Embracing Alternative Education During a Pandemic
By Lehla Eldridge
Everything has shifted, nothing is as it was, the world is changing then surely so should we.
Having the whole family at home is a normal situation for me, as we have been unschooling (I will get to that bit later) for nine years. Only in the last year have our older children decided to go to college and THEY LOVE IT and are now going on to do A Levels.
We have had a lot of experience of them being at home, this is relatively normal for us but I totally understand that it is not the norm for most people and no homeschooling meme with Marlon Brando stroking his chin and saying ‘Homeschooling? Welcome to da Family!’ is going to help.
Having your kids constantly at home is a huge adjustment. Especially if you and your partner or just you, have suddenly had to stop work, you have no wages coming in and everything that has been normal is suddenly turned on its head. This is a big shift and nobody is expecting it to suddenly be easy.
So let me offer a few gentle tips to help you through this period.
- What is going on right now is very far from normal and it is completely understandable to be freaked out, scared, anxious, all of the above. I have gone/ and am going through varying degrees of all of those feelings. Do what you can to get your amygdala under control, look after yourself and your thoughts. Do what you need to do to gather yourself in this time of crisis. Anything that calms down the mind; meditation, yoga in your front room in your pajamas, a phone call to a friend, gathering up a support circle to talk things through, getting an online buddy. Doing nice things for yourself is of the utmost importance and remember that in a time of self isolation when you can’t physically connect you need to digitally or telephonically connect more than ever, ironic I know but very true. This relates to having your child at home because how YOU show up affects them. If you are taking your amygdala out for a crazy walk your child will feel it and pick up on that. So take some time to care for yourself, even if you are at home with little ones, do what you can to look after yourself.
- Do not worry about their education. That is a big one, it took me years to understand this, years of me chasing my kids around trying to get them to learn. They will be fine, now is not the time to make them study, learn, catch up, keep up. If not having a routine freaks them and you out, make a gentle routine, if that keeps things normal , even if it is for 45 minutes a day. You can use this time to give yourselves and them a break, my children didn’t learn to properly read until they were 11/12 they are now avid readers who LOVE to read more than anything, so do not worry. They didn’t start serious maths until they were 14 and they chose too, they are now doing higher maths. Well, they were until college just stopped. Take the brakes off and at the same time give yourself a break.
- Use this time to do lovely things with your children. Connect with them, make a cake, paint pictures, read books, SLOW DOWN, this strange possibly magical piece of time has been sent to us and so we must use it wisely. I spent some of the morning making films with my 16 year old daughter. Connect, care for each other, be together. Do not worry about their education, children learn all the time. There is a lot of amazing learning that goes on outside of the classroom, the stuff that you can not measure.
- Talk to each other, talk about what is going on, share thoughts, ideas, communicate, hear how they are feeling, tell them how you are feeling, share things that feel appropriate. Talk about things that have nothing to do with the Coronavirus. Ask open questions; What do you think? What would you do about that? If it were up to you and you were in charge what would you change?
- Let them lead, schooling goes on for years, think about it, years and years of being told what, when and how to do things. Let your children be the leaders for a while, let them choose what to do, the game, the recipe, the things to order online, the things to make, give them some autonomy. Children LOVE it, they grow, thrive and really relish this. Let them lead when it comes to making a recipe, this is a good test in letting go as a parent. Believe me I have struggled on this one, I am a cookbook writer, a slight control freak in the kitchen. In me letting go I have witnessed the huge sense of joy on my son’s face when he was totally in control and making his salt, vanilla and orange biscuits.
- Don’t worry about their education, just throwing that out there again in case that little monster was looming on your shoulder. If they have exams and studies they have to do and they are older, of course support them, but when you can, cut them as much slack as possible, these are strange times. They don’t need you down their neck worrying about their grades on top of a pandemic and a climate crisis.
- Let them play computer games! If they want to, let them, there are wonderful communities of kids all over the world playing together online, these are lonely times, especially when it comes to self isolating. Keep them safe but give them freedom to play and connect with others, their brains will be fine, they enjoy it, let them play. Just remind them to move around in the day to balance out the sitting.
- Play yourself, do an online dance class, learn a language, join a virtual choir, let them see you slowing down and playing. Paint that painting you have been wanting to do, make that meal, illustrate that book. Being inspired and doing what you love will inspire them as well.
- Also here are some great online resources for kids and adults such as
https://scaleofuniverse.com/ The Scale of The Universe shows everything from the smallest to largest things in our universe.
https://www.khanacademy.org/ You can learn anything. Expert-created content and resources for every course and level. Always free.
https://ed.ted.com/ short educational animations about basically everything, great for kids and adults too.
https://www.ted.com/ Great talks from around the world
https://tinkerlab.com/easy-stop-motion-animation-kids/ stop animation for kids
https://diy.org/ A huge library of hands-on projects, how-to videos, and an awesome kid community.
But above all, be gentle with yourselves, your children are great, they need you right now to be there, loving them and letting them take a breather. Don’t worry about a timetable and them being achievers. The best thing you can do right now in these crazy times is to see what they can teach you and love them as much as you can. Even when everything may seem upside down and uncertain.
There is a lot of good stuff going on within this crazy time that we find ourselves in. I am seeing kindness, community and compassion on a level that I haven’t seen for a while. So you can witness this with your kids at your side and together we it the best that we can!
Unschooling is an approach to life and learning that fully removes the line separating learning and education and daily living. Unschooling relies on the potential for learning across all daily living activities and contexts. Parents focus on children’s innate natural curiosity, which is fostered and supported, leading to self-directed learning where the children learn by self-selecting what they interested in engaging with. Unschooling parents rely on the process of facilitating learning with children so as to leverage their natural curiosity. Teaching takes place only when required by the child and with their consent. Unschooling seeks to maintain a collaborative approach with children where power is focussed in the relationships in the family rather than in the adults. Unschooling prioritises the child’s overall wellbeing and positive natural growth over reaching predetermined learning objectives.
Lehla Eldridge is an author, illustrator and performer and is also on Instagram cooking up a storm @plantbasedcircus
You can reach out to us via our social media below. We will also be available on a webinar and Facebook live so you can feel free to ask us questions there and we will support you during this crazy time as best we can.
If you want to know more about unschooling our book ‘Jump, Fall, Fly from Schooling to Homeschooling to Unschooling’ is available at https://www.jumpfallfly.com/
Instagram; unschooling _the_ kids