Dear Diary

Updated: Mar 14, 2021

Thursday 3rd September 2020

It‘s been a day of mixed emotions today. my boys and I started the day by learning Spanish via the wonders of YouTube. We had a really good giggle and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Afterwards we went shopping armed with lists and calculators followed by a spot of lunch before heading off to a local charity shop to buy some books. Everything was going well until a little bit later when we needed to visit a particular shop and to get there we had to drive by my kids old school. I say old school although they’ve only officially been de-registered a few days and it hasn’t even been confirmed yet. What made it worse was that it was the time of day the children were leaving for the day and as we made our way through the village, we could see all of my boys old school friends walking by, even managing to roll the window down to say hello to one of them. I felt the atmosphere in the car change. I knew the boys were feeling a bit torn about not being with their friends, probably even a little hurt and maybe a bit jealous. And I couldn’t deny that I felt a pang or something close to the same. Had I made the right decision? Was I harming my children’s happiness? A part of me felt like, “my boys should be there, they should be in years 4 and 5 now. I should be throwing their photos all over Facebook. It isn’t fair”. The truth was, all I really cared about was the social implications. In my heart, I knew homeschooling them from a safety and education standpoint was the right thing to do. afterwards, Kaiden told me he felt sad that he wouldn’t see his friends as often. I reminded him that I had already started making play date arrangements and his best friend was coming over that Friday. The mood turned slightly sombre but I explained to the boys that I really felt this was the right thing and that if they felt differently they could tell me and we could talk about it again. But the boys assured me they liked homeschooling, they just missed their friends. Mom guilt set in pretty quick. I mean, I’ve done this to them haven’t I? It didn’t help when half hour later we bumped into one of Theo’s friends. She informed him she was picking out a gift for another of their school friends as it was her birthday and she was off round her house to celebrate later. Theo told me he wished he could have gone and I pointed out that he wouldn’t have been invited anyway. Only the girls would be going. He seemed pretty pleased with that but it did get him thinking about future parties. So yeah, it turned out to be a pretty rubbish day in the end. I’m sitting here writing this and my boys are shrieking with laughter in another room, their sad feelings from earlier today evaporated. Typical.

Friday 4th September 2020

So today we reached breaking point in our house. All week Kaiden has had a glum, can’t be bothered attitude and has seemed to find everything I have set out for him in terms of homeschooling, a difficult task. He’s done it all but not without having his teeth pulled by me first. Kaiden doesn’t talk about his feelings and he doesn’t show anger in a way that you would expect. There’s no foot stomping, shouting, slamming doors or turning red in the face. Believe me, it would be easier if he would just do those things. Instead there’s an undertone to his words and body language and you just have to sense that something is wrong. That’s the easy part. Getting him to admit something is wrong is the hard part. He’s a very stubborn child and will remain adamant that everything is just fine. But eventually we get to breaking point which usually results in me completely losing my shit and screaming like a banshee. It’s obviously not an ideal approach but it seems to actually get the ball rolling and today, it got us somewhere although in some ways I wish it hadn’t. After losing my shit which resulted in Kaiden crumbling into a mess of tears and snot, I calmed down and we sat together to talk about it. Psychologists will tell you not to ask a child leading questions, but in Kaidens case you have to. You literally have to already have a pretty good idea of what’s wrong and be damn sure you’ve got it right because telling him what’s wrong with him is the only way to get him to open up. If you hit the nail on the head, he will tell you. So today, I told my son that I felt that he was angry with me (Passive aggressiveness is one of Kaiden‘s trademarks). Kaiden, through his tears and downturned lips admitted that he was. When I asked him why, he told me it was because he wanted to go to school. This was a devastating response to hear. I reminded Kaiden that before we made the decision to homeschool we had sat together as a family and asked the boys how they felt about it and I had told them that if they really wanted to go to school, I would make that happen. But they had both assured me they wanted to be homeschooled. Kaiden informed me that he knew I didn’t like their school which is why he didn’t tell me how he really felt. Always trying to find a positive in any situation I saw this as an advantage to point out to my son that this was an example of what happens when you don’t tell people what you really want and how you really feel. I reminded him that he has to care about himself and his own feelings and that even when it‘s a grown up he’s dealing with, he should still always tell them how he feels because his voice should be heard. After telling my son that I couldn’t turn the clock back, that we were now in this situation and he would not be going back to his school, I asked him to just try to make a go of it. I asked him to try to be upbeat and positive next week and to give it a go. I promised him that if, after a month or so he still felt the same, we could look at finding him a new school. He seemed happy with that but I suppose I will have to see how next week goes. Off he went to play leaving me feeling like I had probably made a terrible decision and that I would have to try even harder to make their homeschooling journey one that they wouldn’t want to end.

