Life

Leona O'Neill: Just hold on, homeschoolers – the end is almost in sight

Homeschooling has been tough on parents, especially those who also have to work from home during lockdown. However, it's nearly safe to get back to normality, writes Leona, all you have to do is keep your head up and keep going for a few more weeks

It's been tough for parents to juggle working from home and homeschooling

I'LL not lie, when the news came through on the jungle drums last week that schools were to remain closed until April and that homeschooling was going to be my reality for another few weeks, my soul left my body for a short time.

For a few moments, my life over the last few months flashed in front of my eyes – me trying to wake exhausted children for online morning registration, trying to make sure they were doing their online classes, helping them with totally bewildering maths work, dealing with tech issues, worrying about their lack of social interaction and their mental health, trying to keep them motivated, all while trying to work myself.

After I finished expertly recreating Charlton Heston's reaction in Planet of The Apes when he discovers the Earth that he once knew is the same monkey-infested place he's now stranded in – "Nooo! You maniacs! Damn you! Damn you all to Hell!", etc – I realised that the guys making the decisions are being led by science. And, despite the fact that this is terribly wearing, at times soul destroying and very difficult, I am happy to carry on homeschooling until it is safe for my kids to return to school.

But let's not pretend any of this is easy. We have another few weeks of this ahead of us, so it's heads down and get through it. If you're not a teacher by trade, cut yourself a break. You are doing the very best you can. Set yourself some realistic goals. Trying to navigate the entire curriculum is going to make you and your child anxious.

It's also extremely difficult if you have to work from home as well as homeschooling. Kids will be walking into the room, asking questions when you're on a Zoom call. I have a big "I'm busy right now" sign on my office door when I'm teaching online. Not ideal, but neither is any part of this. Boundaries are good when you have to work yourself.

The first lockdown was terrible. Schools hadn't yet fully embraced the online learning side of things and were feeling their way through the darkness in the same way as everyone else was. Back then, there was much filling in of worksheets and very few online classes.

But things are different this time around. Teachers are super organised, really making online learning work, motivating, engaging and enjoyable to be a part of. Days are structured to mirror the school day and children respond so much better to that.

Some days are better than others, but we'll get through. Try to have a structure, a morning routine. Do the things that work. Get out of pyjamas, get breakfast, have a nice area set aside to do your work so that they can associate this work space with classwork, take breaks that mirror the school day so as to reinforce the importance and value of learning time. Close the books at home time.

Whatever you do, homeschoolers, keep going. There will be days when everyone is frustrated and things won't go well. There will be days when the kids will be exhausted and nothing will sink in. There will be days when you – in your role of principal, teacher, canteen server, counsellor, arts advisor, PE instructor, referee etc – will be exhausted and you'll want to throw in the towel.

But there are just a few weeks of this madness left, hopefully. And some day this year, this nightmarish homeschooling year of lockdowns and misery and sickness will be a distant memory. Hold tight, homeschoolers, we're on the final stretch now. The finish line is in sight.

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