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Blog Post

Reflections on Home Education in lockdown

My husband and I are proactive home educators – by that I mean, we have chosen to home educate our two children and our eldest school age child has never attended school. I acknowledge that we are in a privileged position to be able to make this choice. We have decided that we can forfeit our full-salaries for a decade or so and reduce our working hours both to part-time, in order to share home educating and being with our kids, with paid employment. This is a significant sacrifice, counter-cultural even, and not an option that is feasible for everyone. For this possibility, personally, we are thankful.

Home educating in lockdown is really tough. Yes we have lots to be thankful for - and I do thank God – but I don’t pretend that lockdown is a ‘blessing in disguise’. Lockdown is shitty. It is difficult and tough and I ‘hate’ it, which isn’t a word I normally use.

Home education is a slow burn. Whereas schools are good at intensive learning, we have found that learning and living together from home and around, takes more time and has slower (though perhaps deeper?) rewards. Our seven year old is not yet a fluent reader, which is a bit frustrating for me sometimes, not for her though! We read together everyday and storytelling is a big part of our family rhythms. Our three year old shunned nursery and prefers to be with us, again that has been a bit frustrating for us, but not for him. He thrives in our company, with his older sibling and out on our wee adventures. One of the biggest things I have learned in home education is to ‘get out of the way’ and let the children be children.

So what do we do? We read, sing, play, build, craft, dance, watch tele (way more over lockdown I confess), bake, bike, climb trees, study, dream and talk a lot of nonsense together. The transition into this new way of life has been painful at times. To be honest, becoming more human (and that is exactly what I feel I am becoming) has been disorientating, lonely at times and troubling – but like all worthy endeavours, the results are reward enough and we are in this for the long haul.

Lockdown has added an intensity and a domesticity to our daily patterns that I have found both nurturing at times, and more often, painfully suffocating. Home education for us, is about community. We are part of the Glasgow Home Ed Network, a lovely collective of families all practising home education in a variety of approaches. Our weekly socials and meet ups have been affected by lockdown, though there is a dispensation for home ed families to meet outdoors for 'educational purposes' in Scottish Government legislation.

Akin to the wider population, we grieve lost access to our library, museums, community halls, swimming pools, church and infact all indoor venues that previously offered us a refuge. As workers, my hubby and I miss not only our work venues but the cycle commute and freedom of thought that comes with the interactivity of our jobs (even though mercifully we can both work from home and retain our income). The kids mourn visiting pals houses and playing with other toys in their cosy spaces. We all crushingly miss our extended family and dear friends and long to be reunited with them.

I had a thought about a tragically amusing (no longer sci-fi) film concept, where life is full and bustling (think pre-Covid-19) but in this context one family chooses to live life in lockdown (think our current conditions). That family would be odd-balls. More than quirky, their behaviour would provoke institutional intervention, social work, even the police may intervene to re-socialise the family and support their well-being. This home-lockdown-life that we are now subjected to on a national, perhaps even global scale is an unhealthy means to a vital end of preserving communal health, the long-term costs of the means are yet untold.

On the up, as we wade through the mud of communal, albeit socially distanced, trauma together – hope remains. Yes we are broken, but we can connect to others in creative ways, when our energy allows us to be proactive or when God blesses us with an overflow of another’s energy and attention. Wee things matter. Messages, letters, gifts, kind words or gentle looks all help. In the face of my two big words for this last year ‘scuppered’ and ‘scunnered’, I find an unassuming antidote – gentleness, slowness, love.

Our Home Ed lockdown days are not as productive as I think I’d like. Our days are less structured than, at times, I crave. We are doing less, seeing less, travelling less, our world has shrunk. And yet our attention to detail has grown and our small local world is as fascinating and inspiring as ever – for those who have eyes to see (and sometimes I admit, I have to first dry my eyes to see well). We have made new connections to people and earth. We have tuned in more to the nearby wild spaces around us and treasure them all the more through familiarity and lack of other options. I am thankful for our corner of this dear green planet and long for her restoration, as well as ours.

To conclude my reflections, I would say for us just now GENTLENESS is key. Let’s be gentle with ourselves, with each other and with our (my) expectations of what can be done well in a day. Of course there are laborious chores that must be borne, but for those tasks teetering on the edge of practicality, can we allow ourselves to shed them like autumn leaves into the wind? Seriously, if ever there is a time to ease off on our to-do lists, or cut back on our ‘you-must-do’ lists, I think a global pandemic wins. If we can nurture our children through this and endure our days with some nod to joy and peace, most of all clinging to hope of better things to come, we are educating ourselves at home into the depths of human experience and the wonder of human resilience. Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Love and blessings in the daily journey,

Niki x