Coronavirus Diaries: Life From My Lounge – Week 6 – education

Monday 20th April to Sunday 26th April 2020

Previous installments

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Monday 20th April – 16449 deaths – education, aka school at home

Another week, lockdown continues, school at home continues.

I do feel for all the parents who are trying to juggle work and educating their children right now. I know that it is an impossible ask. Each is a full-time job and one person cannot do both well at the same time. Parents must be kind to themselves and their children. Employers must similarly be kind to all employees, but especially to those who are parents.

Do what you can with your kids, but the important thing is to create fun memories, not stressful ones. Education lasts a lifetime – we are NEVER done learning. So a few weeks out of mainstream structure will make no difference in the end. I promise you. I can say this with absolute certainty – for I have lived it and emerged on the other side.

When I took my older son out of his secondary school on 15th October 2015, I felt as many parents around the UK probably do now.

How on earth would I do school at home?

It wasn’t a choice that was made lightly – it was debated over several months. In the end, by half term of Y8, it was clear that school really was highly damaging for my son. To save his mental health, he needed to be at home.

I was supported by some seasoned home educators, who gave me the confidence to relax and just let me son be and let him heal. This I did, for many months, as it turned out. In that time, we did a little bit of Maths (mainly mental maths whilst jumping on the trampoline), a creative writing class where there was zero pressure to even utter a word, let alone write one down and we socialised a little with other home educating families. Mainly he gamed. It was his safe space.

What did home education look like for us?

So no, our home education was not one bit like school. At first, I struggled with that. I needed to de-school myself. After being through the mainstream system and working in the system, I was definitely institutionalised. I needed to reframe my mindset. The child adjusted way more quickly than the adult – also a common occurence.

Gradually we began to explore options for gaining some qualifications, begining with GCSE Film Studies. My son and I attended all the classes together, so I could provide the support he needed that had been so lacking in school. It was the most fabulous course – focused on Superhero genre, my son’s favourite. Homework was watching superhero films – what’s not to like?

And he did like. Enough to put in sufficient time and effort to get himself a very high B grade at the end of Y9 in June 2017.

One in, one out.

It’s hard to have one child at home and one in school. The younger one had gone into Y7 in the September as the older one came out in the October. For the rest of that academic year, there were many discussions about whether or not he could or should also be home educated. Eventually in October 2016, with no good reason to keep him in school, we withdrew him to home educate. Sure, he would’ve been fine and would’ve excelled I am certain, but his path would look very different. In fact had we not withdrawn him from school, he would now be, as his peers are, wondering what grades he will be given in his GCSEs which he should have been taking this summer.

Instead he has completed (with, so far, distinctions in all his assignments) his first year of a Level 3 BTEC, equivalent to 1.5 A Levels and will go on to do the 2nd year for a qualification equivalent to 3 A Levels and the prospect of university, or a degree apprenticeship, which is his preferred route. He is still only 15.

A different education

One of the biggest advantages of home education is freedom. Freedom from the restrictions imposed by the state system. You can go at exactly the right pace for the child. With my older son, that needed to be slow, so he did not become overwhelmed, so we spaced out the qualifications and reduced the number. Much better to have what you need to progress to the next stage with your mental health intact than get a bunch of qualifications you don’t really need and your mental health in tatters. Well, that’s my view anyway.

My younger son, however, had different needs. He has ambitions for a degree and a corporate job and eventually running his own business, so naturally more qualifications were needed. But again, why do more than you need to progress? So end of Y9, Maths, Physics and Business Studies (all three passed with good grades at only just 14) and end of Y10, English Language, Film Studies and a L2 BTEC in Computing. College kept asking us if his date of birth was incorrect, as they couldn’t get their head round having a 15 year old on their L3 course.

Take it easy

Anyway, the whole point of this long rambling story is to say “RELAX”. A few weeks out right now will make no difference in the long run, an opinion also shared by SchoolsWeek.

Don’t stress over some undone sums – bake a cake or cookies instead (if you can find some flour!) It’s science, maths and yumminess all rolled into one. Cake Science is a great resource to use.

home-education-baking

Don’t stress over a grammar worksheet – write a letter to grandma instead and teach them how to address a letter and an envelope instead.

Don’t worry if they don’t want to read their schoolbook – let them read whatever they want to read – factbook, comic, Minecraft chat. My son learnt to spell on Minecraft (and his 8 times table).

Be flexible

Don’t get hung up on a strict timetable, unless that suits your child/children – sure make a loose plan, but allow for flexibility. If you kid gets into their drawing or music – let them explore it for as long as they like. That is how they will learn best.

