Back To School

Another post for the memory bank I guess – it’s hopefully only once in a lifetime your children have to return to school after (or arguably during) the first wave of a pandemic. Tomorrow is the first day back, so today I’ve taken an annual leave day to go and see red pandas and spend some time with my frankly amazing (although I am biased) children.

We didn’t have the same challenges as many during lockdown if I’m honest. My kids hated schooling from home (just as I’m not keen on working from home) but they got on with it with very little intervention from us. They even did their PE lessons despite them often being slightly uninspiring Youtube videos. There was a fair bit of boredom outside of lessons which resulted in far too much television, but also the writing and recording of a play over the internet, the development of some natty crochet skills and the enjoyment of lot of other crafts. We made a jar full of ideas, some of which they did like building a bird hide, making a bug hotel and playing very old computer games. Some of which they raised their eyes skywards at and threw in the bin. Towards the end they both started Couch25k for something else to do and I’m hopeful if nothing else it will make school cross country (if that’s still a thing) a bit easier. There were arguments and tears, but also laughter and support for each other (and us). Sometimes they were with each other constantly, other times they needed to be in separate rooms with headphones on. So it was ok – not great but ok.

We were lucky. My kids weren’t in an exam year to miss out on the whole thing they’ve been working towards, and more importantly the rites of passage that come along with leaving school. They were old enough to cope with the change relatively easily and to express their feelings to us. They don’t have health conditions that mean we are worried about them catching Covid (well above the normal fear of them being ill and them passing it on without knowing of course). We have access to equipment that made school from home possible. My heart goes out to others for whom it’s not been so straightforward.

But they really missed school. The biggest gap of all being interaction. They missed their friends of course, and for my youngest it was particularly hard because as a Y7 she was still meeting people. Going back feels very much like starting again at a tricky bit.

They also missed their teachers – especially those who go the extra mile to help them feel important and successful like their music, maths and DT teachers. For my two clubs are a massive part of school life and this of course is an unknown:

Will it ever be safe for T to empty out the saliva in her trumpet next to a group of other instrument playing kids?

Can the girls ever sing in a choir again while all facing the same direction or will they have to stand in different parts of the room?

Will the teachers have any time at all to run afterschool clubs and listen to their crazy engineering ideas when they are handling multiple huge bubbles of kids and trying to keep a distance from all of them?

If your netball team contains kids from two different bubbles can half of them not touch the ball?

Can someone at least be in the same room with you to show you how to play trombone?

It’s all a mystery.

Anyway, whatever the existing question marks they are going back tomorrow. They swing between being desperate to do so, and anxious that it won’t be as good as they fear. That the lessons will be strange. That my eldest won’t see her music teacher because she hasn’t chosen to take it as a GCSE. That no-one will be allowed to sit and read in the library. That the fun will be gone.

They’ve spent hours poring over their timetables to work out which of their friends might be in their lessons. The same amount of time discussing the teachers they’ve got for each one. They went in for a meeting and came back talking about their being “so many people there” – it’s all so alien to us all now, big groups of people.

For me it’s weird. The house will be quiet for the first time in months. I have to remember how to make a packed lunch, and will go back to washing uniform and telling the kids not to leave their bags in the hall. Paul and I will be mostly working from home so it’ll be the two of us which is even weirder. The kids won’t be returning to an empty house when they finish school. I wonder if they’ll miss the independence.

So it’s been an odd time, followed by a fairly lacklustre summer. But overall I’m proud of us all for making it through and especially for the kids being positive about what comes next despite their fears.

So here we go. But first, red pandas.

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