The end of homeschooling is nigh! Finally, our children are heading back to school meaning less chaos around our home-working situations and a welcome return to our biggest obstacle around homework being our out-dated abilities to understand fractions.
It’s more news we’ve all been waiting for, but after home-schooling (or trying at least) for nearly a year now, we may not be totally enthralled by the idea of having to say goodbye, while the realisation that the uniforms readied for September no longer fit after endless growth spurts and trying to source them (again) while the shops are shut is enough to make us think homeschooling was a doddle.
Back 2 school: pandemic edition
As parents we know, as September rolls around each year our children bring home a couple of new bugs and sniffles along with their newly named stationary and book bags, a fairly standard expectation. But with Coronavirus still lurking we might be feeling particularly anxious about the health of ourselves and our children, and so might the kids.
They’ve also become accustomed to the new ways of learning, finding comfort in their home spaces and having us parents around almost 24/7. And we might (even without realising due to increased volumes of ‘discussing’) be feeling a little lost that they won’t be there to break up the working day, to frantically mime-beckon for yet another snack or even to interrupt the zoom meetings because the internet couldn’t hack everyone using it and they got kicked out the virtual classroom again.
We’ve moaned and groaned to get us through, we might have enjoyed and laughed more as a family, or even just bickered non-stop with affectionate intentions. We might have dreamt about this news, and be happy to hear it but we might also be faced with anxieties and fears around yet more change - and it’s highly likely that our children share these concerns.
So here are some tips in supporting each other, as a family, to get through their return to school and our break for freedom (between the hours of 8.30 am - 3.30 pm).
Listening, validating and NOT having all the answers
Listen to each other’s concerns, worries or perhaps just thoughts around going back to school, whether excited or nervous. Sit down together and take turns to share, or just take some time to ask the children how they are feeling about it. But just listen, don’t rush to offer advice, don’t rush to reassure them (that can happen after), just take in what each other has to say as it will help the family as a whole to feel heard and supported.
Then offer validation, let the kids know their feelings are totally normal, their friends are probably feeling the same and even their teachers might be too. Validating means to acknowledge and accept feelings for what they are, as they are. It’s especially useful for when situations we’re not best pleased by or worried about, cannot be changed or are out of our control, like schools reopening and having to go back. It’s an excellent way to help children build their emotional resilience (as well as us grown-ups).
And acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers to our fears - otherwise, we’d have no fears and we wouldn’t be talking about this at all - it’s perfectly acceptable to not have all the answers or always have the right response, and they don’t need to either, giving a little more resilience to uncertainty.
Focus on the positives and the possible strategies
Now we can take those niggling nerves and woeful worries that are trapping our little ones (and the bigger-little ones) in feeling down about the return to school. Be careful not to turn those negatives into positives - that is not the same as focusing on the positives - instead that encourages us to feel that our more troublesome feelings are bad and we shouldn’t hold them, which is almost impossible sometimes. What we can do is accept that there are some down-sides to going back to school, but think of what we are looking forward to. Reuniting with friends, playground games of tiggy-bob-down, real-life gossiping in the corridor, and being taught in ‘real-life’ by our teachers again, not us pestering parents who aren’t 100% sure whether we even understand what a spilt-digraph is, nevermind them (it’s phonics but that’s all we got).
Think of some ways to help steady the nerves on that first day back or for the school run. This isn’t likely to blow over quickly for them as none of us really know how it’s going to work. Practice some deep breaths to calm down, introduce ‘rewards’ for doing our best; a star chart or favourite meals for dinner, and focus on those things we’re looking forward to. Practising together will help our children feel comfortable doing them on their own throughout the day should the need arise.
Modelling bravery amongst our own hot-mess-express feelings
Kids watch and imitate as part of their learning process, so if they are watching us panicking and verging on meltdown at the thought of them returning to school it is highly likely that they will pick that up and copy these behaviours. Watch the language we use around little ears, and the emotions that show through on our faces - that forced smile ain’t fooling no one.
We know we can’t always be super chilled and see the good in everything, and we don’t need to be nor do we need to hide that from our kids. Model bravery, by talking about those worries or more difficult moments to help our children understand that life can be challenging, and that being brave doesn’t mean no tears and no fears. Being brave is actually about powering through despite those worries, accepting that it might be difficult but feeling empowered to do it anyway. So don’t be feeling like we need to become superheroes overnight to get them back into feeling excited about school, but do try to show our bravery and our mini-me’s will copy.
So come the 8th of March, with these tips in mind we may feel a little less worried and a bit more eager to send the children back, but if it’s still a teary wave goodbye at the gate (from a safe distance), that’s ok and be assured they’ll swan back into the swing of things quicker than we can say “Homeschool’s out for summer!”
Shout out to ALL the kids: They all deserve tonnes of praise, standing ovations and big sloppy squeezes (much to their dismay) to say well done! Even if the behaviour has been challenging, the mood swings have been scary, and the homeschooling experience has been turbulent. They have missed out on so much in this year, from teeny tinies missing first experiences, or middle ones missing educational milestones, and not to mention the bigger ones who’s exam results celebration was via zoom and their journeys through puberty were supported by us old ‘foggies’ nagging about the state of their rooms - don’t even think about the mess - not by moaning to their friends and seeing others experiencing the same daunting changes.
Our children are chuffin’ brilliant!
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