OPINION: Our children are living history now, let’s give them a break

Wash hands properly
Wash hands properly

Rants, tantrums, incessant WhatsApp group notifications, platform-this, dial-in-that are some of the key characteristics of the new world of corporate parent turned educator.

Many colleagues have frowned upon my colourful ADHD-like career path, now it seems as if my unique professional evolution is positioning me to view the enormity of what is happening in homes all around from a novel perspective.

The collective groans of parents around the country

What qualifies me to have a publishable opinion about education in this unusual time?

Mom of four (18,17,13 and 10), single mom for 6 of those years, previous home schooler, current teenagers in a private high school, one student at Wits and a primary school child in public school.

One child is transgender and one who outgrew his special educational needs. Full time job as a principal consultant in sustainability.  I’ve been through the parenting mill.

As the public school calendar starts this week without the doors of one school opening, I hear the collective groans of parents around the country.

‘You want me to do what?’ 

Incredulous faces at windows asking ‘You want me to do what?’ I see the desperation on Zoom screens where mascara marks are left forgotten after the home school related fight of the morning.

I see this in perspective in teachers petrified to lose their jobs, private schools working and reworking the budget, parents scrambling to show how super-efficient they can be in working from home – hoping that they won’t be the ones who will be told to go when the virus finally hits our economy in full force.

I feel the fear, the isolation and the loneliness that results in all of us trying harder, pushing more, and preaching at our kids with an increasing shriller tone of voice.

More tangible in the poorer communities 

The sense of loss is more tangible in the poorer communities in our country.

There are no screens to replace books, no data to stream teachers and so we wait to see how badly this virus will mangle our future.

In this mad scramble for efficiency, my colleague phones and two mothers find a bench in the eye of the storm.

On that bench the wisdom slowly gained over many years with four toddlers at home comes to settle back into my soul.

Our children are living history now – let’s pause the incessant need to teach history right at this moment.

The rule books of life are being rewritten 

Let them be present in what the world is experiencing.

The rule books of life are being rewritten while we agonise over ‘i before e except after c’.

Give them space to adapt to change while it is happening. That is the single most valuable skill they will need post COVID-19.

Only you know what you have to endure in your lockdown household.

Only you can determine what part of the curriculum is appropriate for you and your child during this time. Cut educational fluff ruthlessly and do what you can. 

It is good enough

If you feel it is impossible to do anything remotely educational without falling apart, do this one thing once a day – sit down together and read out loud to your children.

It’s magic. It is time to throw away the external measuring stick for the time being.

Exit WhatsApp groups where parents and teachers are working each other up to a frenzy.

Do what you can and leave the rest outside guilt’s door.I am always amazed at the innate wisdom of children and how my children raised me as much as I raised them.

Acknowledge that they are resilient and adaptable to change – they might just lead the way to a much needed light moment.I

’ve made a remarkable discovery over the years – children don’t have an expiry date and there is place for a thing like ‘just in time learning’.

The COVID storm will pass and we might not recognise our familiar landscapes afterwards, but our children will not lose their capacity to grow and change and learn.

Let’s be kind to our children

They need mothers and fathers now – adults who can show them light on the path footstep by footstep.

If the class schedule cause you to become a draconian teacher that inspires fear in your child, it is time to step back and cut some more fluff.

Little rituals will go a long way to provide security to young and old in this time.

Light a candle, read a book out loud, bake a pudding, build Lego. They will remember that long after the enforced homeschooling of COVID-19 is over.

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