by Eleanor Haworth
Director of Service Delivery

Like so many others, I am working from home in my full-time job, with my other half who also works full time and our two daughters, 9 and 12. They are off school and we are attempting to continue some learning and education. Like everyone else, three divided by two doesn’t go. 

We have gone for the more organic approach to home learning. Our instincts as a family were not to have a rigid timetable as it would not suit the personality types of our children and would not fit with the amount of attention we could spare from work. 

Equally, we could not abandon the education activities entirely because we did need to keep the girls engaged, stimulated and occupied. This was for their benefit and for the benefit of us adults too. 

My project management background has led to us doing a morning standing huddle, with a mirror and some coloured post it notes where we agree some activities for everyone. My other half has even set up an online booking system for access to the home office. Although, let’s be clear, he has not explained to me how I can book myself into the office. An interesting oversight. 

I am a creative and accepting teacher and educator. But do any of our activities count as learning? Friday afternoon, have a bath – that’s PSHE right, isn’t it??? If it isn’t on the national curriculum that’s only because the national curriculum isn’t as holistic as I am. 

The monkey bars. I have never, in my recollection, been able to monkey bar and to date, neither have the children. We are scared to let Daddy on the monkey bars. Our older daughter can now do four rungs of the monkey bars. I count this as learning and progress, and I am very much hoping that you all agree. 

Older daughter is clearly aiming for enormous home-schooling success. She has added hula hooping to her repertoire of skills. She can now keep the hula hoop going for several seconds and is working on letting in slow down, fall down her hips and then rise again with extra energy to her waist. A noble attainment. She has some stretch goals in mind and is hoping to achieve walking whilst hula hooping. And this is where I am not a good home educator, I think that’s a step too far and she should be pleased with what she has already achieved. So, I clearly need to go back to those Every Child Matters outcomes and have more ambition for the children. 

Our 9-year-old daughter has made a light box. This is a small electronic art project (video below) which she genuinely completed without any adult supervision. Who knew that this would capture her imagination? Certainly, I did not do anything similar when I was in year 4. What a sense of achievement from building a working thing all by yourself. I hope she feels pride.  

Interestingly, the whole device has a tendency to fall over as it is front-heavy. So, she deployed some good life hacking skills and props it up with two tins of tinned mushrooms. This does show ingenuity and links to an honourable engineering history of putting heavy stuff in the way to stop things falling over. But to me, what this really reveals is that you can only see the front, and nobody ever gets to see the tins of mushrooms holding us all up. That’s not what anyone posts on Instagram or Facebook. I think there is a lesson for us all in that. 

So, I count all of these things as learning, they are all going on my report card. I would submit them all to Ofsted for the imaginary audit to prove that the welfare and education of the children has continued under my regime. However, I sit here with a wraith of other mothers-better hanging over me and I wonder how many of us carry around these imaginary mothers and fathers. 

My mother wasn’t Mary Poppins and she wasn’t practically perfect in every way. She would have been doing a far better job than me if this lockdown had happened when we were small children. She would have given us daily Spelling Punctuation and Grammar Lessons, she would have led us in formal dictation, times tables would have been learnt and there would have been so much baking. She would have hand made worksheets for us to complete and the whole while the house would have been very clean. She would have joined us for Joe Wicks in her lycra leotard that in the 80s she used to do the Green Goddess work outs. Raspberries would have been grown in the garden and potatoes would have been dug and eaten. I don’t even know what time of year one digs a potato, but I remember her doing it. 

So, what should I be doing? Should I be celebrating my own situation or regretting how much better my mother would be doing? Should I feel proud of achieving the balance between work and family or should I be wishing that I could dedicate myself more wholeheartedly to the children? Who sets the standards and what are they based on? I don’t have the answers for myself and my family, let alone all the other parents out there with their own infinitely varied ways of coping with this strange new world. I am not pretending that I have this all sussed out. If anything, I am just choosing to be pleased that there are no auditors, that I can blame the pandemic for all of this and I remain certain that my mother would be doing this so much better, but she is in lockdown and is unlikely to read this blog.