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Homeschooling: Navigating the New Normal

Children's Author Natalie Billing-Reeves talks about the challenges and rewards of homeschooling her own children in the midst of the global COVID-19 crisis.

When the world changed, I clung to it, scared to let go. Worried, I may never see it again if I succumbed to this new, surreal experience. As the weeks passed by, my fingers tired of holding on. I started giving up tiny pieces of my old life, and it's routine, as the old world moved further away.

In this complicated potion of uncertainty and denial, it is much easier to accept change when not comparing it to what passed before. There is no resentment when the comparisons are dropped. Comparisons are futile. This looks nothing like anything we've ever seen. It's time to create a new normal.

Homeschooling is now a significant feature of this special place. Hundreds of years of schooling tradition condensed into hastily made digital databases. Rolled out by anxious parents like me, who haven't seen sight nor sound of a factor or a fraction in over ten years.

Piles of workbooks, print outs, online lessons (some with celebrities) The choices are mind-boggling. Yet, it still all feels terribly arbitrary. It's easy to feel like a failure when you and you alone, hold your child's future in your hands. When we are led to believe that our choices right here, right now, may well be the difference between success and failure for our most cherished ones.  

Nothing about this process came easily. I realised this is not solely about my child's learning, but perhaps more importantly, about my own. I need to find that patience, that time, that consistency, that I always talked of finding. But now there is no time but the present.

The challenge is to do all the above while also being inspirational, encouraging, helpful, and motivating. I need to put my own worry and disappointments to one side and focus on those things we read about in memes and quotes. You know, the simple things in life. And yes, they may be free, but they are far from easy. To find them again, I must chip away at over a decade's worth of superfluous layers. Things that were once hugely important, and yet now have no place. Once this descaling is complete, homeschooling can find its own way. Unforced and organic.

Education changes shape then. It happens when the time is right, when the tears stop, when the games are played. When you're rested, when it's fun, when it flows. It takes place on the lawn, in the kitchen, and in the trees. It's when we're shoulder-deep in mud,  under a kiloton of teddy bears. Education is now about life and how to live it to the fullest. How to forget the uncertainty and focus on real-life stuff. The beating heart. The life, the laughter, the Love.

Be kind to yourself and stay safe, people. We're doing an excellent job.

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