Right now you might be reading this and feeling the pressure of homeschooling during Coronavirus. Perhaps you – or your children – are already over it. It can be hard to stay motivated, and maybe you feel frustrated by how much or little your children’s school has been supporting you. Or perhaps you are really stressed and struggling with homeschooling during Coronavirus while working at home and having to do a million and one other things. Or maybe you are just feeling flat as a pancake about everything. As we enter week six of lockdown, it’s time for a pep talk in the form of this post on life hacks for homeschooling during Coronavirus from the Home School Guru Anna Dusseau.
Mental health matters. Full stop. But where are we now with supporting families struggling in the grip of global crisis? According to a recent Guardian article, hundreds of mental health patients have been discharged from hospitals in order to make room for the surge of COVID-19 patients in critical conditions. Terrible decisions to make and we are nowhere near even beginning to compute the fallout of all this.
The key here is trying to maintain mental and physical wellness at home if we possibly can, to support our children and reduce any additional strain on the health service. So, if you’re feeling frazzled, here are my personal lifestyle tips for how to take proper care of yourself as a full-time homechooling parent. You’re. Welcome. Babe.
Rocket fuel for busy parents homeschooling during Coronavirus
Sad though it sounds, my days of takeaway pizza and cheeky paddling pool Peronis are done and dusted. Nowadays, as a busy homeschooler and freelance writer, I manage my diet the same way an athlete might prepare for a competition. It’s all about feeling good and being on fleek (Wowza! Urban dictionary 2003? Hands up who feels old now?) for the day ahead.
So, I recommend getting started at breakfast with something not too heavy but that will give you sustainable energy for the morning. Porridge, yoghurt and brazil nuts, wholegrain toast, or eggs and grilled tomatoes are favourite choices in our house, because the kids love it, too. (Okay, fine, let’s go with ‘tolerate’. You can’t have Coco Pops every day.)
Don’t over-complicate your life. If something simple works for you (I did about a year on raw oats, two spoons of cocoa powder and grated ginger to start the day) then just roll with it.
Lunchtime again should be healthy and good for slow-release energy. I’ll often make a ratatouille or roasted vegetables with mixed beans, which we eat with lentils, oatcakes, or fried potatoes. Yep, it’s starchy but my personal feeling is that I’ve got no time for the raw food or cabbage soup diet when I’m homeschooling three small children.
Here’s the trick, though. Around 4pm, tuck into some omega-boosting good fats, such as nuts, which will curb your hunger and give you energy to do bath and bedtime. I swear by peanut butter. Cashew nut butter is also really good, or just a handful of raw walnuts or brazil nuts. Alternatively, dark chocolate (85% or higher) gives a serious kick of energy and is a healthy, brain-boosting snack to reach for.
Background music and bangers
We listen to music almost constantly in our house and I suggest using this as a form of music therapy, by which I mean selecting a soundtrack which is mindfully chosen to create the right atmosphere. Sunday brunch, for example, needs a bit of Frank Sinatra, or else chilled house such as Stéphane Pompougnac’s Hotel Costes (we love Volume 8, but they are all good).
For getting rid of excess energy, it needs to be a hit that gets you all singing or dancing along. What are you in to? In our house, nobody can resist the butt-shaking tug of Christine and The Queens’ Tilted (French version, bien sur) but for some concentrated activities such as baking, colouring, craft or a puzzle, it’s got to be a bit of Classic FM, Buena Vista Social Club or Ben Harper. Music is personal. It’s all about what feels right for your family, so whether it’s Beethoven or Beach Boys, switch the vibe to ‘loving it’ in your house and be sure to play some music today.
Sanity and setting goals
Just because we are all on house arrest, doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on what matters in life. I know homeschooling during Coronavirus and working from home is a tough call, but I find that creating daily targets for myself actually make me more productive and focused, rather than distracting me.
So, I force myself to do a short exercise video every morning which is, on ambitious days, Yoga with Adrienne, but more often the lovely Joe Wickes 5 minute workout (both on YouTube) which the kids enjoy too.
My second target of the day, is to ensure that I read at least one article or chapter of my book. This is an important habit for any writer to maintain, but the real gift here is that, by modelling reading, you will often find that your kiddos will settle to a quiet activity of their own accord which feels good for everyone.
Don’t be tempted to commentate on your boisterous three-year-old settling to a bit of quiet drawing; just notice it, smother the smile of surprise, and continue with your article. Now is also the time to set long term goals, whether that involves travel, learning a new language, home development, or getting that brilliant business idea up and running. Mental motivation – both short term and long term – is as energising as a double espresso and has a knock-on effect within the family as a whole.
Have fun with it!
Homeschooling shouldn’t be difficult. No, really. If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, the chances are that you aren’t properly homeschooling at all. Delivering school at home is not the same thing and, although I am aware that many of you have work sent through from the school to keep up with.
My advice at this point would be to prioritise emotional well-being in your home and allow your children to follow what they are interested in. The more independent your children are, the happier and more focused you will find them. This is how actual homeschoolers do it and I promise you, nobody is pulling their hair out! You might even discover a new talent that you didn’t know your son or daughter was good at.
Bouncing back after a bad day of homeschooling during Coronavirus
We all have these and the first step to moving on from a showdown or just a general shouty day is always to acknowledge what has happened. I try to do this before bedtime, so that we can all sleep well and begin afresh the next day. Before you go to bed yourself, you might also want to reflect on what happened to make this crisis point occur.
As I say, everyone’s definition of a crisis point is different and for you, it might be that you simply got cross, which isn’t you, or it could be that you felt you had no time for the kids today as you were overwhelmed with admin and remote working, leaving you snappy and distracted. Whatever happened, once you have made peace with the kids, have a think or discuss with your partner what went on which triggered the negative situation today.
Are you getting enough sleep? Are you trying to pack too much into the day? Is there something going on in your work or personal life which is putting you on edge? Is your phone a distraction and causing your to be snappy with the kids when they knock it out of your hand, or send that email to your boss before you had checked it? Perhaps something needs to shift in your schedule to release the pressure and relax your time with the kids? Figure it out quietly after bedtime and step into the next day confident that you know how to handle things in future.
Hello, good endorphins!
One last thing. Take a second to stretch your arms up, lean your head right back, take a deep breath and smile broadly at the ceiling. Laugh out loud, if you can. Because laughter therapy is real, my friends, and nothing gets the good endorphins flowing better than this quick-fix mood-reboot; trust me.
In fact, for the true yogi mum, why not go the whole pranayama and spend today in the gentle half-smile of meditation because, let’s face it, nothing freaks those tiny people out when they’re scrapping over who smashed the mixing bowl, like mummy entering the room sporting a slightly glazed expression and lop-sided smile. I am trusting you to pull this one off, okay? No point yelling. #keepcalmandeatpeanutbutter
Anna Dusseau is a former school teacher, freelance writer and homeschooling mum of three. Check out her blog at www.homeschoolguru.org and keep an eye out for her upcoming book Homeschooling, out this summer, and podcast ‘Homeschool Coffee Break’, starting soon.