Nerf maths, literacy lunches and other things that got us through Day One of homeschooling

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BRACE YOURSELF: Eric gears up for lessons outside of the classroom

Coronavirus. It’s making adults anxious and sending the nation nuts in the supermarket aisles.

Death tolls are rising and the country is on lockdown. Just think how all this stress is playing out in the mind of a child.

I’m conscious that I need to provide my six-year old, Eric, with heaps of reassurance, love and attention as we all struggle to get to grips with what’s happening. But equally, I’m conscious that he needs to hone his literacy skills. And my partner and I need to do some work, too.

Eric’s school put together a fantastic folder, filled with activities that will support his learning while the school is closed. The problem is Eric would rather play with his Lego than sit down with us and practice his spellings.

I’m not sure what kind of voodoo magic his teachers perform, but when he’s at school Eric loves doing his ‘jobs’. Whilst at home, however, he’d rather create a mess and cause mayhem.

After three hours of trying to cajole him into doing a literacy worksheet – in between trying to do my own work, keep everyone fed and watered, and amuse his feral three-year-old brother, Bear – I realised I was fighting a losing battle.

And so I just went with the flow and accepted Eric would rather build space shuttles than talk to me about digraphs.

Here’s what our day looked like. If your child is equally reluctant to sit at a table and fill in a worksheet, hopefully you’ll find some inspiration here:

10.30am: Engineering/kickboxing

What you will need: Lego and a referee

IT’S A RAID! Eric’s Lego bank is raided by a space shuttle, a helicopter, a robber in a cowboy hat and … a street sweeper

After spending almost two hours painstakingly building Lego vehicles, Eric finally had a full convoy to show for his efforts. I’m sure this constitutes some form of STEM learning. Unfortunately, it only took Bear five minutes to destroy the lot, prompting a full-on kickboxing session that my colleagues witnessed via video conferencing.

12 noon: Literacy lunch

What you will need: A pen and paper

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FOOD TO GO: Eric proves he’s a dab hand at choosing some of the least healthy options on the list.

For the entire morning, Eric had been skirting around the idea of practicing any form of reading. Handing him a food order ‘menu’ and explaining that if he didn’t fill it in there’d be no lunch soon made him change his tune. And he actually enjoyed it (although he had a total meltdown when I kept calling him ‘sir’, because he thought it was a swear word).

1pm: Back yard maths

What you will need: Chalk

JUMPING INTO MATHS: Eric tests his numeracy skills with a badly-drawn hopscotch grid.

Give Eric a chalk and free rein to trash the back yard and suddenly he’s all for flexing his counting muscles, courtesy of a game of hopscotch.

2pm: Literacy al-fresco

What you will need: More chalk

“I SEE YOU”: Eric goes all Big Brother with a message on the gate.

Eric was enjoying defacing the back yard so much that I didn’t need to ask him to practice his spellings. I simply went outside after a call with a client and discovered messages chalked all over the fence, gate, shed and house. He was enjoying himself so much he even taught his younger brother to write his own name – a sweet scene that soon went downhill when Eric poured water over Bear’s handiwork and made him cry. Relentlessly. For about 30 minutes.

3pm: Home Economics?

What you will need: A mop

Eric knows his dad and I don’t like mess. Maybe this is why he took it upon himself to remove all the chalk off the walls and fences…using a mop and bucket. There’s now very little paint or varnish left on any surface in the backyard, but hey – it’s all in a day’s learning.

3.30pm: Boxing

What you will need: A sparring partner

Physical education is a key part of a children’s development. At least, this is what I told myself when Eric and Bear descended into yet more fisticuffs over who was going to take charge of the biggest mop in the shed. Biscuits and glasses of milk prevented a full-on riot.

4pm: Personal and Social Education

What you will need: Soap and water

The aforementioned brawl over a mop resulted in both kids getting soaked in water and caked in mud, prompting an unplanned lesson in PSE. Or in layman’s terms, they had a bath.


4.30pm: Nerf maths

What you will need: Yet more chalk, and a Nerf gun, bow and arrow or a ball

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KITCHEN WARRIOR: Eric finishes off his look with a pair of fox ear protectors.

Eric was definitely not up for any more maths, no way. That was until I chalked a numbered target on the kitchen door, handed him a Nerf gun, and challenged him to hit as many numbers as he could, at which point he couldn’t contain his excitement.  “Mummy, how much is 13,000 add 8,000?”. Work it out, Eric. And he did. Eventually. (We also lost an LED lightbulb in the process, and Bear nearly lost an eye, but still; maths is ticked off the list for today). We used a Nerf gun. Balls or bean bags would be equally effective.

6pm: Physical Education

What you will need: Athletic gear. Braces are optional.

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COOL RUNNING: Eric sets a new trend in dressing like a tw*t

After a day of trying to do 5,920 things at once (teachers everywhere, I salute you), I really needed a run to let off some steam. Eric was more than willing to join me – but only if I let him wear his football skins, baggy blue shorts and a pair of batman braces. Eric went on his bike, I went on foot. We were careful to avoid anywhere we might bump into anyone else – think graveyards, abandoned railway bridges and the kind of alleyways you only usually use if you want to have your phone nicked.

6:45pm: Information Technology

What you will need: A smartphone or tablet

Having done all his ‘jobs’ for the day, I thought it only fair to let Eric watch something on my phone before bedtime. Unfortunately for us, he chose PrestonPlayz – the YouTube star whose Minecraft shenanigans haunt my dreams.

This is a testing time, for adults and children. I respect the health workers risking all sorts on the front line to keep us safe, the shop staff and supply chain employees who are making sure the nation has food on the table, and I feel for the people whose lives are being turned upside down, either by being directly affected by Covid-19 or through fear of it.

I don’t want this blog to suggest I’m not treating the current situation with the seriousness it deserves. I also want to try and reassure my sons by providing as much normality as possible, and protecting them from the very real fears adults have by keeping the mood as light as possible.

I’ve actually emjoyed doing ‘lessons’ with Eric at home. Apart from the ongoing noise and fighting. Check back tomorrow night to see what else we’ve been up to. That said, I’ve pretty much used up almost all my creativity, sanity, energy and chalk in just one day (again teachers, I salute you). So, please don’t judge me if I give the kids my tablet and leave them to it for a few hours while I catch up on some grown up work.

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