one whom staying home at least some days each week is often necessary anyway, that requirement to stay home is a huge deal. Home educators typically spend alot of time attending groups, meeting up with friends, going on trips, and generally exploring the world. Certainly, at the very least, varied opportunities outside of the home are available for individual families to decide what works for them. It is therefore a stark contrast to the current situation.
Home Education is not ‘school at home’
Home educators do not typically try to replicate school at home. Some do, if that works for them, but many don’t. This is also why most prefer the term ‘home educating’ rather than ‘homeschooling’ too. And generally, many are very flexible with their approach to home education; they adapt and adjust as needed, providing a highly personalised education that is well tailored to the needs of the individual child and family. This is certainly true for us. Lockdown makes this much harder to do however, because options are, of course, far more limited. In short, individualised learning is still taking place, but not in exactly the same way it usually would.
A message for non home educating families
Parents who have found themselves unexpectedly educating their children during lockdown, who usually go to school, whether mainstream or sen school, are often being expected to try to follow schedules and work set by school – by teachers who are under immense stress too. This is alot of pressure on everyone! This is not the same as usual homeschooling at all. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t attempt to do too much, or anything if health (mental or physical) prevents it. And please know, this is not what normal home education looks like.
Final word to all
Whilst education is compulsory, these are not ordinary times. Everyone is just doing their best in an extremely challenging situation, and it is ok if your (or your child’s) best happens to be very little right now. Or if education doesn’t look how you might expect it to. It is ok if you, and/ or your children, are struggling and unable to function as normal. These are not normal times. And even as normality resumes, it will take some time to recover from all this too. That’s ok. Take your time. Wellbeing comes before education. It has to; learning cannot take place the other way around anyway.
As always, it is ok not to be ok.
*This is a collaborative post