Tips from Me to You!
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Last year, we were all thrust into what we can only describe as, an apocalypse, or as I like to call it, the Covocalypse. We are now all trying to cope with how much life has changed since those early months. This year we anticipated change; life improving beyond what we have known for the past 9 months. However, once again, we have been thrust back into another Lockdown and, once again, home schooling rears its ugly head. So, on that note, I thought I might discuss some of my thoughts and ideas on how I, barely, cope with home schooling. P.S. Wine, lots and lots of Wine!
These tips also apply to coping with after school homework, as I am recently finding out. Since returning to school, my son is very reluctant when it comes to homework, making me feel like the after effects of home schooling haven’t quite disappeared along with the removal of lockdown.
Home schooling in 2020 was a complete culture shock for both the boys and I; for everyone really. I’d like to say that DIY Daddy helped but, well, he is a key worker so the job fell to me. All of a sudden we were responsible for something that was completely alien to us. It was definitely a struggle.
Tink is usually the perfect student in class; he hardly ever gets into trouble, well as far as I know. Suddenly he is faced with me as his teacher, the one person he butts heads with more than anyone else on this planet. During this time, his listening ears seemed to take a temporary holiday. My patience wore extremely thin and I really struggled to cope with home schooling both boys.
Speaking of holidays, those first few weeks, prior to Easter, the kids were assigned tasks to choose from some worksheets. There was no structure to this and Tink did not respond well. Like me, his brain works methodically. It was just meltdown after meltdown.
We really tried but it wasn’t until after the holidays, when his teacher started sending out a daily timetable, that he really flourished. Don’t get me wrong, it was hell, I think I gained quite a lot of white hairs that week. There were tantrums every single day but the main thing is we got through the core tasks. This was all down to the structure assigned by the teacher and the routine enforced by me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite master how to home school Pup at the same time as Tink; I’m still struggling with this so have attempted to improve my daily routine.
As we parents know, all too well, home schooling is not without its’ challenges. This is why it is useful to establish a routine, a basic, flexible structure that works for both you and your children. Putting a routine in place really, truly helped me to cope with home schooling. After all, we did make it out the other end, despite the fall-outs and the black eyes.
Throughout my career, I have always been driven by goals. I set myself task lists and time frames. I like structure and organisation. This has carried across into my day to day life with the boys, whether they like it or not. 😀 The most important part of finding that routine is to prioritise but let them have fun too; give their brains time to recharge.
In order to prioritize, I ensure that we are all ready by 9am, as if it was a normal school day; clothes, breakie and teeth brushed. I find that sticking to this routine definitely helps us all. It also makes us feel a bit more human and prepared to face the day.
I don’t know about you but I cannot stay in my jammies all day; it makes me feel manky and the boys definitely develop an unappealing odour, more so than usual. If I’m not organised then my whole day is thrown out of whack and I can’t clearly face the challenges and tasks ahead.
The main thing to remember when home schooling, that I tell myself quite often, is to just get through the core tasks. If there is time and Damien hasn’t decided to pay us a visit, then we can face any additional activities assigned by the teacher.
I can also usually tell when they wakeup what mood they are in so I plan the day accordingly and try to minimise the fallout. Today for example, both are tired, their dad has gone back to work and they are not responding cooperatively. I know that every time he goes away emotions are high. That’s the joys of having parent here, parent there, so I have to take that into consideration.
This is common sense speaking here but, honestly, a lot of the time, common sense fails me. I think I’m the one in need of a check list to remind me. As parents, we all know that some days the plan just doesn’t work. Some days you just can’t win the war.
Fun with Tink
Already this week, Tink has decided he can run before he can walk. Why do they always try to over-complicate matters? He should have focused on his spelling words but no, he decided that he could just jump right into SumDog and complete the spelling test. In the end I had to draw the line and turn it off, as he was building himself up to a full on, nuclear meltdown. Today was the day he had chosen to NOT cope with home schooling. Naturally, the meltdown still occurred but we nipped it in the bud before he reached the danger zone.
In hindsight, I should have been firmer in the first place and not let SumDog even enter the equation but I had thought it was Maths he would be doing; he’s got an eye for numbers, like me. For now, the best thing was for us all to take a break.
I try to factor breaks in after each subject or, if they are needed sooner, additional breaks. In order to cope with home schooling we need to have a flexible time table, oh and a long lunch. A wipe-clean white board is a handy tool to have (Affiliate link below*). Being multi-purpose it can be used as a weekly calendar, daily scheduler, shopping list, chore chart or just for scribbling on. In this case, it helps to plan out our home schooling schedule.
