Embracing Alternative Education During a Pandemic

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Let’s talk about alternative home education. Firstly, some background.

Family together in the house for home education

The author Lehla Eldridge (right) with her family.

We as a family are currently social distancing. I write this from my bed, my daughter is in isolation and coughing in the next door room, the other one is in here finishing her college essay. I can hear my son gaming in the other room and my husband is making lunch.

Having the whole family at home is a normal situation for me, minus the coughing, as we have been unschooling (I will get to that bit later) for nine years. Only in the last year have our older children decided to go to college. 

We have had a lot of experience of them being at home, this is relatively normal for us but I totally understand that it is not the norm for most people.

Having your kids constantly at home is a huge adjustment. Especially if you have suddenly had to stop work, and everything normal is suddenly turned on its head. This is a big shift and nobody is expecting it to suddenly be easy.

So let me offer a few gentle tips to help you through this period.

Do what you can to look after yourself

What is going on right now is very far from normal and it is completely understandable to be freaked out, scared, anxious, or all of the above. I have gone/ and am going through varying degrees of all of those feelings. Do what you can to get your amygdala under control, look after yourself and your thoughts. Do what you need to do to gather yourself in this time of crisis. Anything that calms down the mind; meditation, yoga in your front room in your pyjamas, a phone call to a friend, gathering up a support circle to talk things through, getting an online buddy.

Doing nice things for yourself is of the utmost importance and remember that in a time of self-isolation when you cant physically connect you need to digitally or telephonically connect more than ever. Ironic, I know, but true. This relates to having your child at home because how you show up affects them. If you are taking your amygdala out for a crazy walk your child will feel it and pick up on that. So take some time to care for yourself, even if you are at home with little ones.

Do not worry about their home education

That is a big one. It took me years to understand this, years of me chasing my kids around trying to get them to learn. They will be fine, and now is not the time to make them study, learn, catch up, keep up. If not having a routine freaks them and you out, make a gentle routine, if that keeps things normal, even if it is for 45 minutes a day.

Take the brakes off and at the same time give yourself a break.

You can use this time to give yourselves and them a break. My children did not learn to properly read until they were 11 or 12 years old. Now they are avid readers who love to read more than anything, so do not worry. My kids didnt start serious maths until they were 14. They chose too, and are now doing higher maths. Well, they were until college just stopped.

Use this time to do lovely things with your children

Make a cake, paint pictures, read books, and slow down. This strange possibly magical piece of time has been sent to us and so we must use it wisely. I spent some of the morning making films with my 16-year-old daughter. Connect, care for each other, be together. Do not worry about their home education, children learn all the time. There is a lot of amazing learning that goes on outside of the classroom, the stuff that you can not measure.

Talk to each other

Talk about what is going on, share thoughts, ideas, communicate, hear how they are feeling, tell them how you are feeling, share things that feel appropriate. Discuss things that have nothing to do with the Coronavirus. Ask open questions. What do you think? What would you do about that? If it were up to you and you were in charge what would you change?

Let them lead

Schooling goes on for years, as does home education. Think about it, years and years of being told what, when and how to do things. Let your children be the leaders for a while, let them choose what to do, the game, the recipe, the things to order online, the things to make. Give them some autonomy. Children love it, they grow, thrive and relish this. Let them lead when it comes to making a recipe, this is a good test in letting go as a parent. Believe me, I have struggled on this one as I am a cookbook writer and a slight control freak in the kitchen. In me letting go I have witnessed the huge sense of joy on my son’s face when he was totally in control and making his salt, vanilla and orange biscuits.

Dont worry about their education

Just throwing that out there again in case that little monster was looming behind your shoulder. If they have exams and studies they have to do and they are older, of course, support them in their home education. But when you can, cut them as much slack as possible as these are strange times. They do not need you down their neck worrying about their grades on top of a pandemic and a climate crisis.

Let them play computer games!

If they want, let them. There are wonderful communities of kids all over the world playing together online. These are lonely times, especially when it comes to self-isolating. Keep them safe but give them the freedom to play and connect with others. Their brains will be fine, they enjoy it, let them play. Just remind them to move around in the day to balance out the sitting.

Play

Do an online dance class, learn a language, join a virtual choir, let them see you slowing down and playing. Paint that painting you have been wanting to do, make that meal, illustrate that book. Being inspired and doing what you love will inspire them as well.

 

Here are some great online homeschooling resources for kids and adults:

The Scale of The Universe shows everything from the smallest to the largest things in our universe. 

The Khan Academy has a huge array of materials and resources, allowing you to learn almost anything. Expert-created content and resources for every course and level. Always free.

TedEd provides short educational animations about basically everything, and great for kids and adults too.

TED Talks has fun and stimulating talks on many subjects by experts from around the world.

Tinkerlap shows you and the kids how to create stop motion animation for kids.

DIY is a huge library of hands-on projects, how-to videos, and an awesome kid community.

 

If you want to know more about unschooling, Lehla’s book – written with her husband – ‘Jump, Fall, Fly from Schooling to Homeschooling to Unschooling’ is available here.

Follow Lehla on Instagram: @unschooling _the_ kids & @plantbasedcircus;  & Facebook: Unschooling the Kids

 

Further reading:

The International Social Service – in the highest interests of children! by 

École obligatoire à 18 ans à Genève : une première en Suisse par by 

Lehla Eldridge

Lehla Eldridge is an author, illustrator and performer and is also on Instagram cooking up a storm @plantbasedcircus

You can reach out to us via our social media below. We will also be available on a webinar and Facebook live so you can feel free to ask us questions there and we will support you during this crazy time as best we can.

If you want to know more about unschooling our book ‘Jump, Fall, Fly from Schooling to Homeschooling to Unschooling’ is available at https://www.jumpfallfly.com/jump-fall-fly-the-book/

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