I wrote this a number of weeks ago now. From a child’s perspective very little has changed, they still simply want to go to the playground, that is still closed. Most of my ramblings are just that, but in contrast the blog post link at the top is worth reading.
So I came across this blog post recently: Time is precious
I found it a very interesting read. When applying for primary germ factory places for our eldest we did consider the option of home schooling. Very briefly. Thankfully we got in to our first choice, faith school, and the much needed social skill practice has been really beneficial to him. Sure there have been some tricky points, but he’s also joined in with a nativity production, volunteered to speak in front of the whole school in an assembly and started to actually talk to classmates on the pavement approaching the school. You might think of all that as “so what?” but for us it’s a big deal. Abruptly stopping that I do wonder how much progress will be lost and need to be regained. But if we’ve worked up to it once, we can do it again!
But I think the reason that the primary germ factory has worked for him so well is the routine of the school day. He knows what to expect and when it will happen in a weekly pattern. It means that we’ve needed to put a routine and structure into how we’re approaching home schooling and isolation at home. And based on the blog post above, ideally aiming for about an hour and a half of “learning”.
In a time of grief and a world that looks nothing like anyone could have imagined not that long ago, a routine seems more important than ever right now.
So what’s our routine look like?
We’ve agreed that by 8:30am everyone should be up, dressed and ready to start the day. This might seem crazy early to you, but Kamikaze gets us up before Mr Sunshine, who gets up at 6:30am. So it’s actually a relatively relaxed pace to achieve that one. The older two have learnt to make their bed, put toothpaste on a toothbrush, and know how to get their own breakfast.
We then start our day with a family Bible reading time. Our Church has a “read the New Testament in a year” plan, that we’re working through, but somewhat slower than everyone else. As in, we’re still in Mark’s Gospel, where everyone else started in January 😉 And then we’ve introduced a worship time. Now is probably the time to dispel you of any perfection images in you may have of this scenario. Reality involves a child trying to sit on your head whilst you read, arguments over who plays which instrument and/or arguments over which set of sticks belong to which drum, glockenspiel etc. But you know what, the word of God does not return void, so we will keep reading it aloud, and we’re told to praise with joy and with loud cymbals, not in tune or quietly. And actually, it’s helping get a bit of energy out dancing around and also a time to pray (even if that’s just me asking to get through the day…). Lately we’ve also had a major breakthrough of being allowed to press shuffle on our days playlist. Oh the possibilities we now have…
About 9am we move on to phonics. I guess this is the first chunk of the day that is considered “formal learning”. We’re using the material used by the primary germ factory and are spending about 30 minutes working through different very short videos and interactive online activities. You can dispute whether this is 30 minutes for each child or split between the older two because we’re taking it in turns on different levels. Though given we’re in the EYFS years, the taking it in turns may actually be the more critical part of the lesson…
From there I’ve tried to do a guided activity that all three small people can engage with. This is actually pretty hard to come up with. All of them are very bright, but even so, there’s no way a two year old can do the same things as a five year old! Most of our time seems to be spent rotating through playdoh, chalk on the patio, painting and duplo and/or lego. Lego is an incredible maths tool and we’ve built so many different things over recent weeks. It’s here where things get rather grey though. Is this time learning, or play? Under the EYFS I’d argue it is both, from the practicing fine motor skills whilst drawing pictures, to problem solving whilst building a particular object, to the imagination and knowledge of the world around them needed to think through and then draw out a zoo on the patio. So that’s another 60 minutes done. Already, in part due to their age, we’ve done our hour and a half for the day, but not actually reached midday…
But with a child that wants defined structure, about 11am or so we move on to what we have called choosing time. This could otherwise be called leave Mummy alone time. Obviously that doesn’t really happen most days. But this is where I think they possibly have much more to learn and is actually way more valuable than anything in the official learning times. This is the point when the dishwasher gets emptied, the washing rounded up, an attempt is made to clean, well, something, anything. Five people living in the house full time does not for a clean house make! They’re not forced to join in (though strongly coerced into tidying up their part of the mess…) but for the most part will help with some part. Some days it’s also when they sneak off to join Daddy in the office and listen in on video calls about mathematical modelling, and research discussions. Note, this is not a time when Mummy often sits down…
Between the eldests need for routine and Kamikaze’s need for lunch (yes, she has basically eaten all morning prior to that point too), that’s been given a defined time on our whiteboard list too. It’s not driving Mummy crazy at all. Nor is the need to define what is for lunch in three days time.
Post lunch we’ve also got into a routine around television. Some days the husband is about and some days he has to head straight back to the office. Whilst some people are out of work or not able to work from home, he is not one of them, he has more work than normal and seems to constantly be in video calls, so no idea when he’s actually doing any work. So Kamikaze goes (more unwillingly at the start but increasing already half asleep from trying to keep up all morning) upstairs for a nap and the older two have alphablocks or numberblocks on. We have had to agree specific days for each to not end up with it being all out war each day as to which it is. Is this another half hour of learning or not? That grey question keeps popping up. Why do teaching staff not cover the lunch time at primary germ factories? Quite simply because they a) need a rest by this point in the day and b) need to get ready for the second half. This, again, is not a time when I sit down, but when I clear up from lunch and get the bits together for the afternoon’s formal learning time.
And it’s possibly this next chunk of the day I’m finding the hardest, even though I only have two of the small people. They both have activities suggested by the primary germ factory and reading books and handwriting practice. So despite being four and five they need to get on with a task pretty much independently whilst I listen to the other read. You may be surprised at just how much input is requested of you whilst they are practicing handwriting. Certainly I thought it was something you could set them off on and leave them to it? Or the eldest is given a sentence to write each day, and our (agreed with the germ factory) way of extending this is to write another four sentences about what happens next. Maybe it is just the child that needs to discuss everything as a means of processing, but it certainly makes things tricky. But I also very simply find it hard to stay awake. Because they are little bookworms, reading one book each is something they don’t want to do, it’s two… or three… or until I stop them. And I find myself nodding off whilst they read. Fuddle’s Keeper is able to de-code words pretty well now and so will work through a page at her own rate. It means I am there just to listen really. For a good half an hour. Think we’re now up to well over two hours of “learning”.
Hopefully all of this is completed before Kamikaze surfaces from her nap because otherwise things rapidly go downhill…
And then we have another two hours or so until television time. I’m still trying to stick to everything tidied up before that gets switched on at 5pm. But two hours is a long time when you’ve already done painting, playdoh, glue, Duplo and jigsaws day in day out for several weeks. There’s bike riding or a short walk (Kamikaze’s stamina is now up to about an hour or so before she’s flagging), and at the moment the paddling pool is out. All of this involves a lot of energy and supervision with small children though, and by this point in the day everyone is tired. Being at home rather than the germ factory means they’ve ploughed through the “home stuff” well before the time they would normally be home from the germ factory. So it’s this point that the arguments really start up. If you understand that you don’t need me to further explain. If you don’t, nothing I can say will make any difference.
By the time the husband wanders in from the office the house is usually straight (ish) and tea will be in the oven. I will have reached a vacant robot state and the day is still not done. The reality is that learning has gone from the time they got up until they crashed out (which is not the same as being put into bed…). If it was only 90 minutes needed each day I might not be quite so tired right now.