Monday 7th September 2020

I woke up quite excited to start our homeschooling day today. With fresh vigour and energy I showed my boys into their BBR (Big Brains Room) and we kicked off the day. The day started well due to a change of routine which I slap myself on the back for. On Friday, the boys had to rush upstairs when the alarms on their iPads reminded them that it was 10am and time to start the day. But the snag was, they hadn't yet got themselves dressed, teeth brushed and beds made as per the family rules, which of course, didn't slip my notice. So a new rule was introduced that for now on, their iPads would go on charge in my bedroom and ONLY when they woke up, had their breakfast, made their beds, brushed their teeth and hair and were dressed, would they be allowed to collect them. I've never seen my little cherubs move as swiftly as they did this morning to get to their prized possessions.

I found today a little bit difficult, the boys seemed to need me a little more than usual, but I was busy with work too so it may have just felt that way. I had decided to take any activities that required use of the iPad off the free choice agenda, and this worked a treat. Suddenly the boys were engaging in as many activities as they could get their hands on. I will reintroduce online learning such as TTRockstars and Scratch coding next week in a new timetable. That's the beauty of homeschooling, nothing is rigid, you can set your own pace and bend and change like the wind whenever you notice things aren't going the way you planned.

I also took away half hour of free choice from 10:30am-11am so they could catch up on some painting they missed last week. This was something they enjoyed and after a discussion at dinner time later, we decided as a family to set up an art activity of my choosing regularly within this time slot and see how it goes.

Kaiden struggled with English as always but it prompted me to start thinking of others ways I can help him. Kaiden has Dyspraxia, and that coupled with his unwillingness to talk about his feelings, his lack of empathy which leads to a poor understanding of how characters in a book may feel, and his stubbornness to admit when he's wrong, makes it quite a challenge. For example, he had to look for the word rumour in the dictionary today to work out what it meant. After an easy fifteen minutes of searching he claimed he still could not find it. So I asked him to show me the page he was looking at and as soon as he brought the dictionary over I saw the word. I explained to him that it was on the very first page, and I could tell he saw it too. But Kaiden spent another fifteen minutes or so claiming he couldn't find it. Miraculously, when I pointed out that I did not believe him and absolutely knew he had seen it, he suddenly found it. This is the psychological mind games I sometimes have to put up with from my wonderful 9 year old.

Anyway, part of my aim is to unwrap the layers of my children, to reignite the imaginations and creativity school has stolen from then, and to help them discover enjoyments they never knew they had. Today was another of those wonderful days where together, we learned something new and all ended the day on a natural high. Khan Academy had sent me their weekly progress report and from it, I had determined that the boys were struggling with re-grouping numbers. After googling what the hell re-grouping numbers even meant, I kind of got the concept and printed off some worksheets so that this morning, instead of their usual maths book, they could concentrate on this particular area. For Theo, he had to round numbers up to the nearest ten, hundred or a thousand and he did quite well. Kaiden's worksheet was subtraction and despite all of his time at mainstream school, he still couldn't think of the method to work this out. I always got the suspicion maths at school was more about timestables and addition, than showing any real method on subtraction. Together we watched a really cool Youtube video which helped me to understand too and that's always a bonus! Here's the link if you want to see it.

After watching the video we got to work on the worksheet answers Kaiden had written incorrectly and it was like a Eureka moment. And I was cuffed to bits I could help him! When we got to Khan Academy I could help both my boys using what we had just learned. I think by keeping up with learning myself, I can be the teacher and mother my boys need. The focus is so important, without it I will let them down and that just cannot happen.

