Our worlds changed overnight! Okay, we were given a few days notice when we were told that we were heading for a lockdown. Now we’re about to send the children back to school, or not, and it all feels a little scary and surreal.
Backtrack: When The World Stopped
Set the scene: March 2020. Suddenly the world had to operate differently. Countries were closed. Teachers were suddenly plunged into trying to teach their children (their own and of course their pupils) from home. Parents had to teach their children and juggle work. This was no holiday. The stress of all this AND the possibility of not having an income afterwards was and still is very much a reality.
Reluctant schooling from home parents, who had no choice in the situation, trying to deal with it all.
Not all schooling is equal in South Africa
As we contemplate the issue of do we send our children back to school or not, it’s important to remember that everyone’s situation is different. The harsh reality is that not all schooling is equal in South Africa. It is very difficult to feel hopeful or optimistic about sending our kids back to school as proper sanitation is lacking in many areas. However, for a huge number of children school is a safe-haven for kids. For many, school is a guaranteed meal to fill their empty bellies. The decision is as hard for some parents as it is easy for many others.
Reality: During the lockdown
Essential workers have the struggle of working during the lockdown and then having to try to teach their children as well. We only have 24 hours in a day. The worries of children’s emotional, mental, and educational needs are constant. The Juggle and struggle have been real for all parents.
It’s Not Just South Africa Though
Carly Crawford of Mom Of Two Little Girls and I had an Instagram live chat. #reluctanthomeschoolers. Carly lives in the UK and her struggles as a parent are the same as ours here. What we discussed was that we did make the decision to homeschool but we were flung into the shit. Unfortunately, we did not panic buy toilet paper so the struggle was extra real for us.
Just as we all started getting into a groove of sorts, now we have to make the decision of do we send our children back to school or do we continue remote learning?
What Are The Options, If We Have A Choice?
I chatted with Hayley Walker, Director of Protective Behaviours South Africa. Hayley is currently homeschooling her 13-year-old and 15-year-old. She suggested that if you use this time to consider homeschooling then decide on what your end goal is.
Hayley and her children started their homeschooling whilst the children were in primary school. The decision to homeschool was to get a recognised Matric qualification overseas. Hayley has chosen the Cambridge System to school her children.
The transition took at least a year before they all found their rhythm. There were good and bad days. In school, you have a classroom where there is expected group behaviour and they have a teacher. Let’s bear in mind that most children see their parent as a safe place, the challenges are very real. Children leave all inhibitions back in the classroom, and well, we will have certainly seen the behaviour during this time.
Hayley went on to give some advice and websites to look at should you consider the homeschooling route.
A Typical Homeschool Time Table
A current day of homes schooling is between 1 ½ – 2 hours and can be up to 4 to 5 hours. The flexibility is there. Subjects such as maths and English are done every day and the rest are consolidated to once a week where there is consolidation. Outings are also planned around subjects.
Their classroom is the dining room. Her children are not learning to write so setting up is different. Most homeschoolers school around the dining room table but finding out best how the children learn with white noise and company or not will be figured out along the way.
I asked Hayley her advice to parents at this time
Hayley offered some practical advice with the decision of keeping kids at home until the end of the year. Read to your children.
If you can, keep your children home to allow for the children whose parents are essential workers, or children who rely on the feeding schemes provided. By allowing children who need the safety of school it then doesn’t overwhelm the system.
Life hasn’t continued as normal for homeschoolers.
It was my perceived and naive assumption that it had. Hayley advised that her children are also struggling as they are quite active in the homeschooling community ensuring continuous social events that involve kids across all age groups and her children are missing their club sports.
You Do You, And Respect Others
I have had quite a few chats to parents and something that keeps popping up is that no matter their decision about whether they keep their children at home, or send the children to school, the continuous internal struggle doesn’t stop. Added to that, we have the added pressure of the judgment of other parents.
Wow, don’t you love your kids because you choose to send them to school?
Wow, don’t you love your kids because you choose to keep them home?
I do not believe there is a one size fits all approach here. Wether we send our kids back to school or not, is an entirely personal choice and one that unfortunately not even Google can answer.
Our decision to send the children back to school, and why:
I know of a mother who has diabetes and I understand her decision to keep her kids at home until further. I know of another mother whose son’s asthma flairs up during winter, she too has taken the “schooling from home” option.
We are at risk because my husband has asthma, however, it is quite controlled. The girls and I do not have any ailments on the high-risk list.
We are going to send send our children back to school.
My husband’s reasoning is that should we keep our girls at home we are delaying the inevitability of sending them to school to have to face this “new normal”. The chances of finding a vaccine at the moment is estimated at 14 months at the earliest. I am by no means saying we are going about our life as if COVID didn’t exist. We are sanitizing and taking all the precautions.
Should 60% of the population get Covid19 then we can rely on herd immunity. They have never managed to eradicate the flu. We believe that Covid-19 is here to stay for a while (at least).
Homeschooling and Lockdown or crisis schooling are not the same. We are lucky, the girls’ school has given us the option to either go to school or school from home for the rest of the year with the option to change.
What we can do as parents in the interim.
Keep talking to the children, keep the conversation open. Their emotional needs are important. As an adult, I have struggled and I have a stronger grasp of my emotions than my 6-year old or 8-year-old children do. Keep up the sanitising and hand washing.
Carly recently put out a post giving some really useful ways you can support your children’s mental health during lockdown and as we start to come out of lockdown. Do have a look.
It is also advisable to get them to wear their face masks for longer periods of time at home to get them used to them. I remember wanting to burst into tears every time I went to the shops at the beginning of lockdown. It will get better but first, it will be hard. Regardless.
How We Came To Our Decision
A school cannot open until the Department of Education has been there to inspect and see the measure put in place.
Our school has given us constant information and communication. Our school has advised that during break-time games and fun activites will be suggested to the children to ensure proper social distancing measures. I feel confident our school will not make the front page news of children sitting silently by themselves.
Another concern is the economy. I fear that private schools could go bankrupt and then we have to rely on the government to place us in schools. It is a real concern and the quicker we can get it going the by-product of crime and all the stuff that comes from an expected unemployment rate of 38% is scary.
Nevermind stories I’ve heard of parents who CAN afford to pay school fees who have chosen not to. Teachers need to get paid, they’re still working their butts off to provide educational support to students from home. But this is for another post.
I understand the many concerns faced with the decisions that need to be made. I am also concerned. Whatever you decide, it is going to be hard. There will be tears. Whatever decision you make about whether to send your children back to school or not, whatever you decide to do, please just decide to be a kind and caring human being? This should be a priority in all this.