It was the final day of term for most schools in Wales today. And what a term it’s been. Whoever would have thought when our children entered their classrooms back in September 2019 that the academic year would end as it did?
Even when the children started back after February half term, following a month of severe storms and flooding, who would have predicted that not only would we not make it to Easter, but that the final three weeks of the year would have consisted of the odd day in the classroom with just a handful of their classmates, goodbye emails from teachers, and virtual leavers assemblies?
It has been tough supporting our children with their schooling at home during the pandemic, that’s for sure.
But I know I’m not the only one who woke this morning with a sense that a huge load had been lifted. With school work out of the equation for the next six weeks, things feel slightly more manageable after a stressful, worrying and demanding few months.
Usually at this time of year many parents are stressing about juggling work, childcare and not having enough annual leave to cover the summer holidays. Or they’re wondering how on earth to entertain their children for the duration. Of course those issues are still there. But with school work now out of the equation, everything seems somehow more manageable for a lot of us this year. As one friend said to me, “My husband and I have both worked full-time, taught our two primary school aged children and for a big chunk of that we could hardly leave the house. Working at home with no schoolwork, not having to stress about childcare, and with travel restrictions lifted, will be a breeze in comparison.”
I know there are parents who have taken to schooling at home during the pandemic really well, and fair play to them. For the majority of us, it’s been hard. That’s not to say we haven’t appreciated the extra family time. But it’s been stressful. There have been tantrums and tears. And not just from the kids. It’s changed family dynamics as we went from parent to teacher mode, trying to get our children to complete tasks set remotely by their teachers. Despite the incredible efforts from schools who had to completely transform their whole way of teaching, often we parents had to figure out the work ourselves before we could support our kids English-only speaking parents with children in Welsh-medium education had to work out how to do that in another language. Spaces usually used for family meals or playing became make-shift classrooms. It affected work, as we put kids in front of the telly so we could do that important Zoom meeting or apologised to important people when a child ran in mid-virtual meeting. Or we got up at 6am to get three hours of work in before ‘school’ started for the day.
But let’s not dwell too much on all of that. You don’t need me to remind you, that’s for sure.
Let’s celebrate that we did it.
Even when we thought we couldn’t, we did it. Even when we hated it, we did it. Even when our children shouted at us that they’d had enough and that they couldn’t possibly do this piece of work because they had the wrong kind of paper, or their pen itched their fingers (or is that just my house?!), we still did it. Even when we didn’t understand the new teaching method that differed so much to what we had been taught in school., we did it Even when we hid in the kitchen crying and scoffing chocolate, we did it.
We did it.
And we should be really proud.
We might joke that our teaching efforts have caused our children to regress… but actually, look at what they have learned from watching us.
They have seen us trying to work our way through things, even though we find it hard and stressful. They have seen us taking a breath and trying again when it goes wrong. They have learned a lot about resilience, patience, multi-tasking and prioritising. They have learned that their parents don’t know how to do everything, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give it a shot. They have learned that sometimes the best solution is to take a break and chill when it gets too much and to come back to it another time, and a host of other life lessons that are just as important as everything they learn in the classroom.
As things currently stand in Wales, our children will all be back in the classroom from September.
Who knows if the predicted second peak will materialise, and if those makeshift classrooms and home offices will come back into operation again.
I can’t think that far ahead though. Right now, I’m taking a moment to feel proud that I did it. We are going to enjoy the summer as best we can. It might not be the summer we had planned at the start of the year. But with restrictions beginning to lift, I’m feeling so appreciative of being able to go a little further than we could, catching up with people we haven’t seen for a while, supporting attractions and businesses that are slowly reopening.
And, best of all. No. School. Work.