Sunday 13th September 2020

So my boys, my husband and myself have all been pretty ill with colds this week which has meant a slight shift with the whole homeschooling routine. On Tuesday, instead of meeting up with other home educating families, we stayed inside and the boys got to chill out for the day. And then on Thursday, when I became ill, we did the same again. In between we still did the work on our time table but at times to suit us and how we were feeling. I think it just demonstrated another golden beauty of homeschooling. There was no worry about my children not getting 100% attendance, I didn’t have to see them feeling sad at the thought of not being rewarded with a useless certificate at the end of term telling them that there only value in school is to be there every day and if they failed due to illness, they were nothing short of a letdown. It was nice not to feel unfounded guilt, or have to hear your heart bang in your chest ringing the school to tell them the children wouldn’t be coming in. No. There was no feelings of guilt, inadequacy, or failure. Simple relief that I could take the time needed to recuperate and so could my children.

Thursday 24th September 2020

I recently discovered that there’s a good chance I’m going to be made redundant by the end of the year, if not sooner. So I decided to be proactive and try to find another job before the worse happens. Homeschooling means I still need to work from home. I wondered what I could do and thought about the long list of skills I have that I could bring to the table. I started researching freelance personal assistance work and came across a website called Time etc. They employ freelance virtual assistants to people from all over the world. I completed the online interview and the subsequent follow up online call and hey presto! I have a new job. But now my lovely bubble of perfect organisation, a solid timetable and endless patience, has been shattered by this new world of anxiety, aiming to please and being on call every second of the day, trying desperately to build up my new business. I know it will all fall into place eventually. I just need to remember not to lose focus. To put my children first wherever possible. Either that or give them an early half term to get my head around the new world I find myself in.

Thursday 1st October 2020

I've been struggling this week, my stress levels are at an all time high and that always affects my ability to concentrate and teach the children the way I should. I'm juggling a new job and my old one and feel completely out of sorts, under pressure and just plain old fed up. I'm losing my patience too quickly and this is not the homeschool environment I wanted for my children. So, I've decided that next week it's half term!

We've had five solid weeks of intense homeschooling and next weekend we are going away in our caravan to visit an Anglo-Saxon village, so I think having the week off won't make much difference when the boys will still be learning over the weekend. Besides, it's Kaiden's 10th birthday next week so it feels fitting that he can relax instead of working. I think one of the components about homeschooling successfully, is not trying to stick to a typical 'term'. Yours can be whenever you want it to be, and actually, if you want to save money on trips and holidays, it should probably always be your half term when the schools are open.

I need time to get my head around my new job and to de-stress. That in turn, will make me a better teacher and mother and will ensure the boys continue to have the great homeschooling experience they've been having. They will still learn, through apps on their iPads, but not by sitting down listening to mom warble on. If you're getting to breaking point, take a break. Re-configure your timetable if you have to and come back de-stressed and more confident. It won't harm the kids, but having a stressed-out mommy certainly will.

Monday 12th October 2020

So after a much needed early half term break, today we got back to homeschooling and it didn’t exactly go to plan...

My son Kaiden, struggles massively with retaining a positive attitude. No matter how hard we work on his growth mindset, he just cannot seem to believe himself or encourage himself to try harder. His natural default is to give up and it is something I really struggle with as my personality is completely different. I’m not going to lie, I’m not one of these sweetness and light mothers who can speak calmly in a sing song voice for hours on end whilst tilting her head in an effort to show a listening ear whilst wearing a sympathetic pout on her lips. That just isn’t me. I was brought up in very different circumstances, where children were seen and not heard and a beating was par for the course. Now that’s not to say I would ever treat my children in the same way, but I have to admit, I do believe in tough love and I definately think it works. I don’t always get it right, sometimes I run out of patience and say things I instantly regret, but that’s parenthood for you, constantly balancing guilt with the occasional pat on the back for getting it right. Today we finished our six week stint reading Hamlet (a child friendly version). To mark the end, the boys had to write what the story was about in summary, using the beginning, middle and end as their guide. It really bothers me when I see Kaiden‘s face totally give up before he even starts. He simply does not try and instantly starts with tears and ”I can’t do it”. What ensued was like a scene from an American football movie. With the coach barking down the ear of a star football player who can’t seem to get a goal. Kaiden has got pretty good at back chatting me lately and this sparked the loss of my patience today. I’m shouting at him that he can do it while he’s literally red in the face screaming that he can’t. I’m telling him there‘s no such word as can’t only that you will try, while he’s yelling back that there is such a word as can’t (because his dyspraxia means he’s incredibly literal).

