Can you believe a week has already passed since Operation Lockdown kicked off? Is it just me or does this homeschooling malarkey feel like it’s been dragging on for years?
Being caged up in the house with two ‘lively’ (delinquent) kids and my partner has taught me many things – not least how to swear out of the windows so my children won’t hear me (although the kids from further down the street probably will).
Here are the four main things I’ve gleaned from the experience so far:
- Working from home, looking after two kids, and trying to get anyone in the house to complete anything productive feels like climbing up a EEC butter mountain.
- Week One was fuelled by adrenaline and a novelty factor, both of which had disappeared by Week Two.
- Wine helps.
- I cannot feasibly look after myself and my children, work from home and write a daily blog without losing my mind. So expect just one blog a week from now on. Maybe less. It very much depends on how I’m dealing with points 1 and 3, above.
Today’s blog therefore covers a whole week of ‘learning’. Or in our case, five days of fighting, with the occasional lesson thrown in.
If you’re looking for inexpensive ideas to keep the kids amused AND out of your way for a couple of hours, read on. You might even find something remotely educational, although I’m not making any promises.
1pm: Literacy, Art and Engineering
What you will need: Cardboard boxes, Sharpie pens, enough sticky tape to sink a small ship, and a Stanley knife (ADULT SUPERVISION REQUIRED)
I figured giving the boys an art project would keep them out of my hair for a while. Unfortunately, Eric was not at all excited about turning an old TV box into an ice cream kiosk. I didn’t let that put me off. I mean, I was ridiculously excited about the idea. A quick online search for ‘cardboard box shops’ directed me to a load of shops selling cardboard boxes. A few different key words later and eventually I stumbled into a magical online world of cardboard box crafts. I couldn’t find one that said it took less than three hours to make, and I only had 20 minutes between calls. So, I ignored all the online tutorials and quickly cobbled something together. Eric’s interest must have been piqued by the fancy serving hatch and shoelace chain/hook, because he and his brother spent the rest of the afternoon making signs, drawing ice creams and generally pimping up their new toy.
What you will need: Siblings at war
Before we started the cardboard ice cream kiosk, I distinctly remember Eric saying, “I don’t want one; give it to Bear.” By 5pm the kiosk was looking pretty amaze, in a crappy, homemade, ‘done by a couple of kids’ kind of a way. It was at this point Eric decided he did want it after all. “I made the signs and did more drawings than you,” was his feeble attempt at explaining to his brother why he was no longer proprietor of the cardboard shop. Bear was having none of it and a fight broke out. I left them for long enough to let off some steam but not long enough for any noses to get broken. I then split them up with some grapes, a glass of milk, and the promise of a malted milk biscuit if they made it past teatime without arguing.
What you will need: A Smartphone and internet access
One of my friends posted on Facebook about the Google ‘thing’ that allows you to make virtual snakes and crocodiles appear in your house, thanks to the power of augmented reality (AR).
As a child who grew up in the 1980’s, this kind of technology blew me away. Eric grew bored after 20 minutes, because he’s grown up in an era where he and most of his mates were born with an iphone stuck to their hands, so he probably has no idea that there even is a difference between augmented reality and ‘real’ reality.
Bear, on the other hand, was mesmerised. I didn’t see him for hours because he spent most of the day snapping tigers in the toilet, chasing squid around the bedroom and watching giant pandas climb the Welsh dresser. The only time I did see him was when he came to tell me my phone battery had died, which happened at least twice over the course of the day.
12noon: Construction and Commerce
What you will need: More carboard boxes, more sticky tape and any Sharpie pens that are still working after your child left the tops off them all two days ago
The carboard box ice cream kiosk from Monday was still going strong, but it was causing a few arguments about who was going to be the server and who was going to be the customer. Luckily, we have an arsenal of boxes in our hallway that we’ve not got around to recycling, so I dug out another and presented it as an ice cream lorry. It was all going well until I had an argument with Eric about putting a second box underneath the first, because that would make the serving hatch easier to work with. I mean, anyone could have seen that. Eric decided that was a stupid idea, because the second box needed to be the cab at the front of the ice cream truck. I’ve already discovered that an adult is never going to win an argument with a child when it comes to cardboard boxes, so after carving out a window I left the kids to it. To their credit, they handwrote their own signs and menus, found their old toy cash register, and managed to pilfer enough loose change to keep their ice cream empire going for an entire afternoon.
6.30pm: Physical Education
What you will need: A mature tree
After proving a hit during Week One’s activities, the nearby graveyard is fast becoming a favourite haunt for the boys. We’ve been visiting it most evenings after the boys have had their tea, in the vain hope it might tire them out (it doesn’t). There are trees to climb, gravestones to read and secret pathways to explore. We’ve lived opposite this graveyard for almost seven years and until Lockdown I’d never ventured any further than the path that leads to Eric’s school. Now we’re discovering loads of interesting things in there, such as bird boxes, monuments and wildflowers. Bear’s even found a pair of trousers under a bush. These are now known as “the lost pants”, and every night Bear refuses to return home until he’s seen them.
3pm: Literacy, Art and Finance
What you will need: Paper and felt tips
Before Lockdown kicked off, I’d return home from work and spend the rest of the evening being asked by Eric for various toys. Now that I don’t have the pleasure of being able to pack the kids off to school, Eric has the whole day to bleat on about all the toys he wants me to buy him. By early afternoon I’d had enough, so I did what any normal parent would do and explained mummy couldn’t buy toys because she didn’t have any pennies. Eric solution was to ease the imminent toy recession and try his hand at quantitative easing. After all, if it’s good enough for the Bank of England then it’s good enough for a six-year-old. Armed with a green Sharpie pen and a stack of paper, he set himself up at the dining table-turned-office and started making his own money. I wish could take the credit for this idea – not only did it prompt Eric to spend over two hours practicing his writing, it also kept him super quiet. As it is, he was inspired by Clarence on Netflix. But I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.
11am: Literacy and Economics
What you will need: A cardboard ice cream kiosk, pens and some paper (sweets are optional)
Monday’s ice cream kiosk is proving to be the gift that keeps on giving. Today I suggested the boys might like to set up the DVD player in Arthur’s room and have a movie afternoon. Bear thought this was a grand idea and immediately began trying to find a DVD case that actually had a DVD in it. He eventually found a scratch-free Madagascar and settled down for the big screening, only to be told by Eric that he couldn’t watch the film until he’d bought a ticket. Eric subsequently made Bear queue up at the cinema kiosk, aka the ice cream kiosk with its sign removed. Bear was queuing for quite a while, because he had to wait for Eric to make the tickets, but once that was done they both headed back to the bed and watched the film. To reward them for being good (i.e. quiet) for a couple of hours, I gave them a handful of sweets to share. Bear was about to tuck in when Eric took all the sweets to his ice cream kiosk-turned-cinema kiosk and told his brother he needed to pay for them. In a rare touching moment between the two of them, Eric handed Bear a stash of ‘Eric pounds’ and helped him count out the correct amount before sharing out the sweets. Half an hour later they were arguing over who had eaten the most sweets – despite the fact I’d given them an equal share and they’d counted them out together. But the touching moment was nice while it lasted.
That’s two weeks down, only….how many weeks to go? I keep hearing rumours that schools will not reopen until September. I’m clinging onto the hope that these are simply rumours, and schools are going to open next week.