Real Life: Homeschooling can do one!

WARNING! This blog is very sweary. Don’t read it if you don’t like swearing. This blog is dedicated to all the parents who hate homeschooling and all the parents who are feeling incarcerated by enforced domesticity. I’ve heard that commissioning editors are not interested in commissioning articles about how much homeschooling blows goats so this is for anyone who wants to rant about it.

Captain’s log: Star date 30th April 2020.

We have been in lockdown for fuck knows how long. I can no longer distinguish between the days and weeks. At the start of the lockdown period, while over zealous parents rushed to add to their daily burdens by parenting the shit out of the situation, I declared the school of Macnaughtwarts on holiday from immediate effect with no intention of returning to school until after the close of the actual Easter holidays. The Menace (aged 12) may be at state school, but the Grenade ( now aged 16) has been to enough private schools for me to experience 4 week holidays and to still come out with some GCSEs. I wasn’t going to sweat it and I needed time to drink mentally prepare.

My foray into homeschooling started on Monday 28th April. I have two kids in full time education. The Menace in year 7 at the local comprehensive and the Grenade in year 1 of a BTEC in Music, Production and Performance Management at the local community college. This means from a homeschooling perspective, I am now a teacher in 8 different subjects, and a college lecturer, who is tone deaf, sings likes a tortured cat with no understanding of a recording studio. Having recently sat my son’s GCSEs the 8 subjects are less daunting as I am fully versed in the GCSE curriculum, so actually redoing year 7 is much less arduous in comparison to the summer of hell getting the Grenade to revise for his GCSEs.

I knew when I was a pupil at school that I had no aspirations to be a teacher. When I was at school, kids were gobby little shitheads, and despite the passing of time, evolution seems to have skipped a beat on this one. By all accounts they are now gobby, much taller, punchier shitheads, with easier access to porn. No thank you. I am never going to be a teacher. Especially as swearing at them and throwing missiles at them is no longer de rigueur. As a parent, despite the protestations and daily begging by the Grenade to homeschool him, I knew in my heart of hearts that neither of us would survive. When I say neither of us, I really mean him. To be honest the ritual of homework was like the daily battle of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. There was always shouting and banging of colanders.

The first day of homeschooling wasn’t too bad. I think the novelty of the situation and 4 weeks of turning nocturnal had meant they were looking for a change of scene. At one point during the “holiday” both kids were up until 5am and then sleeping until 3pm. An intervention was required in the end, and a little lie that the Government had mandated that everyone, by law, had to exercise. They were then forced, much to their disgust, to undertake 10 mile bike rides on a daily basis, which they sort of hated but then got into. It also helped break the transition of turning into scraggy, sweaty, weird owl humans.

By the end of day 1 both of the kids had fully embraced the notion that working from home was proper shit. This meant that heading into day 2 was going to be met with more significant opposition. The Grenade had a slightly later start, so that meant I could dedicate my battle to the Menace. She had realised that, in order to achieve her tasks, she was going to have to do some fucking work, but then came to the conclusion that life would be much easier if I just fucking did it for her. This is where we were slightly at odds, because I was of the persuasion that she should do it her-fucking-self, and that she could actually read. I was beginning to feel that my classroom manner was somewhat lacking, and teacher preparation probably needed more investment on my part, but that her commitment to learning was also wanting, and perhaps we needed to reset the bar.

She said that she needed help. I said that I was helping her. In my defence, I was helping her. I read the set work and showed her in the work where she could find the answers, and had even gone to the trouble to articulate, very calmly, and clearly, the piece of information she needed to help extrapolate the answers out of the text. But no, this wasn’t enough, she basically wanted me to give her the fucking answers. This is where I began to lose my shit, just as the smelly teen peeled himself out of bed, and lolled into the dining room. His face lit up with glee as he saw the perceived golden child getting a bollocking instead of him, and so decided that it was a good time to make his own valuable contribution to the dialogue. This then triggered the Menace to shout at him to shut up.

I suddenly find myself fighting a war on two fronts. I now have to move my ‘shit losing’ over to the teen as I try to explain to him to kindly refrain from participating in something which is not to do with him. The Menace then bursts into tears and proclaims her dislike for lockdown. I am inclined to agree with her. I explain to her that none of us are particularly enjoying the current homeschooling situation. But if we don’t do it the parents are fined by the Government for not fulfilling their civil duty. Yes, I know I lie to my kids. Parenting is a dog eat dog, survival of the fittest, situation. I have to use any tactics at my disposal. Parenting gurus, please fuck off. And as pennies were tight could she please just man the fuck up, dry her eyes and please read the instructions and crack on so we can proceed through the enormous backlog of work the extended holiday had created. This approach did not have the desired effect, and more water started leaking out of her eyes, so I then had to resort to hugging and being nice, followed by a bribe of chocolate and Dr Pepper. I then managed to settle her into a calmer state and some workflow.

This gave me a matter of seconds to move from the dining room to the kitchen to put my college lecturer head on, just like Wurzel Gummidge, and embark on my next battle.

This involved sitting next to the Grenade, who is now severely disabled by the fact that his left hand has evolved into a phone that buzzes every 10 seconds. This means that he now only has one working hand with which to try and conduct his daily life. Any simple task now is doubled in time due to his one handed disability.

For the majority of lockdown he is on the phone to another teenager, which I am always introduced to and am drawn into some random conversation about whatever garbage they are wittering on about. I have certain degrees of tolerance for this depending on the hour, how disheveled I look and how awake I am. I do feel I am cohabiting with various teen versions of Max Headroom on rotation.

The Grenade also has ADHD so getting him to concentrate on any task is the equivalent of trying to house train a puppy, with a phone for a paw, to sit still for more than 10 minutes. Informing him is further complicated by the fact that he already knows fucking everything. As you can imagine trying to teach an omnipotent teen anything at all when you know nothing, are considered to be older than Stonehenge, and have been renamed Doris, is aways going to be a tricky path to navigate calmly with patience. I do like to start any interaction with polite instructions, but I find the phone hand disability really impacts his ability to listen to a fucking word I say. In the end I have to resort to the old faithful form of communication called shouting and losing my shit, with an added threat of amputating his phone hand if he doesn’t extract his head from his arse sharpish.

I did eventually manage to get him seated at the laptop, while we explored the course curriculum, trying to establish what he had to do. His community college is not the most organised, or switched on, of establishments, which I actually see as an advantage, as neither is the Grenade. I think they are a good match.

We worked out what he needed to do and I then tried to get him to focus on the task. This is the equivalent of trying to pick up an atom with tweazers. Despite his ADHD, he is easily distracted by his buzzing left hand which means that he has to engage with whoever is causing the buzzing. This interaction often triggers a memory of some tomfoolery they have done together which he, of course, has videoed. This then triggers the thought that he would like to discuss with me and show me all the videos of him and his friends behaving like twats. At this point I then have to bring him back to task. This behaviour then becomes cyclical until I have to resort to shouting and losing my shit, with a splash of the threat of amputation of the the phone hand.

In between all of this, I have to get up to respond to the questions of the Menace who feels that she is not getting enough attention. So I am ducking back and forth between dining room and kitchen, juggling academic disciplines like a circus clown. I look at the clock – it’s midday! I am struggling with an overwhelming desire to drink large margaritas.

As time passes, everyone is still concluding that this is still shit and decides to express their dissatisfaction by shouting at each other about how much they are not enjoying it. At this point we decide to call it day. The Menace and I decide to watch Frozen II and the Grenade slinks into his pit to begin gaming with 4 Max Headrooms. We live to fight another day. But let it be known that homeschooling sucks and I am not enjoying it! I know I am not alone.


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