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'Home Schooling'

by Nadine Hegarty about a year ago in advice


Struggling with the school work during Quarantine? STOP.

Providing a state education at home during a global crisis, is NOT, I repeat NOT the same thing as homeschooling.

So, when it all started, I sat down made a schedule and thought to myself, 'This is grand, a couple of hours a day. I've got this. After all, I'm a seasoned teacher with a degree in education. I've only got one child. No sweat.' My son is 7 and I opened my business 2 months after he was born. Looking back I was suffering from a sever case of ‘ My body grew a human and birthed it and I’ve magically produced food to keep him alive…..from my boobies! So I can do anything!’ syndrome. You’ve heard of this right? I was working a part time job, doing a full time degree and working full time running a business. I wonder how I survived it on 4 hours sleep for 3 years. I shit you not. By the time he was due to start nursery, I really thought about home - schooling. I knew it would be better for my son. But I also knew I couldn’t afford it, I was a single parent scarping by. Moreover, I knew my mental health couldn’t handle it. So school it was.

Let me tell you something now, and if you're a parent you might know this already. Children are really really clever. And. Children, your darling little children are great performers. All of them. I know this from parenting my own child who was so perfectly well behaved for his childminder with "such wonderful manners" only to magically transform into some ill-rared demon when I got him home. I know this from over 10 years of teaching experience where I saw 4 year old kids cling to their mothers teary and screaming that they didn't want to come into the class room only to forget those worried mothers ever existed 10 minutes into the lesson. I know this from teenagers whose butter wouldn't melt in front of their parents morph into hair flicking,eye rolling divas in front of their piers and barf a mouthful expletives when those parents turn their backs. I know this from the shy little 12 year old boys I've taught who can barely get a word out of their mouths mature into confident, hip swaying 'lad's' when their fathers leave the room. Your children are different people when you are around.

I know this from both sides of the experience, the parent, the teacher and if I'm being totally honest, the child. I remember rolling my skirt up as soon as I walked out of the house on my way to school. I still clean my house before my mother visits so she doesn't know her daughter is a slob. I am a woman in my thirties and my father still doesn't know I smoke. Trust me when I tell you that your children are different people when you're not around.

Now that we’ve resolved that, let's take a moment to consider your transition from parent to teacher. Even if like me, you ARE a teacher, you are not your child's teacher. This is a different ball game. And if you think for a second that you're going to be able to shift from loving lunch making mother in the kitchen to a nurturing and disciplined teacher in the same room by taking off your apron and deciding so then my dear friend, you are wrong. Please do yourself a favour and let that idea go.

Let. It. Go. Let it go like a balloon and watch it float away. Then take a look around. This is not school. It is however a learning environment. Any environment is a learning environment. Learning is not the same thing as standardised education. When I took my degree, I was very interested in different learning styles, and environments in different cultures and countries. I did a lot of research into home-schooling and the different methods and approaches that are taken. Until then, I’d always imagined home-schooling to be exactly what we are all trying to do now. A classroom at home. A syllabus, a blackboard ( remember those?!) a well organised book shelf… etc …etc…I imagined the Victorian house with rich kids being tutored by woman lucky enough to receive an education. That is not what home-schooling is. I am lucky enough to own a private arts school. I teach children from mainstream schools, private schools and home educated children all in the same classes. I have found that the home schooled children communicate better, they are more forthcoming with creative ideas and opinions and are less afraid to be ‘wrong’ or ‘make mistakes’. They inspire the others. These children (and young adults) have not spent their lives in a room, at a desk, with a tutor, locked indoors for hours not socialising with friends. These children HAVE BEEN OUTSIDE. They have explored the world, they have freedom to choose what to learn, and more over, when to learn it. Homes – schooling is not the same thing as providing a state education at home. Home –schooling is about freedom, exploration and choice. I won’t get into all they different methods of education and learning, or they psychology and practices around them because I’d end up writing a thesis, but I really need you to know, parent to parent, teacher to parent, teacher to teacher, that these are completely different things and I want you to let that balloon go. Let all the stress go, let all the pressure go. You aren’t failing at homes schooling. You’re trying to do something that hasn’t been done before. If your able to do it – great, good for you – genuinely hope you and kids are happy and I admire you. But if you’re not, then please, please take my failure and inability as your permission to let go. I own a school of 150 kids, I teach all age groups across 7 subjects. I train and employ my teachers. I wrote and implemented 8 different curricula. I’m a really, really great mum….but I CAN NOT get my 7 year old son to do 5 hour school days in my kitchen without wanting to defenestrate one of us. And you know what? That’s ok.

If I were to pick buzz words around Covid 19 here’s what they would be:

1) Confinement

2) Restrictions

3) Isolation

4) Fear

5) Limits

6) Resting

7) Refuge

8) Gratitude

9) Loneliness

10) Slow

None of these words strike me as being conducive to learning. I’m a big one for linguistic programming, particularly within pedagogical practice (I really do have a degree in education) and I’ve selected more positive words and phrases and used them in my ‘schooling time’ with my son. They haven’t helped either of us. I’ve tried a wide variety of creative tactics, I’ve even tried some negative ones, like lying. For example, I told him his teacher was doing house visits to check their work books were done. I told him he’d have to repeat P3 again if he didn’t finish all of the set work. I even told him that his teacher was watching him through the laptop camera when he was doing his work. ( He actually believed that). Obviously none of that worked. Kids generally don’t respond well to that kind of negative persuasion, unless they are genuinely terrified, and I really should have known better. It just kept him awake at night worrying about if he was going be in the same class as friends next year. Of course I came clean and I felt awful.

So I just let it all go. And now, I teach my classes on line in the morning, I let him play Nintendo, watch tv all dayi f he wants to. Occasionally he’ll ask to do one of his workbooks, we read together, and we make things (when I can be bothered) and then I tutor non English speakers at night on line. These things I can do. These things are not home-schooling. None of this is home-schooling. It doesn’t make me a bad teacher and it certainly doesn’t make me a bad parent. I’m enough. Whilst I know I’m going to miss my little boyo when school starts up again, I’m looking forward to letting him go. I’m sure you are too, but for now, enjoy precious moments of rest and connection and let your kids learn what life is about – love. Let it go guys, breathe.

Nadine Hegarty
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Nadine Hegarty
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