In the end I made Kaiden get on with it after calming him down and the result was an absolutely astounding piece of work. I honestly wouldn’t have expected that level of work from him, including details and punctuations he doesn’t normally use. I was so impressed and I made sure he knew it. Would he have done so well had we not had the big blow up that we did? Had I patted him on the shoulder and told him ”there, there”, would he have sat with a proud grin on his face just five minutes later? I have to say, I don’t think he would have. I still regret what happened, but I suppose tomorrow is another day and all I can do is chalk it up to experience.

Tuesday 10th November 2020

I have decided this week to change my homeschooling timetable. The morning section of our day isn’t working, the boys are clearly not able to work in a ‘child-led’ setting, and they end up acting like absolute idiots which in turn gets them into trouble. Perhaps this is the reason the Montessori method is aimed at younger children. I decided to set them with very simple and achievable English and maths for their first half hour, and then on Monday’s, Wednesdays and Fridays watch something educational which doesn’t go on too long, and ask them to write about it after. After telling them how disappointed I was with their efforts in this area last Friday, I realised the problem lies with me and not them. So instead of making them write what they’ve seen, I’ve set them leading questions and asked them to form their answers into sentences. This in turn will form the summary of what they have watched. By trying these new methods and approaching the day calmly and with more patience than a parent being asked ‘are we nearly there yet’ after five minutes into a three hour journey, I have learned something new. Kaiden gets frustrated. Quickly. Far too quickly for my liking. We already know he doesn’t approach things with a positive mind set, he’s very much can’t do not can do, not even I will try to do. This definitely gets in the way of his ability to learn and I have to wonder why it wasn’t being noticed in school? Perhaps because he was hidden behind 29 other bodies? All that matters is that we can see it now and with all the will in the world we are going to do everything we can to turn that mindset around and help to calm his eagerly frayed nerves. My poor boy.

Friday 13th November 2020

People are very superstitious about Friday the 13th and after the day I’ve had, it’s no wonder. What a shit show of a day! I am not the most patient person in the world which doesn’t sit well in the recipe required to bake a delicious homeschooling cake, but I try very hard and this week has been no exception. I started the week with a different timetable and a different mindset and up until today things had been going swimmingly. But things got off to a bad start when we ventured Into lying land, a place I really don’t like to visit. When it comes to subjects of principles, my patience levels get stretched to their max. If there’s one thing that makes my blood boil it’s lying, even more so when there’s absolutely no valid reason for it. Whilst finishing off a zoom fitness class with my amazing friend Jen who has just launched a homeschooling P.E schedule by the way (check it out here), my husband checked in on the boys who were working on their vocabulary books and to his surprise, he found them looking at the answers in the back of the book (I clearly underestimated their intelligence by leaving them in there). After swiftly removing the answers and informing me about their dishonesty, the boys shuffled sheepishly into my room where I questioned them about it. I immediately got two different responses. Theo apologised right away, but Kaiden, as always, denied all knowledge. Kaiden‘s natural response to every question is to lie or deny. You could literally catch him with his finger up his nose, ask him to stop and he would say ‘I wasn’t doing anything’. It’s so infuriating! We’ve been working on this and he’s been getting better at eventually telling the truth, but I just cannot wrap my head around why his first instinct is always to lie. Feeling myself running out of patience I told Kaiden that I was only going to give him a few more chances and then if he kept responding to everything I asked him with a lie, there would be consequences. The day before all of this, after another emotional outburst from Kaiden, I had asked him to stand in front of the mirror each morning and tell himself ‘Today is going to be a good day, I can do this’. So, we went downstairs to start the work for that day, the boys needed to watch a 20 minute documentary about the Anglo-Saxons and answer some pre-written questions using Microsoft Word. I could see all over Kaiden‘s face his dejected expression, telling himself this was going to be difficult. So I asked him if he did as I asked and had a word with himself in the mirror that morning. His immediate answer was yes but I knew instantly he was lying....again. After establishing that he was indeed lying, I again tried to glean some understanding of why he felt the need to be dishonest. He responded as he always does ‘I’m not sure’.

