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Homeschooling realities: The rantings of a working single mom

19 May 2020 FAMILY

By: Natasha Archary 


Picture: Pexels – August de Richelieu

My social media feed is filled to the brim with happy families sitting around a table, going through class worksheets, and homeschooling activities. Kids smiling, seemingly focusing intently on what their parents are teaching. Something I cannot relate to. 


Homeschooling is challenging and I wish I had the patience for it. Which is kind of a big ask, especially when still working from home and putting in a full day at the virtual office. Honestly most days have me questioning whether I’m smarter than a 5-year old. 


Homeschooling expectation vs reality

I applaud the few parents who have shared their frustrations with homeschooling. Whether it was a humorous skit or a video of their zoom call with a fussy child in the background. It’s the honesty parents’ like me, who are not finding it easy cling to. 


Apart from the fact that homeschooling was just thrust our way when the President announced the nationwide lockdown, most parents are not used to being home with the kids 24/7. This new norm takes parenting pressure to an all-time new high. 


Finding the balance to not only work from home, manage the household, and also have a structured routine in place for homeschooling is no easy feat. We were not given manuals. There wasn’t any training or skills development for parents to take on this task. With the only support from teachers being the few hours a day they are available to students. So, for many parents, myself included, this is not what we signed up for. 


Sink or swim

The first few days of homeschooling was emotionally and mentally draining. In a busy household with more than one family member working from home, fitting into a structured school and work routine proved difficult. 


Needing the PC or laptop for work deadlines, while simultaneously logging into the MS teams online classes, and checking into zoom meetings saw me being pulled into different directions with my mental health wearing thin. 


My frustrations rubbed off on my son and he was not enjoying the online experience nor his lessons with me either. What’s more is that he’s close to me and that just means he pushes the boundaries with me all the more. We were both getting the other worked up and losing our cool. We needed to learn how to integrate into each other’s days and life anew. 


Picture: Pexels – Retha Ferguson

Making it work 

It took more than two weeks to finally get the hang of our new reality. In the beginning I was completely strict about sticking to the online class times and finishing home lessons and class assignments daily. Which just added to his frustrations and resulted in the entire experience being nothing more than a chore for him. I had to work whilst he learned, there was no getting around that, and I had to get to a point where he was always supervised whilst busy with an activity, but I was no longer doing everything with him. 


I also moved away from some of the traditional methods of teaching that schools adopt. Let’s be honest, if it were not for digital intervention, the online learning options would not exist. And for all the admonishing that schools, teachers, and some parents have around screen-time and smart devices for kids, where would we be if it were not for the digital age today? 


Integrating some of his lessons onto his kid-friendly tablet, allowed him some freedom to control his learning independently. Kids love that. Giving them the illusion they’re in control, will have them happily engaged for hours on end. 


So, I installed reading apps, downloaded e-books, YouTube animated stories, math, and crossword games and we had found a Zen-like model that worked for us both. 


Take it at your own pace

I know this is not a definite method for homeschooling and may not be ideal for parents with kids in higher grades. I think I’m lucky in that my boy’s only in Grade 0, because I understand the pressure may be greater for students in matric or Grade 10. Two of the most important years in a schooling career. 


I don’t claim to know it all when it comes to homeschooling, for the most part, it feels like drowning most days because parenting on its own is a ride like no other. I am loving this time with the kiddo and would probably love it more if neither of us had to work or be otherwise occupied during this time. 


I read a quote from a teacher on social media which advised that parents not be too hard on their kids during this homeschooling phase. That the advised duration of structured learning for the foundational phase (pre-primary) is 2-hours a day, 3 for primary and 4 to 5 hours for secondary grades. Aim for that but also try to take your child’s feelings into account. 


Their entire world has just done a 360 and they were not given a say in the matter either. The silver lining for me is watching him learn every day a little more. It’s amazing to see him absorb information and process things through his perspective. 


What has the homeschooling experience been like for you? Share with us on @KayaFM95dot9 using the hashtag #KayaOnline. 

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