In which we survive week one (with a few adjustments)

A week which progressed rapidly from ‘social isolation’ to semi-lockdown! A week which is showing the very best of people as they band together to ensure neighbours and friends are safe, sharing resources, running errands and painting rainbows for their windows for families on walks to spot. Also, the first week when we’ve all been at home together…

The kids’ schools have been great, posting work via the Milk and Parentmail platforms, and sharing messages via Class Dojo. Thing 2 was particularly pleased to be awarded five Dojos for her art work on Friday.

Woven fabric shield – using up my stash!

I’ve been quite clear that what’s happening here is not home schooling or home educating – those are choices made by parents for a range of reasons, while the current situation is driven by necessity – but like a lot of parents I started the week with a timetable of sorts. Admittedly mine was fairly basic, comprising ‘school stuff’ in the mornings and ‘creative stuff’ in the afternoon, but even that turned out to be challenging at times. My own work schedule has settled into a 7-2 pattern, which means that by the time the Horde are getting restless I am ready to finish too. It suits me – I’m very much a morning person!

Thing 1 has been pretty independent, working through the home learning set without much input from me. This week should have seen her choosing her GCSE options – luckily she’s quite clear about what she wants to do. The Milk app has crashed repeatedly over the week due to the level of demand, but she’s working on her French daily.

Thing 3 loves maths and would focus all his time on those if he could, so we have started each day with handwriting tasks based on the statutory spelling words for his year group – this is more of a challenge for me, as I have had to model the correct formation and as anyone who has tried to decipher my meeting notes will tell you, my handwriting is truly atrocious.

A lot has been written on various satirical mum blogs about the KS2 literacy curriculum – particularly on the demands of SPAG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) – and it turns out they weren’t exaggerating. Most of my support for Thing 2 this week has involved Googling grammar so I could help her. I’m not sure I could pass a KS2 SATs paper these days.

The afternoons have been an utter joy though, seeing them finding creative ways to fill their time. The Boy has played with a lot of Lego, swept out the treehouse (which the three of them designed collaboratively a few years ago) and on Friday he planned and made some shelves. Careful diagrams led to measuring, cutting and building with Dad’s help, and he’s very proud of his new furniture – like most of the treehouse, it’s been upcycled from other furniture.

Shelves designed and built by Thing 3

We’ve also had delicious chocolate cake made to a foolproof recipe courtesy of my Aunty Jan, flapjacks, and home made bread rolls – we’ve tried to be quite hands-off, only helping when asked.

Things 2 and 3 have enjoyed outdoor art work – they have always enjoyed using the garden stepping stones as canvases for their chalks, and the glorious weather this week has helped.

We’re stepping on rainbows…

Thing 1 has been experimenting with acrylics – art is one of her GSCE choices so she’s exploring different media. I asked her to decorate a letter for me, and she chose my favourite garden flowers and my beloved ladybirds.

Flowers and ladybirds!

Daily exercise has been a joy too – social distancing rules have meant we have spent time on North Weald Common behind the house. One day we explored by letting each child choose a direction every time we came to a fork in the path, which led us past rabbits, following badger, fox and deer tracks. The March sunshine has been a blessing here!

Thing 2 demonstrating social distancing

I think the format of the days is something we can stick to. They are earning gadget time by doing jobs around the house, so I haven’t emptied the dishwasher in days!

Enough about the horde! What about me?

It’s been a week of adjusting for me too – working remotely with a big project underway has meant a lot of time on video calls – Skype and Microsoft Teams, as well as experimenting with Zoom to talk to my family. After a chaotic Monday briefing where my colleagues were treated to the sight of the kids dropping in and out (Curious George was an amateur compared to this lot) I have been conducting meetings half way up the stairs where the WiFi is consistent and the interruptions are mainly from the cats – equally curious but quieter! Video calls mean I can see people too – you get used to being able to pop down the corridor to ask a question, or chatting over the boiling kettle at coffee time. Whatsapp has been a good tool, too, sharing photos of what the formal learning team have been experimenting with.

I have been thinking about what the schools programme might look like in the new museum – exploring links with STEM and creative subjects rather than social history. I’m getting through a lot of index cards, which have been my go-to organisers since university – and taking advantage of no teaching to do a lot of reading about how children learn and play.

Before and after work I’m trying to make positive use of time – like most crafters, I have a butterfly brain and constantly want to dip into new creative flowers! I’ve made a list of WIPs (works in progress) that have been hanging around for far too long and my lockdown resolution is to work on these rather than starting anything new. I do suffer from depression so it’s helpful to have things to focus on.

The list looks like this:

  • Purple jacket (a 1950s design that the sleeves wouldn’t work on, so I gave up in a huff and its been hanging from the curtain rail for about four years)
  • Crochet diploma
  • Say Something In Welsh course
  • Coast ripple blanket (Attic24 pattern)
  • Long waistcoat
  • Attic window quilt (that I cut out when I only had one child)
  • Mini quilt (er, ditto)
  • Seurat cross stitch – at least I only started this last year!
  • Couch to 5k (again)
  • Spring clean the shed, evicting the winter spiders…and being realistic about what I will actually use in my stash, then donating the rest

Nothing too ambitious then! I’ve made a start, with the first five modules of the diploma, and the rather wonky mini quilt is finished. The Attic window quilt top just needs the strips put together after a productive day yesterday which also saw Thing 2 starting to learn to sew. I have had to get out another sewing machine – a Singer Samba 2 given to me by my aunt. Sewing machines are like cats and tattoos – one is never enough!

Couch to 5K is going well – early morning frosty runs have been glorious, and I’ve dug out my trail running shoes which are saving my knees!

So that’s week one done… see you on the other side of week two!

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