‘Here’s What I’m Learning As I Homeschool My Primary School-Aged Kids’

Antoinette Lattouf

When it was announced the vast majority of school students in Greater Sydney will be in lockdown for at least another four weeks, I had to make like Gladys and break the much-dreaded news. This time my audience was primary school-aged daughters. Their questions were as ruthless as the ones the Premier faced from the media pack.

“Are tutors an option — I don’t really like learning with you?” Miss 9 shot.

“But I miss my friends and teacher. My teacher means so much to me, and mum, you need to work on being a better teacher. That’s not so mean,”  Miss 6 cried.

Antoinette Lattouf with her two daughters. Image: Supplied

I’ve been so busy overseeing my children’s work, giving them feedback and scrutinising school and government policies about remote learning that I haven’t spent time grading myself. Oh, and let’s not forget I still have to do my day job in between.

Like it or not, parents have faced a sharp learning curve. Here’s what homeschooling has taught me.

Patience is in short supply

As much I would like to be as fun and interactive as Bluey’s dad Bandit, I’m not. I’m boring, OK? And I’m time-poor. Hubby’s demanding job means he’s on Zoom calls for what feels like 85 hours a day. It means I’m trying to juggle preparing healthy meals, breaking the kids up when they start whacking each other and getting them to complete their schoolwork. I also need to try and work.

So, when my younger daughter asks me if I can watch her on the toilet, it’s hard to resist the urge just to scream “hell no” and then scream into a scrunched-up bundle of toilet paper.

Primary school math is more complex than it looks

I don’t mean to sound like I’m discouraging STEM studies for girls, but I truly loathe and suck at math. It’s probably why I became a journalist, given I don’t have to use a spreadsheet to do my job. Thankfully, my nine-year-old enjoys math and coding, which is fabulous… until she asks me for help. Rather than admit I don’t know the answer, I use it as an opportunity to encourage “independent learning”.

Love for children can** be conditional

Part of loving our delicious children is the liberty to get the hell away from said children. I’m playing multiple roles — mum, PE teacher, school principal and entertainer — around the clock. And when my children refuse to listen, and backchat and roll their eyes — I can’t escape them. If they were work colleagues or someone else’s kids, I’d be the first to say I don’t want to be around such turds.

Meltdowns can be used to inspire

Given I can’t fire my kids or send them to the principal’s office, sometimes the only mature thing to do is to have a big cry or put myself in the “thinking corner”. While sitting there feeling sorry for myself, I came up with a great idea. I now ask my children to either draw me while I’m having a meltdown or write about how they think I may be feeling. The lesson? My misery can be a teaching moment.

Over-scheduling is my fault

Being forced to stay at home and play board games, watch movies and bake as a family has been delightful. It’s also been a reminder that children are often happiest when engaging with and learning from their parents. My husband teaches my kids how to pump their bike tyres or chats about herbs in the garden. The simple things we don’t usually have time for.

The slower pace and lack of back-to-back extracurricular activities have made me question why we signed up for so much in the first place.

90s’ neighbourhoods are back in vogue  

From hopscotch to hoola hoops and drawing with chalk on the footpath, my children spend more time outdoors than ever before. And it’s not just them. All along our street, kids are climbing trees, riding bikes and playing handball. It reminds me of my happy childhood. So while our children are missing out on valuable time with their teachers, there are other, unwritten lessons they are learning on this journey.

**Kids, if you’re reading this, I do love you. Always. Now pack up your Lego.

Antoinette Lattouf is a multi-award-winning Network 10 journalist and a mother of two. Follow her on Twitter: @antoinette_news.

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