Like a lot of dads, sometimes I find myself wondering how we'd cope as a family in an end-of-the-world scenario. Often such day dreams include lots of explosions and Michael Bay-esk slow motion action. Who would have thought it would involve such crass day to day nonsense from everyday life, like changing nappies and watching reruns of X-Men cartoons from the 90's. (I bet Disney Plus is raking it in at this point).
The truth is being a parent right now is an unprecedented task. The last time we as a nation had kids at home all day was before school became a compulsory inconvenience for children, before they would later grow up to wish it hadn't ended, in the prime of the Victorian era. Parents weren't expected to cope with what we do now. There was no home schooling ethos that would try to replicate the pains of education in a school. No routine required reading and activities emailed to you to prove that you're doing a decent job replacing your child's school teacher.
No, you were lucky if you had a stick and an iron hoop to pass the time by!
These days it's all about routines, organisation, using technology to get the most advantage for your kids in the race against other parents who might train their children to be better! What they might be better at is unclear though, as there is apparently no shared objective to aim towards because it turns out that giving everyone two days notice that all schools need to close is more than a bit short of helpful in preparing education at home on a national level...
I have to admit that although it's only been three weeks - I'm sick of it. Not of people trying to help their kids, believe me as a teacher I hope that more parents appreciate the immensity of the task we have to do when things go back to normal. What I'm sick of is the unending need to show off to the world what amazing work you've improvised to turn your dining room table into a solar system come fruit based breakfast.
Why, you might ask, would such noble efforts push me to the point of banging my head against a wall? Well there seems to be a few areas that people seem to forget when it comes to planning education, one of which is how do you apply it to a child with SEND?
I'll tell you how, for most people, you don't.
Right now there are thousands of kids stuck at home, shielding because the NHS has told them to. They can't go out for anything, and the single biggest lifeline their parents had is completely inaccessible- school. For kids of cognitive and neuro-typical ability, education right now boils down to a few worksheets, a bit of reading and the daily perils of a Joe Wicks Vlog to show them how unfit they are. You imagine trying to cope with a child that can't walk right now, or speak without aid. You imagine that knowing your child's school timetable involves something called 'rebound therapy'. You know what that is? It's a hour in a room with cushioned walls and trampolines... How am I supposed to recreate that? Obviously I haven't, but needless to say, you can image the current state of my sofa right now as Sam has attempted to do the job himself!
I'm lucky, I must stress. There's a park near us that we can walk round as part of our collective 'daily exercise'. There are some kids with SEND that have swimming pool based hydro-therapy on their normal school timetables - imagine the state of those kids bathrooms!
Why am I ranting about any of this? Well, the hardest thing I've noticed about seeing wonderful people try their damned hardest to keep their child's education on track, as someone who has trained in teaching, is that I know too well that no matter how hard you try it isn't going to be good enough. Think about it, you might have a few worksheets, or if your lucky maybe access to some lessons through Google Classroom, if you and your school could afford it. However, even doing that just isn't giving kids the experience they need. In a classroom they interact with one another, some ask questions that others wouldn't think of. Others finish work quicker than some, and in an organised environment, they learn more by helping their classmates out. Have you ever heard a child say they got to be a 'teacher's helper', or 'superstar' or something similar. That's part of a learning process that kids need in their day to day lives. There are tonnes of other so called 'soft skills' that people don't even think about that school life offers kids. Conversation- real face to face conversation in real time with no video lag.
There are so many, I could go on forever. The point is, you may feel the urge right now to prove, more than ever, that you are a good parent. I know from experience the endless fear you feel that you aren't doing a good enough job, especially when you have children with SEND. No matter how hard you try, there is always this feeling at the back of your mind that their struggles in life are your fault. So you compensate by constantly trying your hardest to help them to succeed in any way, shape or form. All it adds up to though is an even bigger feeling of failure. So stop. "In the name of"- no - sorry, sorry. Not that.
What I mean is stop putting pressure on yourself to replace an educational system that has taken centuries to develop and maintain. You're not going to do it on your own, and you should not be expected to. By all means, celebrate your successes but remember - you can only do so much, so don't panic about your parent friends' posts about how many hours their kids spent on BBC Bitesize. 9 out of 10 on a quiz topic you spent 5 minutes reading about prior to is not all it's cracked up to be.
In the Mean time: Stay Home; Stay safe.