Anoshi Saretzki, Johannesburg: Pandemic-mode schoolwork and sanity
One does not simply give a seven-year-old schoolwork, leave them to their own devices and expect them to complete it willingly.
At first, let’s face it, we were all taking in the news of the coronavirus, “shame, those poor people”. I mean, the outbreak was something happening in over there in China, right? We could continue our lives over here in blissful ignorance.
Until patient zero. Then it deteriorated quickly and reality sort of hit us like a tsunami. All of a sudden we were in lockdown and being bombarded with local news of death, exponential curves, terrifying peaks and conspiracy theories.
South Africans, myself included, are not the best at change and it took a while to fully absorb the information we were given and accept the situation for what it was. But sure enough, in true South African style, we began adapting to a new life, half comforted by the strength we felt in our president’s leadership and half raging against the liquor ban.
Home schooling: Pandemic outside and pandemonium inside
In my home it was pure chaos. My daughter is seven years old and in Grade 2. And two parents couldn’t come to grips with one child’s school curriculum! It was a pandemic outside and pandemonium inside.
At first, the teaching method from the school was very hands-off. They supplied us with the content we needed to cover for the week and then left us to it. So, in turn, we passed it on to our daughter and expected her to sit down quietly and complete her given tasks with only a little input from ourselves, while we got on with our full-time jobs. After all, that’s more or less how we tackled homework, pre-lockdown. How naive we were.
Trial by blazing fire: All the tears and tantrums
One does not simply give a seven-year-old schoolwork, leave them to their own devices and expect them to complete it willingly. There were tears and tantrums all day long and how I loathed Police Minister Bheki Cele then for robbing me of my right to self-medicate with wine, and the school for not teaching us how to teach.
I was completely exhausted every day, even though I hadn’t done anything strenuous. It was just that my grade 2 curriculum back in the day did not adequately prepare me for the Grade 2 syllabus of 2020. Needless to say, the first week and a half was trial by blazing fire.
Thank goodness for the Easter holidays. We continued with schoolwork, but at a much slower pace and it seemed to go a bit easier with copious amounts of chocolate as a salve. But once school started up again, so did the workload and so did the tears and tantrums.
We needed to call the teacher at one point to calm our crying child down. Teachers always outrank parents when it comes to schoolwork.
Helpful lessons learnt the hard way
So naturally, through all this, we learnt a few lessons the hard way, and we continue to learn as we go along:
- Try to stay in the routine. Some days I have back-to-back Skype calls and it’s impossible to check in or help explain something. So she will stand with book and pencil in hand at my side, waiting. Oh the guilt! But you’re doing the best you can, okay? Just get back into the routine as soon as is possible.
- Don’t surprise them with the day’s work as you go along. Explain upfront what work is expected for the day and stick to the plan. Don’t add even one alphabet more of work or the Earth will crack down the middle and split in half.
- Start off each piece of work as the teacher would. By explaining the concepts being covered and doing a few examples to build confidence. Besides, the more you sound like the teacher, the more street cred you earn in your kids’ eyes.
- Be their biggest cheerleader. It’s all upside down right now and even more frustrating for the little people. Always look up from your laptop and make eye contact when giving praise and encouragement though, they lock and load when it’s not sincere and you will hear about it later.
- We asked the teacher to also step up and provide guidance for the schoolwork that needed to be done and soon received very helpful videos and pictures with explanations and examples for the kids on how to complete each exercise.
- Instead of a weekly schoolwork plan, we now receive daily ones, with far more support. This means parents and kids are less stressed and tackle the work in bite-sized chunks.
- By a stroke of luck we happened to have an old laptop in the house. So she has her own place to store files and is able to access it in her own time.
Feelings first, then schoolwork
We give round-the-clock love and cuddles to our baby girl, but let me honestly say, it’s still far from perfect.
Some days we’re just too busy and the routine gets tossed out the window. Some days she’s very emotional or frustrated and we still need to guide her through what becomes a minefield of work. Some days she can’t concentrate for very long and has to take so many breaks, she’s literally dragging herself to the finish line in the evening. We tackle feelings first and schoolwork second now.
As for my sanity, at 7pm every evening my neighbourhood comes alive with the sound of vuvuzelas. And it’s almost better than wine in helping to pull me back into the present moment and remind me that we’re working in pandemic mode and doing the best we can.
Hang in there!