So we moved on. Oh my Goodness! What should have been around a 45 minute activity took around two hours with Kaiden not listening, not understanding, getting himself into a state crying uncontrollably and me using the F-word in front of the kids. The trouble is with Kaiden not only does he have a negative mental attitude, he also has dyspraxia so it’s not always easy to define the nature of the problem. But my gut tells me it’s a bit of both. I could work with the dyspraxia if only he would give an inch on the negative mindset. despite totally losing my cool, shouting until I was red in the face which was a huge blow after such a serene week, Kaiden still answered a question I asked about naming a strong woman in his life as me. No matter what you do to them, these kids are as loyal as dogs. Time to reset the brain and start from scratch on Monday. Ffs.

Tuesday 12th January 2021

Well this week (and last) hasn't got off to a good start. I have absolutely no idea what has happened to my children but they've come back to homeschooling after just one week off for Christmas with a complete lack of enthusiasm, lots of distraction and basically just very disinterested.

We've changed our timetable as my work load has increased so now we work from 8am-12pm and then the day is over which gives the boys the rest of the day to themselves. I would have thought that would have been a good thing but it seems to have had the opposite effect, instead encouraging them to watch the clock until 12pm comes.

Today it came to a head and we had a family discussion about it. Theo admitted he just wants to play on his iPad and Kaiden confessed he can't stop thinking about the new Playstation they had for Christmas. So we've come up with some new rules. No iPad until after homeschooling (which means not first thing in the morning before homeschooling) and the playstation is only allowed every other day.

Despite their confessions I also have to take a long hard look at myself. I've been extremely distracted trying to cope with the new workload and homeschooling and haven't approached it with the best patience. I firmly believe children project a behaviour of what they see and how they feel. Perhaps all of this is my fault? Perhaps they perceive me as disinterested and therefore can't be bothered either. All I do know is we all need to buck up our ideas. Let's roll on tomorrow and pray for a better day.

Wednesday 17th February 2021

Well I totally feel like I am failing today. I've started to panic the last few days about whether or not I'm doing the right thing homeschooling my children. It all started when I saw some facebook posts from friends talking about applying for senior school. My eldest child is 11 in October so just misses the September 2021 intake. He won't be going to high school until next year but I know paperwork might be started this year. I thought of how he's been missing his friends recently due to lockdown and then I couldn't stop picturing him with them all headed off to high school laughing and joking. I feel like I'm depriving him. Honestly, as I write this I am literally crying.

The truth is I love homeschooling my boys. It has changed our family dynamic for the better in so many ways. I feel they are safe at home too, whilst the pandemic rages on. We plan to take a year out travelling as soon as we can and we've worked hard to prepare for that. I started freelancing as a virtual assistant last year to ensure I could continue to earn money whilst travelling. I know that putting my boys back into school would make this impossible so for now, the plan is to keep homeschooling and at least have that one year as a family to experience something most can only dream of. After that, who knows? Perhaps high school might be an option.

Does anyone else feel like they've made the wrong decision? This is the first time I've really felt unsure. Today we've been doing IXL maths and english and it hasn't gone well. I'll be the first to admit that my maths is awful. Usually I'm not too bad at helping but today I just couldn't understand it and it made me and my older child frustrated. This has only led to more feelings of worry and doubt. Straight away I've been online and looked for a tutor.

So, yeah. I'm having a pretty shit day. I'm totally doubting my abilities and I'm worried to death I'm depriving my children of a decent education and time with their friends. I feel all of this whilst knowing in the back of my mind that the things I'm teaching them are MORE relevant than what they would learn at school. I'm feeling like this even though I know we are living in an artificial state at the moment. In reality when the country opens up again, we will meet with other home educating families and I won't worry about them not seeing friends. But even though we reason with ourselves, we can still feel crappy about our decisions at times.

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