Back in March my daughter’s life, along with that of almost every other child in the UK was put on hold. The people whose presence had hitherto been intrinsic to her emotional and developmental well-being vanished into the ether. She faced, as they all did, an immediate future of…. nothing; no classmates, no netball practice, no Grandma, no birthday party. How young minds will respond to this amputation from all they knew as normal life may take years for us to know; but that concern was not for now. Now was about the first duty of any society; to support and protect its people. TV news didn’t help, it was as if kids didn’t have ears. No-one seemed to know what to do or say. Turns out Grandma did; life is long she said, sun’s going to come up tomorrow she said, people often don’t remember your words but they always remember how you made them feel she said. Kids grow and learn, they’ll do that whatever you do, just remember your job is to raise a happy and compassionate human-being, hands that rock the cradle she said. But by then we’d locked up Grandma as well.
Fortunate enough to have the opportunity and space in which to participate in online education, privileges we were well aware not all families enjoyed, my husband and I worked out a plan. Timetabling mental and physical activities to ensure our daughter did not miss out on what we thought then was an irreplaceable period in her education. Heaven only knows how her school pulled it all together; but they did, and a variety of stimulating tasks and activities soon appeared in a virtual classroom every morning bang on 9am.
Our daughter transitioned quite smoothly into her new online world. She met her friends again, in their Zoom-room classroom and she connected after zoom-school with her friends and family. Cracked it, we thought. Our grand plans soon fell apart of course. Managing remote learning and remote working proved hard. Online lessons were skipped. Other things fell by the wayside. The housework took yet another one for the team (silver-lining, if the kids’ can write their name in the dust on the mantelpiece- it shows they can write- score!).
At first I was disappointed by the content of the home-learning provision. Where were the simultaneous equations, where was (is?) the past participle? Few of the metrics by which I measured educational success were there. Instead there was TED talks on the environment and how to help reduce impact on it. Daily exercising with Joe Wicks (appreciated by mother and daughter alike –but for very different reasons). Every home-school task or activity was put together by someone giving their time and sharing their expertise to help support other people’s children, to help fight back the fear that might otherwise occupy their young minds.
As days turned into weeks, my daughter’s mind became a repository for countless examples of strangers providing their time, resources, knowledge and kindness for free. It was jaw-dropping–just how many people were offering so much for nothing at all in return, other than an opportunity to be of what help they could during a difficult time. My daughter witnessed and absorbed lessons of resilience, compassion, humour and above all hope. The world and the people in it didn’t stop; they evolved and adapted to their surroundings, they survived, the sun kept on rising in the east. Lessons of arguably more value to a successful individual and society than algebra and grammar were taught (although I will deny writing this at exam time).
So thank you home-schooling-sphere; thank you for teaching my child we are one world and that there are more good people than bad, thank you for reminding me of the kindness of people near and far, known and not known. Now our children are returning to the classroom and time – that ever rolling stream – will bear all the lost lessons away. The children will catch-up academically and in five years, sooner even, will probably not even remember they didn’t learn what the National Curriculum thought they should know when it thought they should know it.
Of course, Grandma already knew all of this, which is why when the going gets tough, the tough should just call Grandma (even if they can’t hug her like she deserves). Education is above all a means by which we can improve the lives of those who are here and of those yet to come. Those of us who can should help to ensure every child has access to education and every parent has the tools to provide it. From what I’ve experienced these past few months, we have the capability to do this, and we have the will.