Homeschooling three young children while trying to hide in the other room to attend online university lectures at the same time – what could possibly go wrong? (Spoiler: everything.)
06.40: 3 year old joins me in bed, asking questions about Minnie Mouse in very loud voice right in my ear.
07.30: Stagger out of bed. So excited – it’s online university day today! An intellectual oasis amidst the endless tedium of lockdown, homeschooling three kiddies aged 7 and under. A bit bleary-eyed, having stayed up until 2am to prep some written work for today’s online seminars.
08.00-09.00: Repetitive rounds of toast-making, cereal-eating, and bicker-moderating at breakfast table.
09.05: Just about remember to get dressed in something vaguely presentable (i.e. not pyjamas), and charge tablet for 09.30 online seminar start. All looking good.
09.18: It’s a homeschooling principle (that I frequently flout) that 7 year old’s reading practice must be done straight after breakfast or it doesn’t happen. So 12 minutes to chow through four pages of Walliams? Luckily, son is reasonably cooperative today – at least he’s not playing his new “Let’s make Mummy raging mad by adding in random words that aren’t actually in the text when I do my reading practice” game today. Pass homeschool duties to hubbie and issue dire warning to him to keep children away from bedroom OR ELSE.
09.30: Rush into empty children’s bedroom armed with tablet and note-taking materials and slam door, just in time for first seminar of the day. Feeling fairly calm. Microsoft Teams – which worked perfectly last time – will now not admit me. Swear profusely. It’s demanding I download app, then repeatedly claims log-in error. Keep uttering vicious oaths.
09.40: Finally access Microsoft Teams as ‘guest’. Have now missed 10 minutes of 30-minute seminar. Not good start. Finally enter my blissful Alternative Reality where my tutor and fellow (much younger, more organised, entirely child-free) students are engaged in brilliant intellectual discussions.
11.15: Feel first massive wave of IHPS (Incompetent Homeschooling Parent Syndrome) guilt as have ignored 5 year old’s homeschooling needs and have just 15 minutes until next online lecture starts. Rush her frenetically through her reading practice.
11.30: Charge back to bedroom, miraculously get into Teams with no problem this time. Am getting the hang of this, I think smugly to myself.
12.30: Surrounded by scattered Rice Krispies, sticky plates, felt pens (with missing lids), attempt impossible multi-tasking feats at kitchen table: Reading fellow students’ written work and offering thoughtful peer feedback on laptop while simultaneously making monsters out of toilet rolls with children.
13.00: Lunchtime blur.
14.25: Issue another edict to hubbie that no child shall cross threshold of my inner sanctum while final, Very Important seminar of the day takes place (from 14.30-15.30) – particularly 3 year old who is currently napping and who always screams when she awakens from naps.
15.00ish: Tutor singles out a few students’ written work including mine (beam) for discussion for forthcoming enormous assignment. When we get to my piece, she asks me interesting, thought-provoking question. I carefully unmute my microphone, open my mouth, smile modestly, poised to share thoughtful, measured response, when….
….with what could only be described as heavenly inspired timing…
…fiery 3 year old, with wild hair, just awoken from much-too-long nap, bursts into bedroom and screams “MAMAAAAAAAAAAA!” repeatedly in full view of whole seminar group (both video and mic are, of course, turned on). Grab her, hurl apologies into screen, as tablet goes crashing to the floor, mercifully taking me off-screen. Embarrassment levels skyrocket.
Charge into dining room to berate useless hubbie, who claims he didn’t “notice” she woke up. Leave her bellowing in protest and rush back to bedroom. Rejoin Teams sheepishly. But spotlight’s off my work, and tutor group are now discussing next student’s piece. Sob.
15.30: Online lectures finished for the day but…Horror of horrors! It’s mid-afternoon, no one’s been out of house yet, and three children are still in pyjamas. Cue next immense wave of IHPS guilt. Cajole everyone to get dressed so we can go out.
16.00 (or: definitely not mealtime): Children moan in unison that they’re all “staaaaarving”. Dole out Weetabix, toasted bagels, glasses of water on repeat.
17.17: Finally leave home for daily lockdown outing. In pre-Covid times, this would have been supper-time, I think ruefully. Head over the hills and far away for massive walk / scoot / cycle.
20.00: Arrive home. Everyone’s over-tired, hungry…but at least we’ve had fresh air. (But it’s 8pm, I wail inwardly, and we’ve not even started on the supper/bath/bed marathon and I neeeeed to study!!!)
20.45: Over hideously late dinner: “I want to leave home, then I can watch YouTube again!” pronounces 7 year old, utterly incensed at having age-inappropriate video clips banned from his life.
20.50 “I don’t want to be Jewish. I want to eat pigs!” announces 5 year old provocatively. Organised religion has taken a real bashing during lockdown in our house.
20.52 “Alexa! Play ‘I’ve Done a Poo’!” (It’s a real song. Ask Alexa yourself, if you don’t believe me.)
20.53 “Alexa! Volume 10!”
21.39 Oldest two children finally in bed.
22.00 Finally eat supper myself, but 3 year old’s still marauding around house in pirate get-up, brandishing sword thanks to eight-hour-long danger nap this afternoon.
22.15 Inexplicably find myself bidding on Minnie Mouse soft toy on eBay at 3 year old’s bidding. She’s finally all snuggly and cute now and it’s hard to say no. Do I detect signs of tiredness?
22.30 Miraculously convince her it’s bedtime.
22.35 Homeschool finally closes for the day! Now to get back to research for that highly important 5,000-word university assignment hanging over me.
Can’t think why, but I’m just not in the mood to study tonight. Essay will have to wait until tomorrow…