Don’t expect too much – from them, or from you. If you get pressure from schools, explain that actually, you as the parent, are responsible for providing education (that’s the law) and you will do it as you see fit. In fact, there’s nothing the school can do if you decide not to follow the structure they are setting. Take the bits they are offering that you like, and leave the rest. It’s as simple as that.

Have fun with home education

Remember – fun is the most important thing. Education and learning is fun. Children are naturally curious – remember how they were as babies and toddlers? Try to recreate that curiosity now and you will be giving them the greatest gift during lockdown.

It will be fascinating to see how many parents decide not to send their children back to school after this is over. I suspect we may see an increase in the home educated population as people start to see that there is a different way that can be highly rewarding and successful.

I’m interested to hear other’s views. Please comment below.

Tuesday 21st April – 17337 deaths – when is it education?

Second day of summer term for parents and many are already feeling the strain. Whether from school imposed expectations or something coming from parents themselves, it’s clear that the burden of educating at home is falling heavily for some.

Wait… Watch…

Work out what inspires your child and follow those interests (even if, and infact, especially if, you have no interest in it yourself – your kid will love you for it).

Breathe…

Breathe again…

Have another cup of tea.

And remember that for learning to really stick, it must be fun.

Think about how your child absorbs the things that really interest them. They immerse themselves in it – probably to the point where you are worried about their health – especially if that involves large amounts of screen time.

Would you be so worried if your child spent 5 straight hours reading a book, drawing or practicing an instrument?

Why then are you concerned about long periods of screen use?

The value of screens in education

It’s most likely because you don’t see screen use as educational. If your child plays a particular game for long periods, perhaps they are gaining unseen skills?

When my son came out of mainstream education, he was emotionally in a bad place. His safe space was in his bedroom, playing video games. So for the first few weeks, that’s pretty much all he did.

And I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t worried about the impact on his education. But I wasn’t really understanding what he was getting from the games until I took a much closer look. Here are some of the skills my son was learning WITHOUT any input from me. Skills, which I hasten to add, enabled him to pass his English and Maths GCSEs and to land his first job (with apprenticeship placement) at age 16 from his very first interview.

Definitely education

  1. Spelling practice
  2. Times tables
  3. Writing/communication
  4. Team building
  5. Negotiation skills
  6. People management
  7. Collaboration
  8. Problem Solving
  9. Creativity

My son learnt to spell using Minecraft. Minecraft might appear to you to be an annoying clunky-looking pointless game, but your child can learn so much about science, nature, geology, problem-solving, collaboration, to name just a few. I won’t go into it in detail because I would just be repeating info from this blog by ID tech (which is old but still relevant)

Self-directed education

After a few months out of school, one night I got up to visit the bathroom. It was late. As I passed my son’s bedroom, I could hear him having a conversation with someone online. My son was explaining the rules of a game and how the other player had violated the rules leading to him being given a warning. I was amazed to hear him speaking so calmly, politely and eloquently. The next day, I asked my son about what he had been doing.

He told me he had a volunteer position as an admin on a games server and had a number of other admins reporting to him. He was responsible for training new admins in how to conduct themselves when speaking to gamers and he had written a guide for admins on how to implement the rules. He was, if I recall correctly, 13 at the time. I was astonished to learn that through doing something he was passionate about, he had learnt team working, people management and communication skills – again without ANY input from me.

And so, I relaxed. I learned to trust that my son would find the right way for him to learn what he needed to know when it became pertinent to know it. And he did. Sometimes we did have to prod a little – he knew he needed to get the English and Maths but the formal work was dull for him, so he needed coaching to keep that on track.

Just because something isn’t documented in a school curriculum, doesn’t mean it’s any less valuable learning. Who has the right to say that learning about one period in history is any more important than learning about all the different mobile phones on the market?

Valuing self education

As parents, we need to be mindful of devaluing the learning that our children are doing on their own. To place lower value on their passions and interests than their schoolwork could be doing them a great disservice. After all, a child who spends a lot of time gaming will be very well qualified to work in that gowing industry in the future. A child who spends time watching nature programmes on TV might go on to work in conservation or the environment. Those who engage in social media such as YouTube and TikTok could become the presenters, entertainers, film makers of the future.

Whatever their passion, let them immerse in it, because through that passion they can explore and learn many transferrable skills.

