Friday, 5 July 2013

Home Schooling: the sequal

Well, your wish is my command. Do you remember my little daydream about teaching my children at home, with my phd, and my years of teaching experience, and my love of literature, culture and the young?

Yesterday, as if by magic, the teachers had a TADS. This is a new educational acronym on me. Apparently it means something like Teacher Absence Day, S'there. Or possibly Training and Detention Summit. Something along those lines.

Anyway, what it means is that several times a year, (a) working women have to scrabble about for yet more expensive childcare on a random day; (b) "stay-at-home mums" (those with phds who don't fit into mainstream society) have to Find Something To Do with Their Loved Ones, Instead of Their Writing.

Because apparently teachers need to have training days, IN THE MIDDLE OF TERM. EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE TEN WEEKS' HOLIDAY A YEAR.

Having mentioned to my daughter the notion of home education, she decided to run with it, reminding me that on a previous occasion I'd been so annoyed by them missing a perfectly good day of school, that I'd made them do extra work.

She decided to step this up a gear and actually run a Dame School for a day. She — I kid you not, and I don't think I'm even boasting, I was so shocked —

  • Designed a full day's timetable on the computer (challenge, assembly, maths, literacy, break, forest school, design and technology, quiet reading…) and then finished it by hand, illustrations and all; 
  • Developed a maths lesson with extension questions, at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 levels; 
  • Designed a story board with planning grid on the computer (the Whatever You Like Storyboard); 
  • Put together maths and literacy workbooks for four children; 
  • Set up a school room complete with jar of pens, work files, chalks, glass of water for me, a (completed) planning notebook, also for me, table and 4 seats.

All before about 10am.

All right, maybe I'm boasting just a bit. Frankly if she can do all that by herself, my work here is done.

Then her friends arrived and we settled down for some serious school. First up was, apparently, the Morning Challenge, what the children do when they first come into the classroom.

I, clueless, drew a picture of a hole in the ground, and then a lemming next to it. Desperate to make some coffee, I left them with the conundrum, 'How many lemmings could you fit in that hole? Without squashing them'.

Here is what my daughter's friend wrote:

I think you could put one Leming on the bottom side ways, three on top and then another three on top like this: You can fit 7".

She drew a cross section of a hole, with a lemming lying provocatively on its side like Manet's Olympia at the bottom, enigmatic smile and all, with six more happily grinning lemmings, standing on each other's shoulders and their friend. I'm afraid I laughed til I cried.

All this sounds wonderful, am I right?

Sadly, all too soon, my son decided he was bored with Key Stage One Stewie's Times Tables Challenge, and embarked on a dangerous climbing mission in his room, ending with him momentarily stumbling, and a vision imprinted on my retina of his silhouette about to crash through an upstairs window.

School was suspended for major telling off, comforting and subsidence time.

You can see the picture. After hours of school assembly (on lemmings, with a lemming song), story writing, half-eaten snacks, half-eaten lunch, clearing up the kitchen at least five times, more shouting at son (at one point he nicked an egg, tried to whisk it, knocked it over, and covered half the lunch things in it), hiding the iPad at least six times, friends leaving and ensuing despair, having to take children swimming (persuasion, enforcement, cajoling, Jurassic swamp temperature changing room, upset child at pool) 'popping' into supermarket on way home, some entirely unnecessary gardening which doubled as meditation, I was ON MY KNEES.

By 6pm, when I was scrabbling about for something to cook, and hazing in and out of consciousness from exhaustion, it was all over.

The kids pooh-poohed dinner, and I lost it. They were sent upstairs, without dessert, with fleas in their ears, to get ready for bed, howling.

I lay, catatonic, on the bed, struggling to make sense of it all. Had we not had a wonderful day (from the children's point of view)? Had we not done some amazing things? Had I not been proud of my daughter for her ingenuity and care? Had I not bought a new plant?

Then why was I feeling like a complete failure, depressed, upset, deflated?

Perhaps because I'd overdone it a TADS.




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