I first heard of the latest coronavirus in late December: it was far away in China then. Since named Covid 19, it is now the subject of 90% of all conversations, and traditional and social media outlets.
I decided to keep an online journal, so that I can look back on this ‘unprecedented’ time in a few years. If the zombie apocalypse hasn’t hit by then, of course. I cannot promise to make it interesting, but it will be honest.
The govt shut down schools (except for children who are at risk, disabled, or have parents who are key workers) on Friday 20 March. So for most parents in the UK, the 20th was the last normal day is what could be a long time.
Dropping my daughter Bethany off at school that morning, it all felt so normal. Only one child was crying, and everyone else seemed pretty calm.
I went into work that day, (I work in a college), also for the last time in a while, and besides it being very busy, it also felt normal. Although there was an odd feeling in the air, a sense of being on the edge of an invisible cliff.
That Friday night, I started thinking about how the following week would look for us as a family. Although we don’t have to homeschool, sitting the kids in front of the TV for 8 hours a day seems a little lax, so I made a list, and blogged about it, of things to do with kids when at home. We have already done some of those things, so it wasn’t a waste of time.
It turns out that I didn’t really need to plan home schooling, as my kids’ schools both send work through online every morning. It only takes a couple of hours to complete, but combined with home learning stuff, I reckon that’s plenty. I had ordered text books for Maths and English online for both Connor and Bethany the previous week, so they do a little of that most days too. Also, Bethany has chosen to do a self-directed project on amphibians, salamanders specifically. So we have some books, and I have found online resources about that too.
Anyway, we have a rough plan every day, that gets written up on Bethany’s blackboard; of registration, English, break, PE, maths, lunch, playing/ garden/project/ art or baking. We don’t always follow the plan, and sometimes leave out PE (although we do go for a long walk/ scoot every day, which is PE I guess.)
Sometimes we video call friends or family. I am aware how difficult this is going to be for younger kids, who can’t just text or Watsapp their friends like my son does. I think that when life goes back to normal one day, many of us will have forgotten how to do small talk. Hopefully, it won’t make us all even more self obsessed too. It doesn’t look that way, if the NHS volunteers and kindness that I see on social media is anything to go by.
Anyway, thankfully my kids have a good attitude to learning, and just get on with it every morning, without having to be asked. I do keep checking in, but it’s proving to be much easier than expected so far.
I have some work to do too; as well as never ending housework and keeping in touch with some elderly and vulnerable people that I am looking out for. I am also focussing on my mental health, by walking, exercising at home, getting into to the garden when it’s sunny, reading books, and art.
To be honest, at the moment it feels more like a strange holiday than anything that is particularly dangerous. That said, we are all following government advice, not doing any food shopping except when necessary, and only going out once per day. Plus the ubiquitous hand-washing.
I went for a long walk today, and it was so quiet. The sun was shining and the birds sounded very pleased with themselves. I expect that the levels of air pollution have dropped so quickly, that this year nature is going to amaze us. It’s good that the plants and animals are going to get a much-needed respite from some of the human destruction. It’s like the Earth is telling us to slow down.
Most people are being more sociable now that they are less busy and not seeing nearly as many people. Dog walkers are generally the friendliest (and I already recognise a few of them from my regular walks and chats about their pets: I love dogs); but young and older people are saying hello as we walk past each other, much more than usual. Connor has asked a couple of times whether I know this or that person, but no, I don’t know most of them. We do always keep 2 metres away, I hasten to add, before anyone criticises me.
It is sad to see the playgrounds taped off with warning signs, but we wouldn’t be using them now anyway. It’s just sad.
I didn’t know that I could ramble so much…
Monday: speech marks, maths with Connor, #DrawwithRob
Tuesday: Joe Wicks PE, baking cookies and nerf fight.
Wednesday: signs of spring and spring craft, also clothes in the apple tree.
Thursday: scoot in the Park, NHS rainbow drawings in window, clap for the NHS at 8pm with people around the UK.
Friday: set up the piano, minibeast count in garden, sing to Nanny.
Saturday: guinea-pigs play in their new run in the garden. Blisters from too much walking. Monopoly.
Sunday (today): write to Grandma and friend, online church x 2, chilling.
I saw some friends while out today: we had a nice shouted conversation to each other from across the road. They have a dog. I wish I had a dog now, more than ever. The guinea-pigs are lovely, but it’s not the same.
Boris went down with a mild form of covid 19 this week. It’s no surprise, but it does show that nobody is immune. The deputy chief medical officer today announced that we might be in lockdown for the next 6 months! The mind boggles. It’s so hard to imagine living life this for half a year. But it doesn’t scare me. It’s just so surreal. My husband Mike says that this is probably all a dream of his. I don’t believe so. If it is he had better wake up quickly.
Have you noticed that when you watch TV or read a book, when they talk about hugging or going out for a meal, you tsk at them and feel morally superior? Maybe it’s just me. It’s quite incredible how quickly our minds can adjust to massive changes. Makes you wonder what other social rules we have grown up with and therefore see as normal, that other cultures would find offensive.
I am tired of thinking now. Goodnight.
Everyone is understandably feeling anxious right now. This is a world pandemic. Many people are ill and have died. Many more fall ill and die. It’s a scary time.
