In these unprecedented times, convention is going out of the window quicker than you can say defenestration. One of those conventions is school. This is an interesting one with our tribe of fabulous children with high learning potential (HLP) as some may already home educate, and others may have considered it as a solution to the square pegged needs of our little ones. But no one banked on doing it in this kind of climate and in quite so abrupt a manner. As they say, some are born to home educate, some achieve home education, and some have home education thrust upon them.
Yes, we may well have daydreamed with our rose-tinted eyewear about home education, but none of us expected to have the decision made for us in such a dramatic manner. How do we cope with it happening so suddenly and against the backdrop of such concerning times? And how do we balance educational needs with all of our other responsibilities?
- Don’t Get Weighed Down by the Pressure of Expectations
Don’t stress over what others are doing or seem to be doing. Dance to your own tune; it’s okay to do so. Like so many things when parenting an HLP child, a different, unique approach is often called for – you are already an expert on such an approach so trust your instincts, have faith in your expertise in what works for your own child and have confidence in your own bespoke ideas and plans, even if that is to have no specific plans – that’s okay too.
There is no need to be a slave to tradition. Remember that 2 hours of formal home education is the equivalent to one day’s learning in a traditional school setting. Even doing “nothing” (very heavily emphasised inverted commas, here) is almost never really nothing or of no use. So, give yourself a break and don’t heap unnecessary pressure on yourself by trying to imitate a school day. Take the opportunity to jig to your own ditty a little and have the confidence to do what works for you (all). There are educational aspects to so many non-traditional school type activities – it’s okay to do those things and enjoy doing them, too. We do not all have to don a Trunchbull outfit and panic-buy school desks. Our HLP youngsters tend to learn whether we make it the official objective or not. It is often more difficult to stop them learning!
- Make Use of the Fantastic Lists of Amazing Educational Resources on our Lockdown Learning Resources Page
If you can and wish to explore these together, then enjoy doing so, but don’t feel bad if you need to try to encourage independent exploration of these resources should you need to get on with your own work, or just need a bit of peace and quiet. Learn something new together if you fancy (and if you can), or introduce your child to something new: learning a new language, binge-reading a new book series, brushing up on their cooking skills. But don’t stress if your child does not meet these new opportunities with unequivocal enthusiasm. It’s okay to move on to something else, or revert back to tried and tested things you know they enjoy and thrive on – no one is judging.
- Ask Them to Come Up with their Own Ideas
The world is their (slightly strange) oyster. Many of our lovely HLP little ones can, at times (i.e. always) display hints (heaps) of stubbornness and obstinance. Rather than clash each day over imposed educational activities, let them plan projects or decide to binge-watch Jim Al-Khalili documentaries, whatever floats their boat – it will keep them occupied and they are so much more likely to engage in something they have come up with or chosen themselves. You can pat yourself on the back for encouraging independence, creativity and self-regulation skills, to boot.
- Factor in Wellbeing
If they are up for exploring new resources, great, but if they are resistant, don’t despair. Even if, after the greatest stretches of the imagination an activity still cannot be found to have an ounce of educational value, remember that it may still have value in the sense of family wellbeing. If it relaxes your child in this time of anxiety, it has value. If it gives you the peace and headspace to do some of your own work, or just have a sanity break, it has value. If it is absolutely the only thing they will do on their own and your ears are ringing from the incessant energy, incessant talking and incessant exuberance of your wonderfully over excitable HLP child, then it is of value, oh great, great value.
- Address Anxieties and Aid a Sense of Agency in Such Uncertain Times
It can be especially difficult to reassure our headstrong HLP tribe at the best of times. Passivity and acquiescence are not always the most dominant of their characteristics, and yet intransigence and pedanticism often reign supreme. Rarely are they happy to just take on board our reassurances without debate or argument. Opinions they hold aplenty, and they are often less than keen to submit to the opinions of a mere parent-creature.
In the face of such robust opposition, such formidable foes, it is sometimes better to counteract their concerns with action – acts of kindness, for instance. This is often much more productive than simply trying and failing to fob them off. If, therefore, they are worried about Coronavirus and possibly about the more vulnerable members of their extended family, then by all means reassure them as much as you can, but perhaps also decide with them to react to the worry by coming up with a positive act to help their self-isolated loved one; help them to think of something they can do. This can help them to feel a sense of agency and control in the face of what can feel like an overwhelmingly scary and uncertain time for our intense and super-sensitive HLP children, and thus can lessen anxieties.
Ideas for Positive Action:
- Suggest they compile a folder of letters, drawings or comic strips to post to their self-isolated loved ones. They are only small actions, but should mean a lot to their Grandparent etc. And yet, in the spirit of throwing off the shackles of convention and shoulds and oughts, all the better if they abandon the project for their normal play/reading etc after just one quick note – it is a very good sign that their worry has lessened, so job done and better still you still have stuff left to do for the next time the worries might crop up.
- If you are dropping off supplies etc. to someone who is self-isolating, then why not go a little Love Actually (only to a point, mind!) and get your child to write out messages on pieces of card to hold up and surprise their self-isolated loved one? No need for close contact as you can be divided by bricks, mortar and (crucially) glass, but it will be a touching act that might well cheer them up no end.
- With the caveat of needing to be grandparent and older relative-appropriate, see if your child is up for coming up with a whole series of jokes that they can then write out and hold up at their window? Again, it’s an act of kindness, it gives that sense of positive action, and it may also while away some valuable minutes or hours.
- If you have, or can get ahold of any (acknowledging the immensity of the “if” here) cut-and-come-again salad leaf seeds, then perhaps your child could send some to your self-isolated loved ones? Or perhaps, if you are dropping off supplies to them anyway, a little pot with some soil or compost could also be left on their doorstep if they don’t have a garden, to help them create a little windowsill salad production line? A loved one who is self-isolating and relying on others for their groceries may well be feeling as anxious and disempowered in the face of these difficult times as our children. This is a little act that can then, just in a small way, both help your child and your more vulnerable loved one to feel the benefits of a little all-important sense of agency and control, so it’s a double win!
We can do this and we will do this. And when it feels like we can’t we can make ourselves DIY earplugs, dip into the stockpiled chocolate, and convince ourselves of the educational nature of anything that keeps them occupied…And, quite possibly, just as we do so, we will look up to find our little ones inventing, creating and learning, just in their own, fabulously unique, way.
Disclaimer: this post does not constitute a note of excuse for school should there be conventional school work sent home – not because I am not willing to stand up for you all but merely because such use of paper cannot be condoned in these times of toilet roll shortages…we might need it for something infinitely more important…
Slightly Mad Mummy. xxx
Slightly Mad Mummy has also written a fictionalised diary of her time flexi-schooling her daughter. See our HLP Diaries to discover more about Flexi-Cat (events have slightly overtaken flexi-schooling at the moment!)