Surviving Home-Schooling (Just Barely)

Home-schooling got the better of me within hours, and here's the uncensored and raw recount of my dismal attempt at playing teacher to prove it.

In my mind it looked a lot different.

It looked like the sun coming up on a few hours of paid work already under my belt, a cheery breakfast with my boys, followed by a walk in the sun and a morning of stimulated learning. In my dreams I taught them things they didn’t know, they marvelled at my magnificent mind, and we laughed as we learnt together. We ate lunch when my well-planned routine said we should, and then my well-behaved boys played quietly (clearly this scenario existed solely in the confines of my wishful mind, perhaps with a backing track of the Beach Boys) whilst I finished the day off with an afternoon of paid work. 

Struggles of home-schooling

 In my mind I nailed home-schooling.

In reality - as is often the case for many of us mums - the situation harboured many more shades of faded grey with hues of frustration, raised voices and noise. So much noise. 

It now baffles me how in my mind the mix of ‘home-schooling’ and ‘working from home’ could have ever been a quiet affair? After over a decade of motherhood you’d think I’d have realised a peaceful day of home-schooling my children was a stretch.

I’d love to say that the threads of my home-schooling routine unravelled a week into the term, but in reality they spun undone within mere hours. To be honest, I think the stitching may have begun to fray even days before that, around the time the school itinerary was emailed through. I’d glanced at what I believed to be week one’s schedule of learning, only to realise it was just the first day’s lesson plan! The rise that this realisation caused to my stress levels seemed to be inversely proportional to the level of my fridge’s wine contents (if nothing else, I had my head around the teacher’s suggestion of incorporating maths lessons into everyday scenarios).

Home schooling struggles

Photo: How home-schooling looked for about 5 minutes.

I told myself - perhaps whilst under the influence of aforementioned wine - that I would be gentle on myself, and allow a little teething time to adjust to these new expectations. I needn’t have bothered though, as four hours into day one I was in tears.

The day had actually started well. I’d woken at 5:30am, given myself a congratulatory pat on the back for keeping to the routine, and settled into my work station with hot coffee in hand. I pumped out two hours of work and once again told myself I was nailing this home-schooling gig (despite having not yet embarked on one single element of teaching). Fast forward a few hours and it was a shamble of online resources I couldn’t find, additional extra-curricular units I wasn’t aware of, and a constant barrage of questions that were initially answered with patience before frustration stepped out of the wings and took centre stage. 

Tears flowed, voices were raised, and unfinished worksheets were eventually hidden out of sight. Nightfall snuck in, apple muffins and double cream were devoured, and suddenly all seemed a little less gloomy. I was able to see past the things that hadn’t been learnt to the one very important lesson that had - I needed to lower my expectations and fast!

I needed to redirect my fiery ‘get shit done’ disposition to a bare bones approach instead. I needed to heed the advice of a dear teacher friend (who I’d brushed off only days earlier when I’d thought myself to be some kind of home-schooling genius): “If your kids are safe, fed, and you manage to read a book or two every couple of days, all will be fine”.

Necklaces for mums and babies

Which brings me to now, to the morning of day two. My son has just woken with a whine and a niggle in his voice, as the first words to escape his mouth are “Can I watch YouTube?”. Disappointed with my uncooperative answer he has sunk into his all too familiar dialogue of “But I’m bored mum, there’s nothing to do”. 

I take a breath, leave the unfinished worksheets hidden safely out of sight, and pick up a book. His unimpressed face scowls up at me and I sigh, as I once again prepare to navigate these choppy waters whilst my uncooperative children noisily swim circles around me.

And I wonder: Is there enough wine in my fridge to balance out this equation? I guess time will tell.

What has been your biggest struggle with home-schooling?

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