Tuesday 31 March 2020

Home schooling

Given the advanced age of many birders, having children living at home may not be something that many of you can relate to, or at least not any longer. However for those younger readers who visit these pages, it is quite likely that like me you will have children of school age. It is also quite likely that the schools that they go to are currently closed, and many children are now enjoying an extended summer holiday that stretches out to September. 

Six months of no school! I imagine that for many kids this new state of affairs has been received extremely positively, with possibly the opposite reaction from their parents! Goodbye maths, science, tests, exams, homework and pressure. Hello Playstation, online gaming, Netflix, sleeping until midday and a carefree existence.

Not in this house.

My poor children. Mrs L is a teacher and has access to all sorts of online resources. Before the kids' own teachers could react and start setting work via email, Mrs L had structured a home-schooling regime with ruthless efficiency. Weekdays would follow the same timetable as previously - if Charlotte had a maths lesson at 9am on a Tuesday morning at school, then that's what she will be doing at 9am on a Tuesday morning in Chateau L. 

I too have played my part. The house has been transformed. Forseeing the upcoming education crisis I invested in a new desktop computer, additional memory for the existing one, a further monitor, and, as our wi-fi is so poor, enough ethernet cable to wire up the international space station. An old television that was due to go to relatives has been repurposed as another computer monitor, and my laptop with the cracked screen is now hooked up to that in what used to be our living room. The new computer is in the front room and has been hard-wired into the router and the TV, and the upgraded old computer with the new screen has been set up in the guestroom on the basis that that we won't be welcoming any guests for a while.

There are no excuses. Gradually we are getting things set by the school that the girls can be getting on with, and we imagine that after the Easter "holiday" that this will become more formal. For Henry it is slightly different - it is (or rather, was) his GCSE year, and so on that front there is nothing forthcoming and his grades will instead be decided by his mock exams last year and some measure of teacher-defined progress. So instead we've been looking at some of his chosen A-level subjects, as well as essay writing. In other words unremitting fun. All of this is being supplemented by online language courses that we have signed back up to, and grandparents with subject expertise have been pressed into service via Skype and Zoom. This keeps the old folk occupied as well, and you never know, it might stop them going out on "essential" shopping trips for newspapers....

But that is not all. It is important that children become familiar with some of the more practical elements of school subjects. Theory is all well and good, but it is the application of this in real life which I find really engages young people. So far I have set some chemistry, whereby the children examined the effect of certain compounds on stubborn household stains, and there have been numerous lessons on textiles. Further down the line I have lots of biology fieldwork planned, and if we get some nice weather they may also be able to participate in some outdoor-based art classes in the close vicinity of the shed.

They'll be running back to school when all this is over.

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