So we've done it. Courtesy of a thriving super-bug threatening the silver lined of our species our fam decided to make the switch to keep the kids contained. It's a 4 prong decision for us (Australia's schools remain open), namely:
(1) The recommendations to ensure children keep 1.5m apart AT school - definitely NOT gunna happen with our bunch
(2) The availability and willingness of a parent to engage our children in educational tasks from home AND provide constant daily social monitoring
(3) The size of our school (>500) and the presence of the COVID-19 illness in our suburb
(4) The presence of elderly and vulnerable in our community
It's worth a mention that we decided to hold back from sending our kids to school just this morning! But flying by the seat of my pants is just something I really don't mind to do. Bring it on! It's my hope that by writing about fumbling through this spontaneous homeschooling journey that you may be encouraged and even inspired during the lonely and exhausting months of isolation that lie ahead. We are all in this together (Yes this is a metaphor. Yes i am doing jazz hands. Yes I have washed them 5 minutes ago.). Here's a run down of 2 of our victories today & 2 strategies that I'll run with for now...
VICTORY: HOME MADE CHALK PAINT
Mixing corn flour and water into a thick milky liquid provided over an hours entertainment in the sun after lunch today. Simply mix 1/3 cup of cornflour with 2/3 cup of water into a container and paint with largish paint brushes. It goes on watery but dries very white! Fun to watch dry and even use sponges with if you want to get very messy. Washes off with a hose on the driveway. If you have any safe tarmac nearby to paint it's very effective on the dark background too! We did some experimenting with ratios - too thick won't run well, too watery and it won't dry as white. Mr 8 also loved to drip it onto the fence and even made some stalactites in the process as he focused on repeating the drips on the one place. Miss 3, Mr 6 & Mr 8 just loved it.
VICTORY: VOLUMES OF LEARNING IN JARS
So occasionally in our home we like to do a little preserving. Today, our adventures took us to our stock of jars - after a discussion of wanting to find 3 similar sized containers to store rewards in (see rewards below for explanation). To our initial disappointment every jar we found was a different size. And then it dawned on me - this is one of those learning moments you're supposed to slow down in and cherish! Thank you COVID-19 for allowing this moment. Renewed with enthusiasm we return to our dining room table armed with 6 jars and one jug.
After chatting about 'volume' and trying to order the jars in the order of size, we set about to experiment to see if our 'hypothesis' was right. First we created a table to record our findings. Then we filled the jug with exactly 400mls of water. Pouring this into each jar up to the neck of the rim we recorded both the jugs contents and the jars volume... the kids worked out this could be found by subtracting the jugs volume from 400mls! They were quite surprised with the results - as a square jar marked the second smallest by the kids ended up having the biggest total volume! Mr 8 was able to work out why: there's extra volume in the corners. Totally proud of the diagram he initiated to explain his reasoning. After this process we chose the 3 jars that were closest in volume for our rewards chart.
Documentation was a combination of copying sentences with spaces to write which jar number had the smallest volume and largest volume. Mr 8 was pushed with a question on what he found surprising and why. Miss 3 loved helping with the labelling of jars and pouring of liquids.
STRATEGY: ADOPTING OUR 'SCHOOL WIDE' REWARDS SYSTEM
So we totally and unashamedly have stolen this from the 'smile' system they have been running at our Primary School over the last year. It's good to have some things similar and let the kids 'teach' me how it's done for a change too. I need to be mindful to hand them control to help them stay excited and motivated in this hard time.
How it works: behaviours that exhibit learning / safety / responsibility are rewarded with tokens (we used marbles). It is then up to the receiving student to decide where to deposit their reward (there are 3 possible rewards up for grabs). So we had 3 jars for 3 possible rewards that we came to after a family discussion. There were a lot more ideas, but we settled on 3 through a civil process of conversation and compromise. It certainly took creativity to come up with ideas that could be done in lockdown! So our jars read: 'Servant Dinner' (the kids dress up formally, M & D play servant for a 'fancy' candle-light dinner), 'Nintendo Night' (2 hours uninterrupted of gameplay), and 'Dessert For Breakfast' (enough said). Once the marbles fill a jar, that reward is cashed in. There's already 5 marbles in the Nintendo jar at the end of day 1!
I found it useful piggybacking on an existing rewards system as the school has done all the hard work in it. Just up to me to be consistent! I've decided to be easy on myself kids can only qualify to receive marbles for these 'school' behaviours during school hours (9-3:30). During other times, they have the option of receiving their 'technology time rewards' - another reward system we have had running for a few months in our household which i'll explain in a future blog post.
STRATEGY: WATCHING OUT FOR THEIR EMOTIONAL NEEDS
Over a cup of herbal tea from our 'special homeschool tea box' we had a nice little D & M. I hope to setup morning tea in our routine as a time to chat about our expectorations, worries, hopes, and fears. Today I wanted to amp up their excitement on our newfound homeschooling adventure as well as inform our direction so I asked them to write down 2 things (1) a skill they would like to learn, and (2) a topic they would like to learn more about. We'll stick these up, and they have already informed my library book reservations tonight. We also acted on Mr 8's breakdancing suggestion during our activity time after lunch today!
It dawned on me as the day progressed that this is such a big sudden change not JUST for me, but for the kids - and for their relationships with other kids who they usually spend more of their week with than me! They definitely have some grieving to do with this change. It is worth pausing for a moment to remember that will take time and adjustment won't be easy all the time. But today to my delight Mr 6 said he wanted to send a video message to some school friends this afternoon saying 'hi'. This followed after Mr 6 had made a word search including the names of some of his friends and family and so he decided also to send a photo to them of the word search (all via Mum's phone of course). We received back a video & photo, & it was definitely a worthwhile connection. I'm not sure how to best keep up with helping the kids socially engage over the coming months - ideas welcomed - but I sense it's necessary for their general wellbeing and processing of this time.
AND OTHER BITS
There was more to our day - like reading, a bit of writing, some excitement at buying new office supplies, a bike ride, kicking a ball, playing lego, and spontaneously playing with a tape measure. I really enjoyed how today unfolded without the presence of an external stressor (a time and a place!) so we engaged more deeply with each other and ultimately ourselves.
As far as goals go for tomorrow, I'm hoping to get a (little) more organised and have printed off some curriculum information to help me get my eye in for Maths and English. I'm also on the lookout for some preschooler shows to watch in Japanese with English subtitles with the kids - suggestions anyone? We haven't been provided with any resources from the school as they're frantically trying to work out how to go 'online'. I'm certain this won't be for long, so gunna prioritise engaging myself more organically with my kids & their learning.!
I hope to keep posting throughout this journey and will continue to write not just about victories and strategies but also failures, hopes, and fears so stay tuned.
Made By Me