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We Are Not Home-Schooling

I did not anticipate the first blog I put up after having Ray-Ray would have a headline like this. Shows how much the landscape has changed in a short space of time…..and how busy life with three is! I do have his birth story drafted but that will be for another time. Presently we are in week three of a complete national lockdown. Schools and businesses are shut with only essential services operating in response to the global pandemic of COVID-19. After watching this virus take hold of many countries around the world our Prime Minister made the tough decision to implement this lockdown on Monday the 23rd of April leaving 48 hours preparation. Like so many others we found our lives suddenly turned upside down. In the unbelievable position of working from home with three children aged 7,5 and 5 months of age. I had previously been working from home all through the newborn days with Ray-Ray. I thought this was to be my biggest challenge this year - holding on to my work during the intensive sleep deprived days adjusting to being a mum of three with a baby who had reflux and did not nap well in the day…. turns out this was the dress rehearsal for what was to come. My business, classified as essential, was able to continue. Many of our services were already virtual or could easily transition to fully virtual options. The move to do all the shipping myself from home while Ray-Ray was a newborn enabled the continuation of shipping for my books and products, providing vital support to take the load off a strained public health system. Can I also just say here how grateful I am to have been in such a position. Like many others, my husband’s business was severely impacted, being very front facing with clients. This meant that almost overnight my work become the sole source of income for our tribe of five. While his business took a drastic turn, we were both still working as he needed to set things up for when the lockdown lifted. We had to quickly implement some strategies for just how to manage all of this with the high needs of three small children. Given the set of circumstance we personally faced, we made the decision very early on that we were not going to be home-schooling the older boys even if the lockdown was to go on for 6 months or a year. I did not know the school holidays had been pushed forward and was wondering why distance learning was being rolled out this week. This is how little it was on my radar. I firmly believe the research and science that conditions of high stress, anxiety and uncertainty are not conducive to learning. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs model (1943), depicts this very well. To even entertain the idea that we could replicate school learning while working at home with three children was simply too much. Sahan, in particular, was the most affected. He had experienced some huge life changes in a very short space of time. Having a little brother arrive, ending daycare, going through the first month of school and suddenly it was taken off him. The last week before the lockdown he was also sent home twice for having a runny nose. All this compounded for him at the very primitive stages of early school learning. His emotional needs were far more a priority. I have not dwelled on this decision and nor will second guess it. This may seem surprising considering I have in fact done a PhD. I think owning a business has helped a lot to ease any possible guilt as I know that there are some vital life skills that simply cannot be taught in a classroom. So rather than viewing their learning as having stopped, I have seen it that their style of learning, and what they are learning has simply changed. In our situation with three children and two adults, it means that we almost never work without a child with us. They have been watching us work the entire time. From events run virtually in the kitchen, to being on camera with me for lockdown recipes (their choice for the record) to doing postage. As I have worked through after the birth of all three children, none of this seemed out of the ordinary either or unusual. Just what needs to be done when things change. Something we did set up quickly and has proved invaluable was a creative zone. I already had transformed our upstairs landing into an open plan office for when I had all three after school. We had an odd space where my desk used to be for a creative area for the boys but I had not got around to organising it properly. The lockdown was an opportune time to do this. In here we have paints, puzzles, a drawing table and boxes from old packing. It is left set up, not super tidy, just as a creative zone should be. It means the boys can come and go and sit there while I do some work at my desk. It is not perfect; I do get interrupted 500 times and they often hear “I just need to do…..xyz”, but it does mean I can keep doing tasks that tick things over. It also makes an easy transition to stop and join them for pockets of quality time. What has opened up from this is learning but in an organic way, writing, counting, often with Ray-Ray right there or them naturally involving him as brothers do. For me this is far more important than any set activity I would be stressed and distracted about trying to teach them. One of the other strategies we implemented was a clear routine for the day. The day the lockdown was announced we dragged a big white board into the kitchen and mapped out a clear plan. We did everything from business tasks to when each of us was working, a daily routine, activities we could do with the boys (helped to stop the ‘we have nothing to do”), food shopping lists, what was for each meal and the timing. We also gave the boys a couple of jobs to do in the morning and evening. Simple things like feeding the dog and unloading the dishwasher. This might seem a bit over-the-top for some, but it worked for us and for the boys, giving a sense of control and certainty in a situation with a lot of uncertainty. I feel one of the elephants in the room is screen time. I personally have huge reservations that a significant part of the distance learning is electronic. I know this might seem contradictory as my business is able to function because of virtual options, but that is quite different to the learning that occurs in young minds. We know there are vast differences between handwriting and typing for example. Our boys have used screen time more than usual. Being more ‘free-range’ children, we actually cannot keep them in front of a screen for a long period of time wither we want to or not so it has not been too much of a challenge for us. They have been allowed television after breakfast, when the baby goes down and also after lunch for the same reason, to give my husband and I an hour (sometimes just half an hour) to work ‘without kids’. I have simply shared with you what has worked for our family unit and the decision we made around homeschooling our older boys. I have seen a lot of differing views about this online. I want to impress on you to do what works for your family. There is no blue print for how to get through a national lockdown. We have never experienced it. There is no ‘right way’ forward when lives get changed drastically. For some of you doing some set, school activities may in fact give you a sense of control. So do it. Maybe some of you have a child who was due to start school and is feeling a bit lost because they cannot. Some of you will be in a position like me, already stretched trying to work from home and feeling guilty because it is simply too hard and too exhausting. All is ok. You do you. Yesterday, what Level 3 looks like was announced but we are still not sure what will be rolled out. Life has changed regardless. I hope some of the things I have shared in here might help in a small way. As someone who has been through a lot of challenging times, and has still found this time pretty hard, I give my upmost love for those who are really struggling right now. I know it won’t seem like it but there is a higher reason for your struggles. It is preparing you for something else. Lean into it as much as you can and lean into people who have your back. Be protective of your space, which includes your mental space and feel free to drop me a message either here or on social media. Yes I am busy, but never too busy to care about what is going on for you and your family right now because after all that is the most important part. x Dr Julie Bhosale P.S These three resources of mine have been used daily in our home to help with the ongoing food management. I have discovered that the recipes in these two cook books (available as ebooks for just $14.99 or part of my ebook bundle) have been easy to adapt when ingredients are hard to find. Magnetic meal planners available here too.

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