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It doesn’t matter where the journey ends; just that you get there. I let them take as many breaks as necessary to reach our goals; it also allows me to top up on my caffeine levels and, after 5pm, alcohol. Yup, wine! Again! Lots and lots of wine! That’s precisely what you need to cope with home schooling.
Bribery, or as I like to call it, proactive encouragement, is also another very useful tool when trying to teach our little Angels. I regularly find myself coercing Tink into doing something by “encouraging” him with the offer of Tablet time or TV time. Sometimes even Lego works. Although, I am quite strict with my guidelines; there are no Tablets until 3pm. Again, I always reinforce in them that, even though they are not physically in school, they still have to treat it like a normal school day.
Pup automatically thinks that means he can fake a sore tummy or, his favourite, a sore leg. Ask him to put clothes on: “I can’t, I have a sore leg”, ask him to wash his hands, “I can’t, I have a sore leg”, ask him to eat his lunch, “I can’t, I have a sore leg”. I think you get the gist of it. His way of coping is to just point blank refuse or, as he has just done, run off at the threat of a time out. I can just make out a wee voice from the hallway, “well you can’t coz you can’t see me, I’m in the hallway”. Yeh! You just told me where you were.
It takes quite a lot of proactive encouragement with him. I can’t motivate him in the same way as Tink. He is motivated by food; just offer him a treat like you would a dog and he’ll happily roll over, however, he’d end up a right wee chunky monkey. This is where the rewards chart comes in handy; stars instead of treats, which then leads to something chocolaty.
Pup is quite a challenging child to manage due to the fact that he is constantly bouncing about. This has made it increasingly difficult to home school both of them at the same time. It was a struggle to cope with home schooling previously; I tell myself, over and over, it will be different this time. I am more prepared. Boy was I wrong. Did you know multi-tasking is a myth?
There is so much hype surrounding multi-tasking in the workplace, or there was when I was still a working mum. We learnt that you prioritize tasks and set goals. You are more productive carrying out one task properly than trying to complete 2 tasks at the same time. This affects quality. The same applies to home schooling.
I find myself trying to multi-task; my focus is on both of them, the housework, the dinner and the laptop. Tink tries to rush everything and Pup is bouncing here, there and everywhere like the bloody Gummi Bears. In the end chaos ensues.
Time to Re-evaluate!
The only way around is to take a step back and re-evaluate the situation…
- Prepare dinner before 9am
- Housework can wait till after 3pm
- Focus on getting Tink through his core subjects
- Once Tink organised, turn attention to Pup
I’ve learnt that, with Pup’s behavioural quality’s, it is impossible to home school them both at the same time. Tink likes complete silence when he is working, whereas Pup likes to be the loudest person in the room. He is just a little bundle of excitement. Right now he is currently bouncing from one sofa to the other, launching himself into the air. He truly has no fear.
This is not a good combination. It’s like mixing Baking Soda and Vinegar. KABOOM! This is when a little bit of physical exertion is required; whether it be a walk, GoNoodle or Joe Wicks.
It is really challenging to juggle 2 boys, home life and home schooling.
It’s a Juggling Act
I couldn’t even begin to imagine how parents in full time employment are coping during this fiasco. It is difficult just to get time to manage this blog and home-school, let alone, actually having to work from home too. My suggestion would be to just do what you can; you are doing great. Children are resilient and will bounce back. Pup proved this the first time round. He regressed something awful but then, after a few weeks back at nursery, climbed back on top again. Your main priority just now will be to keep your family safe and loved.
Life for us just now definitely is a juggling act; I am just thankful that I took the time during these early years to give up work so that I am here to look after the boys. We have the capability to cope with home schooling and this whole pandemic so I experience feelings of guilt when I feel stressed and emotional.
I know that, as a family, we are incredibly lucky. Every day I count my blessings. This doesn’t stop me feeling stressed and strung out with the boys though. In reality, I’m not sure I “cope” with home schooling; more likely I just get through it like the little engine that could. I believe I’ve used that analogy before but I do love it. We should all strive to be like that little train.
Home schooling will always be hard but we will get through it. We have to! We have gotten this far, haven’t we? Be Proud!
Online Resources to help with Home Schooling:
- Teach Your Monster How to Read
- YouTube GoNoodle
- YouTube Jack Hartmann
- YouTube Free School
- YouTube Joe Wicks
- K5 Learning