The pressure on parents to try and hold to down a job, whilst maintaining their kid’s education and stay sane and do it all under one roof and only getting out of the house once a day is A LOT. Kathryn Baldrey-Chourio is an ex-teacher, Mother of 3, turned business owner (she is the founder of Nana’s Manners) and this is her encapsulation of the current situation:

What a month (all eleventy seven days of it) – there are now times when I feel this is almost like a new ‘normal’, then others where it’s like we are in some sort of an alternate reality. For most of us, it’s around a month of schools closing to the majority of children. Having 3 kids (with big age gaps) and a business in the nursery industry, I’ve seen a lot on this subject since ‘lockdown’ began.

I haven’t taught in school since starting Nana’s Manners so am a few years out the saddle, but much like riding a bike, it never really leaves you and I have many friends still in the profession. From them, I’ve heard first hand how this situation has unfolded so far and continues to do so.  There was no long-term plan presented to them at the end of March. There has been no long-term plan since. Schools have rolled their sleeves up and got on with it. 

All views here are obviously my own based on my knowledge and experiences so far and others may disagree, but here I go. (And please excuse typos – I now write with Baby Club on in the background and half an eye elsewhere…)

  • We are in a completely unanticipated and unprecedented (-thought I’d get that word in early) situation.

  • No one saw this coming.

  • This situation started to impact us as a business before Chinese New Year (our factory is there) but naïve as it sounds with hindsight, I never really considered the possible impact that would follow here in the U.K.

  • The Coronavirus has impacted every single person. I cannot think of any other incident in my lifetime that comes close. At a moment’s notice, all our lives have drastically changed.

  • Many of us are under HUGE pressure right now – our jobs, livelihoods and businesses have had the rugs pulled out from under them. Many of us are just trying to figure out how to survive this.

  • And our children are at home. Those who are key workers may have their children still at school, though there’s a whole other level of anxiety there.

  • I have seen so many posts and threads regarding ‘Home Schooling’ with tips and ideas, most extremely useful. I have however seen many posts and comments from parents that are struggling with the whole situation and unsure of what they should be doing. My thoughts here are as follows;

  • You are not ‘Home Schooling’ your child. Home Schooling is an option, taken up by statistically few parents after much thought, consideration, planning, home and routine set up.

  • This is an emergency situation.

  • We have not had time to plan as parents. Schools have not had time to plan as educators. We are all in the deep end here. ‘Learning at home’ is the best we can hope for right now.

  • Children are always learning. In everyday home life, they are learning, therefore they are (and always have been) ‘learning at home’. You’re doing it already. 

  • Various teachers I have spoken to were told to ‘plan work’ ‘pull remote resources together’, ‘print out work packs’ and /or to ‘plan lessons as they would normally and send them home’. The last point, in particular, I cannot get my head round in the slightest. A three-year teaching degree gave me the confidence to plan, teach and assess in this way, I don’t know why this situation would suddenly change that.

  • If you’ve always worked in a completely different industry you cannot be suddenly expected to pick up where a teacher has left off.

  • The headlines tell us ‘Schools are Shut’. Schools are very much open. They are teaching and nurturing the children of nurses, doctors, supermarket employees and many other key workers, people who are risking their health every day to keep us going. Teachers are ensuring vulnerable children are looked after as best they can. Teachers are arranging for children on free school meals to still receive that one (more essential than ever) meal a day. Teachers are uploading links for remote learning. Teachers are working harder than ever.

  • If your children are at home, then you are most probably working from home.

  • Primary school-aged children cannot sit and teach themselves. I doubt many secondary school children can either to any great extent.

  • There is a reason that study isn’t self-directed until 16yrs +. This situation doesn’t change that fact.

  • If you are working, you cannot teach your child at the same time. It is not possible. I’m sure many teachers would be running their second (lucrative) job alongside their timetable if this were the case. We are all doing our best right now, but we cannot morph ourselves into 2 people.

  • Your work is important, more so than ever. Pressurising yourself that you should be acting like a qualified teacher at the same time is not helpful to anyone right now. Prioritising your work does not make you any less of a parent. We all need to survive and get through this.

  • Lots of learning takes place outside of structured lessons in school, perhaps the most important of which involves social interaction.

