Hang in there!
by Mrs Mummy/Teacher/Learner on April 14
When Boris announced the immediate closure of schools on 20th March, apart from feeling like I was in a remake of Independence Day, I felt overwhelmed for the parenting nation out there. One might think I’d be feeling well-qualified as a longstanding member of the teaching profession, but my thoughts were with every parent who would now be expected to start their teaching journey, completely out of the blue. Personally, I thought I’d be able to jump back on the bike and pick up where I left the classroom in 2017. Two weeks into this crazy ride, I’m starting to need stabilisers again.
By the end of day one in our house it looked like we were already running out of picture books, and I couldn’t face another day of reading how Gran saved the day. But a deep search turned up one of the greatest series of stories EVER: my Mr Men collection saved from my own childhood circa 1983. Despite paw print stains and dried ketchup splattered across the pages, most of these books seemed readable and all my prayers of home-schooling answered. Ideas were buzzing around my head of where these books could take us from maths to role-play to comprehension. We had a treasure chest of ideas to look forward to – or so I thought. Then a little hand tapped me on the arm and a small voice whimpered ‘Mummy can I choose the stories we read if I’m at home now?’. And so, I learned that this new normal wasn’t going to be about me trying to adopt home – schooling. Instead it needed to be about learning alongside the children, combining home and school into home-learning.
I decided if I couldn’t use my Mr Men collection as a learning resource, then at least the characters could help me create some coping personas for my new Mrs Mummy/Teacher/Learner title. These guys have taught me what home learning can look like in a funky kind of way. Let me introduce you, in no particular order, to some new characters who are making a star-studded appearance in our household during school closures and COVID-19.
- Mr Organizer – likes to consistently build structure throughout the morning and enjoys knowing what is coming next. He admires Joe Wicks’ approach to learning at the start of his school day and this helps his stress levels remain low after breakfast. Mr Organizer is also partial to a yoga workout, throwing and catching in the garden and using a timer to see how many moves he can do in a minute or on the spot. He always incorporates handwriting and phonics in the morning to bring some calmness back to the table and build those important daily skills. Mr Organizer will choose very simple activities that don’t need much thought such as using your child’s spelling list to create sentences. For younger children he finds flicking through reading books can help with phonics ideas. He highly recommends Phonics Play and Letter Join if you want some online learning too.
- Mr Listener – thinks you should ask your little people what they like doing at school and use this to help do similar things at home. He believes you can go ahead and plan the Year Three curriculum, but you’ll see very quickly see how tired your child will be after ten minutes of one to one. He knows at this tricky time children have no other peers to talk to face to face, just you. To keep them going, he says you can ‘adopt’ friends around the learning table (they are furry, stuffed and called teddy bears) and you can involve them in the activities. Mr Listener enjoys talking to stuffed bears and he never thought he’d be saying such a thing three weeks ago.
- Mr Relax – when children have had enough simply take a deep breath in and say “okay”. Mr Relax never puts pressure on himself. He knows the Head Teacher will not be expecting your child to come back to school reciting Bach and quoting Einstein.
- Mr Tech – your school may have given you an array of websites and free logins to practice maths, English, spelling etc. Whilst this is fantastic, Mr Tech recommends you dip into the cyber world just a little and often. He knows there’s a reason the battery runs low and so makes sure this learning time is built-in daily but not for hours on end.
- Mr Exercise – knows that we can make the most of the luxury we still have of going outside once a day. Do it for your children with care, but also do it for your own sanity.
- Mr Patient – children will get frustrated and throw around the phrase ‘I can’t do it’. For us parents, Mr Patient is all about acknowledging compassion and guiding children through their learning. Keep reminding yourself self-isolation isn’t forever and even if you think 5 + 1 is easy, your five-year-old might just need reminding that it’s okay to think about it. If you find yourself losing the will to live over multiples of six then just remind yourself patience is a virtue and keep going. Mr Patient makes good choices. Be like Mr Patient.
You can adopt any one of these Mr Men personas and be satisfied that you’ve given your child a basis for learning. Whatever you’re doing, you are creating lasting memories – this extraordinary time will be history for our grandchildren. For once the concept of time isn’t a barrier and we need to embrace this now.
I read somewhere recently that we should all be documenting this historical time by recording our activities and special moments with families. I couldn’t agree more and we’re so grateful that Tapestry has been our main resource for doing exactly that. I’ve managed to communicate daily with my child’s teacher by posting our learning on the app. Teachers who are self-isolating are still working, they’re using this time to watch the home learning journey and provide feedback through questions and challenges. Teachers are using the Tapestry platform to retell stories and share their own learning every day. My little one has loved hearing her teacher’s voice and suggestions for learning. We couldn’t have coped through the last two weeks without his inspiration. We may not have the teacher’s physical presence but Tapestry has let us know they are listening, laughing, watching our journey but most importantly, helping us create more magical moments while we’re working in partnership from our own homes next to our favourite fluffy bear.