I consider myself a reasonably intelligent chap. I’ve got qualifications, a degree in Modern History no less, and I’m pretty good when it comes to quiz show general knowledge. I read and I write and I like to think I’m fairly eloquent when it comes to conversation. When my nerves or shyness don’t get the better of me I can hold my own in most company. Fionnuala always tells me I could have been a teacher, given my intellect and temperament.
So when it came to homeschooling Hannah and Rebecca this week I thought, yeah, I can do that. How hard can it be? What could possibly go wrong? Schools in Northern Ireland will be closed until at least mid-February due to restrictions aimed at curbing the latest coronavirus surge. All teaching will be online until then and exams scheduled for later in the year have been scrapped. A heavy burden has been placed on us parents.
Battle commenced around our kitchen table this Tuesday morning. Hannah was tackling a module on Human Rights legislation which was drier than a cream cracker in a desert during a particularly dry year. There was history, law, ethics and politics all rolled up into one nasty set of documents and videos, following which we had to prepare several information leaflets and PowerPoint presentations. By Friday I was ready to wave the white flag and call in the United Nations peacekeeping corps.
While Hannah’s topic was a relentless war of attrition to grind me into the ground, Rebecca’s work consisted of more blitzkrieg tactics. In one whirlwind day I was hit with food nutrition, the story of Moses and crosswords. In French! By the end of the day all I wanted to do was lie down and never have to face another workbook as long as I lived. But I know I have another five weeks of this, at minimum, as Fionnuala simultaneously battles to keep the house in some kind of order.
The last four days have made me regard teachers and homeschooling parents in a whole new light. It’s no cushy number and require huge amounts of patience, concentration and diplomacy. Hats off to those who choose this as a career or have made the decision to educate their kids from home on a permanent basis. Although at least now I know how many articles there are in the UN Declaration of Human Rights…and the French for ‘raw vegetables.’