When my eldest son was three, I was told by the local Education Authority that I would have to either move or home-educate as they were not going to help with his education if we stayed farming our island home. As so many families have been thrown in to home educating during the pandemic I wanted to pass on some tips that I have learnt along the way.
The Easter holidays were always greeted with huge relief as there was always so much to do on the farm in this period. I loved not having to plan lessons every night, but mainly it was the freedom from having to constantly encourage the boys to concentrate and work. However, we were still all together without outside distractions, and cabin fever set in very quickly without the usual structure to the day.
I would get the boys to come and help me in the garden; digging the vegetable patch and going onto the beach with the wheelbarrow to collect rotting seaweed to dig in. Of course they complained that they were on holiday, but I would make up little competitions to make it more fun. Rotting seaweed stinks, and is crawling with maggots, and we had to fill baskets and carry them up the beach sliding over the glutinous mush, but we could laugh at each other struggling up the beach and it was a great chance to spend time watching the different birds feeding on the maggots and all the insects crawling out as we turned over stones. The weed improved our garden soil and we were rewarded with fabulous fresh vegetables. The boys had never wanted to eat the green vegetables that we imported, but once we started to grow them in our garden with their help, they discovered that they liked Broccoli and Cauliflower and Sprouts, let alone the delicious peas, a pleasure which has endured.
I used to get fed up with people assuming that no parent could make a good job of teaching their own children. Who taught your child to walk, dress and feed themselves or talk? You did. There are so many skills in life that are not taught in classrooms but are essential to living a full life, and they are often overlooked, and having the boys at home meant that I could teach them these as well. Children learn best of all by copying the adults around them and my boys really wanted to help. It was tempting when they were younger to let them play in the garden whilst I got the job done fast, but I would make myself encourage their help, despite knowing it would inevitably slow me down with a lot more mess to clear up.
The boys used to love helping me to make cakes and Easter biscuits, but I would get them to help me to cook the whole Easter meal too; showing them how to get the whole meal ready at the same time. I was not so good at getting them to wash up as no running hot water meant it was a once a day task. That was a mistake, and I made lots of those!
The important thing is to be a ‘good enough’ parent and my boys survived all of it to become independent adults. Don’t waste time beating yourself up over the things you did not do, but remind yourself how well you have done already. Good luck.