Learning works best when kids are relaxed, happy and interested. Sure, anyone can learn a set of facts to pass a tes, but it’s a waste of time and energy if you have no interest in retaining those facts in the future. Deeper learning is meaningful and has longevity and it is this type of learning that will give your child the tools they need for future success.

So, go bake, create, make music, sing, draw, paint, dance, play games, act, experiment, build, but PLEASE don’t tie your kids to the kitchen table with tasks they have no interest in. It’s pointless and stressful for all.

Have fun.

Wednesday 22nd April – 18100 deaths – business education

Today was a catching up kinda day. I’m working on a few different skills and business development activities and they had been sliding for a couple of weeks, so I used a freer diary to get up to date, which felt good. I’m working on a few different projects/jobs at the moment and I enjoy the variety – from webcopy to blogs to a children’s picture book which is great fun.

I asked a question about home schooling in a Facebook group I’m in because I wondered who is shouldering the main burden of this extra work up and down the country. From the small sample I collected, turns out the vast majority of schooling is falling on the women in the household, even when both parents are working full-time from home. This is not a great surprise to me and is what I expected to see when I put up the poll – but I do wonder why there are so many fathers out there that aren’t pulling their weight. Of course, its a small sample and it could well be completely skewed but I’d be interested to hear about more experiences. If there are two parents in your household, are you splittng the education and childcare tasks between you or is one parent doing it all? Is it working out for you?

Thursday 23rd April – 18738 deaths

The deaths are dropping slowly and Matt Hancock suggests we have reached the peak of the virus – I do hope he is correct. Only time will tell.

The first volunteers have been “stabbed with a needle” in the quest to find an efficacious and safe vaccine against COVID19. Don’t hold your breath though – its likely to be 2021 before most of us are able to receive any vaccine, I suspect.

I’ve been continuing to support my antenatal clients, over What’s App and Zoom in this period of extreme uncertainty as they prepare to give birth. Pregnancy can be a very anxious time at the best of times, and these, as I’ve said before, are not the best of times. So, where its needed, I provide a sounding board and signposting to my clients who are facing difficult decisions around how to birth, whether to accept induction of labour or have a planned caesarean. Although I am not scheduled to teach any new courses until the beginning of October, I will still be checking in with my groups that have just given birth or are awaiting the big day with much trepidation.

I’ve been asked by some clients to run a baby first aid demo and Q&A so I have set that up for 4th May. Please do tell anyone you know who might be interested in attending.

Friday 24th April – 19506 deaths – less formal education may be more

So another working week almost done – I was told just before 5pm that it’s definitely wine o’clock 🙂

Parents all over the country are breathing a sigh of relief for the weekend – well some of them anyway. I was talking early to a mum of 5 year old twins. She was going nuts because the school has set 10 homework tasks for the weekend. Who on earth thinks that’s a) a good idea or b) even necessary?

Less formal education may well be better – quality over quantity surely has to be the way to go right now to keep everyone’s mental health on a sound footing. I really cannot fathom why some schools are simply dumping activities and homework onto parents to manage and then getting uppoty when the kids aren’t doing it all. Right now, espcially for primary age kids, most learning can be achieved through play which enables parents to manage a really challenging balance between physical health, mental health and relationships and the formal education of their children. On topof that, many are still trying to hold down full-time jobs or keep their businesses afloat. Receiving pressure from schools right now is extremely unhelpful and unsupportive.

So, do what you can and don’t compromise yours or your kids’ mental health. Education can be caught up – but detriment to mental health and relationships can have long lasting implications. It’s just not worth it.

Saturday 25th April – 20319 deaths – exploring the numbers

I was just perusing the Coronavirus stats. Sleep seems to be elusive recently.

I did a little comparison UK vs. India as of yesterday. I chose India because I would expect this virus to have a pretty widespread and severe effect in India where the social infrastructure isn’t as well developed as the UK.

Here’s the data as reported on worldometers.info/coronavirus

UKIndia
Cases143,46424,530
Deaths 19,506 780
Deaths/1M pop 287 0.6
Death rate 13.6% 3.2%
1st death5 Mar*12 Mar
Tests612,031579,957
% positive tests 23.4% 4.2%

* 1st death is reported as 5 March in official data but Sky News reports it actually occurred on 28 Feb

There are several interesting bits of data here.

1) UK’s death rate is (so far) 4 times HIGHER than India’s

2) UK deaths per million population is 478 times HIGHER than India’s.

3) UK’s positive tests are almost 6 times HIGHER than India’s

4) India has tested almost as many people as the UK has.

I’m not a statistician by any stretch of the imagination but something feels wrong here.

What does it mean?

