As I write this, we are approaching week six of lockdown. Or thereabouts. I lose track of the day of the week, let alone what day of lockdown, or week of lockdown this might be. It’s about six weeks, as Boris is due to announce a timetable of gradual restriction lifting on Thursday.
I consider ourselves to be incredibly lucky to be on the farm during this time. We have acres of freedom for the children to run and play. I have a greenhouse and an already established veg patch to spend time on (and thankfully lots of seeds from Christmas presents and a well timed trip to the garden centre before lockdown!). I have my sketchbooks and art materials, we have Ruby, Rocket, the goats, pigs, calves and dairy herd to entertain and occupy us. The boys have Minecraft, Oscar has time with Mark to play at being farmer. We also have the benefit of a fantastic school providing continuation of the curriculum remotely.
The problem we face, as I am sure many others face, is the lack of social contact from other children for the boys, and the fact they are now expected to do school work at home, a place they rightly associate with relaxation and play.
On one hand, I am so impressed with the school for pulling together the tools and systems needed to deliver lessons remotely, and the effort they are going to to keep the children engaged in their education, and feel as part of the school community as they can.
On the other hand, trying to facilitate education for three different year groups, multiple devices, videos, applications, books, projects, etc., is massively challenging, and at times totally overwhelming. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for parents who are also trying to work full time at home, as well as juggling home school. The fact that the yurts are closed is just as well, otherwise I think I may have spontaneously combusted by now!
So, the need to keep the children happy and secure is at the forefront of our minds at the moment. Here are my thoughts on how we are getting through this in one piece...
School at home gives a structure to the day. We follow our eldest son’s timetable, which pretty much consists of English, Maths, Science or a Humanity, from 8:30am to 12:30pm. Then lunch, and creative curriculum / PE / reading time in the afternoon. This is to allow flexibility in the day. We basically aim to get the academic stuff done in the morning, with free time in the afternoon which will include some fresh air and exercise, and some creative activities as and when we feel like it.
Our middle child so far has been able to fit his work into this period too, with daily literacy and maths videos and activities to do.
Our youngest started well, but has been the most upset by ‘school at home’ and is often unwilling to sit and work, plus it is almost impossible to manage all three, so often he will go out with Mark (which he loves!) or we do a few bits before the boys start at 8:30am, or over lunch / in the afternoon. Being only 4, it is quite quick and easy to do his activities, and much can be done with play, or in practical situations (counting calves, taking away fencing stakes etc.). I think as long as he is doing some basic reading, writing, numeracy, and creative things, his happiness is just as important.
This routine means being dressed and ready to start the day at 8am. I think this has been important to keep some routine and discipline for when things do get back to normal and they have to go back to the school environment. It also keeps us busy, hopefully it is going some way to keeping up with school work, and as an added bonus, gives us a weekend that feels like a weekend, and not another Groundhog Day at home!
Something we have every day, walking Ruby, checking on the goats and pigs, freezing to death in the paddling pool, jumping in the trampoline. The concrete yard out at the yurts, has also been a favourite spot for some football and cycling.
A new activity we have started doing regularly, is heading out with Ruby while Mark puts a new fence out for the cows! The younger two love going on the quad, and we get a nice walk around the farm, adding up my active minute count on my Apple Watch as a bonus!
We’ve also had more time and motivation to explore parts of the farm we haven’t before! We have the most beautiful little wooded area, absolutely full of bluebells, off the beaten track and not too far a walk from the farm.
We had a lovely walk there last weekend, taking coffee for the grown ups and a little twig stove to toast marshmallows for the boys. We will definitely be spending more time there over the summer, maybe even a little wild camping...
A weird one this, and something we keep wrangling with! The boys have hit a fair bit of increased screen time with their online classes and videos, and are also playing a fair bit more Minecraft than they would when at school! The first is unavoidable, and we try to balance it with plenty of fresh air and would prefer less Minecraft time... however, the dilemma with Minecraft is that the boys love it, they actually get a bit of socialising playing on the servers with their online friends, and it gives Mark and I a bit of much needed peace! I think we have kind of come to the conclusion that while we are in lockdown, we will just not worry too much about “screen time”. It forms a big part of the older two’s downtime and relaxation. They get some space from us too. They are not ensconced in their bedrooms alone, rather they play together on their laptops in the study, which is accessible by Mark and I for us to check in and chat to them, check their online safety etc.
The only thing we are looking to do is cut down on screens before bed time. At least half an hour before bed of no gaming or you tubing! Our eldest struggles with anxiety, and bed time is often a trigger point. I am hoping that by reducing screens before bed, this allows him to be in the present and actually think about his day, have time to discuss any concerns etc., with us, before going to bed. Fingers crossed.
We await Thursday’s update from number 10, with some hope that the children may be able to return to school on the 1st June, after half term. I hope it will be a normal introduction back, and not part time, or full of complicated restrictions and rules... although any contact with their friends and school work at school, would be preferable to the current situation.