  • Your child has gone from being in a class of 30 to working in solitary for the last month. It’s a shock for them and they will miss their peers in ways they don’t even realise themselves. They really need us to help them here. Don’t feel that in the time you’re not working you need to teach a structured pen and paper lesson. You can bake a cake, chat over a book or board game, talk about their favourite programme, play in the garden if you’re lucky enough to have one. Just enjoy the company of each other and be the social interaction you both need.

  • Cooking together is great – a lot of Maths, science and reading takes place in the kitchen. And you get to ‘mark’ the work around the table together!

  • Your school has probably sent out lots of work – links to websites, printed sheets, daily online lessons. THEY DO NOT EXPECT YOU TO DO ALL OF THIS.

  • Teachers had approximately 3.5 seconds to throw a plan together and get something out. They don’t have time for feedback. Many will have put a load of stuff out to cater for everyone in different home situations. I doubt all this work will ever get looked out – schools will have enough on their plate when they reopen.

  • Take from it what your family needs.

  • It is evident after the past month of adjusting that different schools are supplying very different resources for their pupils. I’ve heard of and seen online Zoom daily lessons, work being uploaded to Google Drive in class folders, packs being sent in the post, teachers sending daily plans with email links to online activities and games and more.

  • No two schools are doing the same thing. There was no universal guidance on how teaching should be delivered over this period – there was no time.

  • Trust that each school knows their children’s needs the best and they will be working hard to meet these in the way they see most fit. Don’t worry about what any other schools are doing.

  • Most of us are in class Whatsapp groups of some description. Janet in the group may be checking how to download the 3rd worksheet of the day at 10:30am. Janet may be suggesting 8 new websites we can all look at. Thank you Janet. We are not all Janet. Janet’s child will not have an advantage over yours when we return to school. What’s right for Janet’s child may not be what works for yours.

  • All this work will be covered again when they return to school. They will not miss out on anything. Think of it as revision.

  • You will get frustrated. If you find yourself getting too frustrated walk away – it’s not worth it. Go back to it again when you are ready. This is why teachers have staffrooms…

  • Timetables are great and having some sort of structure to the day often makes the day pass more easily as everyone knows where they are. It’s taken a few weeks to get ours almost ‘right’. Timetabling every minute of the day doesn’t work for my 9yr old, but starting the day with Joe Wick’s P.E. at 9am followed by a garden 30 minutes play with his sister sets him up for some work at 10am.

  • Some days will be better than others. Some days will be easier than others. Accepting this is easier than fighting it.

  • Every family has a different set of circumstances and ages to juggle – don’t compare what works for yours to anyone else’s. In our house, we seem to be slowly finding a natural routine incorporating our need to work, the baby’s nap and our 17yr old’s online college work is starting to emerge. Here’s to hoping this continues…

  • I do think bedtimes are important though. The routine here reassures everyone and keeps us in touch with normality. Reward systems are really helpful too.

  • It’s hard to know how much to talk to children about the situation the world is in right now. The old saying ‘if children ask the question, they are ready for the answer’ probably applies here. CBBC’s Newsround is a great source of content. Children need our reassurance more than any facts or figures – trust that you know what your child needs to hear the most.

  • I have read in a few posts; “Children will not remember what they did in this period of time, but they will remember how they felt…” I’m trying to keep that at the forefront of my mind.

  • Everyone will have a meltdown at some point, we’re just hoping we can spread ours out and take it in turns. We’re two in so far…

  • One thing I am scheduling into my timetable and sticking to is some time for myself. A bath, a glass of wine, a cup of uninterrupted tea, a face pack – whatever works that day. Our mental health is more important than ever.

  • You are doing the best you can do. You really are. That is enough. Let’s all support and love each other as much as we can!

  • No one knows what’s happening when it comes to schools reopening.  I’ve heard bits here and there but there’s no clear plan. Schools are waiting on the government’s guidance. The general view is that it won’t be ‘back to normal’ straight away. Perhaps staged returns, staggered lunches to allow for social distancing, we’ll see. Children adapt quickly and with the teacher’s support will be just fine with whatever may be.

  • One thing I do know is that no one is going to question teacher’s getting a pay rise ever again…

  • And finally – we all need to be listening carefully to our amazing NHS and other experts right now, but if there’s one bit of advice we can all safely ignore, it’s Paediatrician’s recommended screen times for children…

Look after yourselves and each other. See you on the other side!

Lots of love,  Kathryn x x x aka @Nanasmanners



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