With all schools closing in the UK from next Monday, I have been thinking about how best to cope with kids at home, for what could be months.
I am going to try to be organised, and do a mix of activities each day. We’ll see how that goes. By week three, it’ll probably be pjs and popcorn in front of the TV most days. 😐
So, here are some suggestions for myself, and anyone else who may be interested.
Talk to your children about the coronavirus, they will be worried too. It’s better to chat about what is happening (age appropriate) rather than pretend that everything is ok. They will already know that something is wrong if they go to school and/or you watch the news.
Be honest that sometimes people will get on each other’s nerves. But agree we will all try to be kind and work on our patience too.
Most kids and adults will benefit from some structure in their day. I plan to make sure that we are all out of bed and dressed by a sensible time. Doing a mix of different learning, creativity and getting outside, as well as meals and chilling time of course, will probably work well. A few pj and movie days will be ok though, too.
Use school’s resources
Most schools will be sending paper and online resources home with students. Make sure that you make as much use of them as you can. Teachers have worked hard to put them together. If there is an online forum where kids can communicate with their teacher and school friends, even better.
Until we are banned from stepping outside the door, or public parks close (let’s hope that it doesn’t get to that, but it might), make time to go for a walk, scoot or cycle, every day with your kids. Without exercise and fresh air, most people are going to struggle with their physical and mental health, grown-ups included.
There are also exercises that you can do inside, such as pilates, yoga and stretching. There will be loads of ideas online. I found this one which looks good, from the NHS:
Kick the kids out into the garden. If they are old enough, there are many free or cheap tasks that they could get on with unsupervised, if you need to work from home, like:
Make a bug hotel.
Dig a patch of soil and count the number of mini beasts.
List all of the plants, and research their names if you don’t know.
Chalk drawing on paving stones.
Piles of pebbles, Makka Pakka style.
Feed the birds and see who visits.
Draw a plant or item in the garden.
Write a poem about what you can see, hear and smell while sitting outside.
Have a picnic.
Get small pots or a section of the garden for the kids, and plant flowers, fruit and vegetables, and record what does or doesn’t grow.
On rainy days, do puddle jumping, and older children can measure the circumference and diameter of puddles and pebbles.
Measure and record the temperature and rainfall every day.
The RHS website has some great ideas.
Short stories; comics; letters to grandparents and friends; a diary (this is a pretty odd time: it will be fascinating to read back on it years later); facts about their favourite animal. All writing is good.
You don’t need to be too worried about grammar and neat handwriting, unless that’s your thing. More important is encouraging children to write and have fun with it. They could tell you about their favourite book, amd them write their own short version, with their friends’ and family’s names and a major change in it. Such as write Little Red Riding Hood from the wolf’s point of view, or where Cinderella accidently gets lost in the forest and meets the wolf too.
Or they could write a mystery story, where their most precious toy gets stolen, and they are the detective.
They could write their favourite jokes, or make up a recipe for the best dessert ever.
If you have two or more kids, they could write and act out a short play. Base it on well loved film or book, if they can’t think of any ideas.
Ask your kids what they would like to learn more about, get them to do some research and write an essay, story or newspaper article about it. Ideas include frogs, the Amazon rainforest, Disney films, castles, anything that your child finds interesting.
British Library has some good writing ideas, such as writing an animal story or making a miniature book.
Read with children and encourage them to read every day. It doesn’t have to be fine literature: comic books; books that you think are ‘too young’ or ‘too old’ for them; newspapers and magazines all count. If you can’t do anything else, you can read with your kids before bed every night at the very least.
Have a look at #freebookresources on Twitter.
You might not consider yourself to be an artist, but most kids will happily draw, paint or do craft if encouraged to. It doesn’t have to be with expensive supplies either. Use what you have in the house.
– Make a tall tower with only loo roll tubes and sellotape.
– Draw a bunch of fruit, portrait of your brother or your pet.
– Make a comic strip about your friends and family.
– Make cards for friends, to post.
– Scrapbook some photos.
– Let older children take photos on your or their phone or device, and look at them together, discussing which ones were best and why. Is it the subject, light, composition?
– Learn a new skill from Youtube videos.
– Follow artists and illustrators on Twitter, who have regular drawing challenges and art lessons.
#DrawWithRob and #portraitchallenge on Twitter
There are some free paper craft ideas and downloads on this blog:
Maths can be brought into activities such as baking- get your child to measure and weigh ingredients; set up a pretend shop where your child needs to count and give you the correct change; learn fractions with cakes or pizzas.
Let kids research a subject that interests them. They could do a project, with many activities based around a theme. For example, my daughter has been learning about Poland at school. She could draw maps; learn some of the language; make a traditional meal from the country; write a story set in Poland; look for non-fiction books in the library (while they are still open.)
I have found some sites that cover science, maths, quizzes, educational games etc. The BBC has many good resources on their website.
The Beano is always fun, and has some educational stuff.
Let’s be honest, we are all going to go a little mad over the next few months. Try to get everyone to have a little space most days, even if everyone is home. One could go into the garden, one to read in their room, someone else has a soak in the bath. Anything to reduce the stress levels.
Hope that this helps a little, and good luck! 🙂