I’m guessing the problem is in the reporting of the numbers – Either Indian deaths are not being reported as COVID when they should be OR UK deaths ARE being reported as COVID when they are not. How else can you account for the huge difference in the death rate?

Also l find it fascinating that India has managed to test almost as many people as UK has. Begging the question what is really preventing the UK from testing more?

India appears to be further behind in the pandemic than the UK at first glance, from the 1st death reported date which are almost 2 weeks apart (28 Feb and 12 Mar) so we could crudely assume that their infection levels are 2 weeks behind and that deaths are likely to rise rapidly. However, a slightly deeper dive into the data reveals even more interesting info.

Crunching the numbers

Looking back, we can see that reported deaths in UK rose sharply between 12-16 March from 10 to 55, thereafter the death rate continued to double every 3-4 days to the end of March when it had reached 1408. Over the same period, deaths in India also doubled every 3-4 days to a total of 160.

We then see a slow down in the rate at which the deaths are occuring, both in India and in UK with both countries showing a doubling of death numbers between April 6 and April 13. UK death numbers on 13 April were 11,329 so it looks like it will take about 2 weeks for that to double – so the rate is definitely slowing – good news.

In India, the death rate has doubled in the 11 days since 13 April, so it’s a bit faster than UK, but also showing a drop off from earlier numbers. Does that mean that they have also been through the peak? What does it all mean?

Can we draw anything meaningful from these numbers OR is there so much inconsistency in the collection and reporting as to render them useless – I don’t know.

Resources

I would expect the UK to be better resourced to handle a pandemic than India where housing and sanitation are huge problems – keeping people socially distant for one thing is physically impossible in many parts of India whereas keeping people socially distant in the UK is much more straightforward physically, if not psychologically. I would therefore have expected much higher infection rates in India and consequently higher death numbers – but so far that hasn’t happened.

So it will be interesting to see what happens to the numbers over the next fortnight. Will there be an explosion in the numbers in India?

And to finish on the subject of numbers – is there anyone really who believes the numbers from China?

Sunday 26th April – 20732 deaths

Many people are asking about easing lockdown restrictions. I suspect that after 5 weeks for the majority of people, they are getting frustrated now and want to get some semblance of normality back – be able to see family and friends at least. But, any easing now, would be likely to cause a new spike in cases and subsequently deaths, as we aren’t yet seeing a big enough slow down in infection rates. Infact, the reported numbers show that the new cases per day has been bobbing around the 5K mark since the beginning of the month. This data is problematic because its a headline number that people can easily look at from the Worldometer website.

uk-coronavirus-new-cases

It’s not really selling the benefits of lockdown – people will be expecting a slowdown in transmission rates, yet that is not what this graph shows. This means that more and more people are likely to break lockdown as they perceive it to be not working. The longer lockdown continues of course, the harder it will be for businesses to recover from this. I imagine this issue is a very prevalent topic of debate amongst Government ministers at the moment – a fine balance between the health and the wealth of the nation. I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes right now, trying to get the timing right.

Another beautiful day today – the weather has certainly been phenomenal for this time of year.

Just because…

Here is nature looking stunning this morning.

park-sun-sky
willow-park
lilac-in-park

Have a lovely day all.

8 thoughts on “Coronavirus Diaries: Life From My Lounge – Week 6 – education”

  1. Thanks for the mention Michelle and completely agree, although it’s taken a while to get there. I’m finding that my youngest who was struggling with ‘the new normal’ is less resistant returning to it following the Easter break. Not sure how long it will last though!

  2. Catherine Gallantine

    A really interesting read. Thank you for sharing your experience. Good to know how well both boys are doing and that they are happy ? I’m so thankful to have this time with my boys at the moment. X

    1. I guess some parents see it as a gift and for others it’s a highly stressful time. I hope everyone takes care of their mental and physical health because without that we cannot fulfil our potential.

      1. Catherine Gallantine

        Yes I agree. It’s new for all of us and challenging in different ways. I’ve had so many battles with myself.. Wanting my oldest, now 5 to practise reading, phonics and the writing that he’s learnt at school over this year but also wanting him to play, build and enjoy being 5! The pressures on us to be leading, teaching, creating are great however the best times we have had are definitely the days where let them be and follow them.

  3. What a brilliant read. I will share this with my social network. It’s what I’ve been saying, we can do education our way and that’s a great plus.
    I hope this inspires parents the relax a bit.

    1. Thanks Charlene – its a tricky time for parents and kids right now. Being kind to yourselves is the best advice I can give.

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