Good evening. We are about to roll into the third week of 'Lockdown' in the UK and, like the rest of the world, we really don't know when, or how, this Lockdown or the fight against the Covid-19 virus will end. We have been really quiet on our social media pages lately and we hope that you can forgive that - we have been busy adjusting to the rapidly changing situation; unfortunately having to cancel adventure activity days, wading through bureaucracy and applications (only to discover that we aren't eligible for any financial support, despite the total loss of our income and the Government's desire that as many of us stay home as possible) and, of course, helping our son George re-adjust to a routine that no longer involves school.
As you will know from following our Blog, George is autistic and things like "routine" and "control" are very very significant to him. We have spent the last 6 years trying to help George settle into school-life and the challenges of learning and socialising within a classroom environment; now we are quite suddenly trying to help him adjust to life without these structures whilst at the same time trying to show the importance of adding learning to his home routine.
To George, everyday is a bit like a weekend at the moment, except that his "black and white" view of things means that he really believes that learning is to be done in school and that we, as his parents, cannot help him learn (despite me being an very experienced and capable teacher) because we are not his teachers! Life has been manageable for a week or so as we have eased into this new way of life but as the "holiday feeling" has worn off for George the stress of not being able to see his school friends, not being able to see family members and not being able to go places has been pushing his lack of understanding into frustration and melt-downs.
This will sound all too familiar for many of you reading this Blog and we empathise entirely with the struggles that you are facing everyday. You guys are amazing! Your struggles may be hidden from most people but we know how they take you to the edge of patience, to the edge of endurance, to the edge of your creativity and to the edge of your sanity ... and yet you don't give in, you don't buckle or yield, you remain stoic, solid and consistent for your children and you are guiding them, selflessly, through perhaps the most difficult time of our lives.
To help George we have started "The Diary of a Corona Kid" - for the sake of accuracy it should really have been the "Covid-19 Kid" but that didn't seem to run off the tongue so well! - and George is encouraged to record the things that he has done each day. Each day we have tried to involve George in the tasks that we have been doing, in order to show him how we need maths, english, science and languages in every day life, and so he has helped us measure wood to make kitchen drawers, has looked up information and recipes through Google and has written letters to his friends, all of which he has then recorded in his own journal. This has begun to work well at providing George with a routine in which he knows he needs to start and complete tasks in order to be able to fill in his diary ... and it is the reason behind this Blog. As we have come up with ideas with George we thought we should leave some here with you in case your children want to try them as well.
1. Write a Diary or Journal - these are completely novel times for our children but for many of us the restrictions and limitations that we face are also balanced with huge increases in the valuable time we are able to spend with our families. As adults, we are stood on shaky ground (some of us have fallen between the cracks of Government financial support, some are critical Health Workers, some are staying-at home despite their individual or business needs, some are Key Workers selflessly pushing on to deliver care, supplies and hope) but all of us share a renewed appreciation of family, of time spent together and the need to protect our children from the stress and anxiety of the situation we find ourselves in. For the children, these are precious times of interaction, shared activities, love, laughter and pride and we hope that one day our children can look back at their own piece of 'living history' and see the enormity of the situation that we lived through.
2. Plant a vegetable patch - whether it is in a plant pot or a section of the garden there is something really engaging and rewarding about creating and sustaining life and then being able to consume what you have grown. This has been a great way for George to research how to prepare the ground, to learn what seeds / vegetables can be planted now and how they need to be protected and cared for, but it has also been a great opportunity to work in the garden with his mum, working together as equals in pursuit of the same goal. Get your orders in early though as some seed suppliers are now running waiting lists for seeds to become available!
3. Have a backyard fire (being careful not to smoke out your neighbours though, especially if they have washing on the line or suffer with asthma or breathing troubles!) - we were amazed how much scrap wood we could find around our house, garage and garden; just little off cuts, pieces of old garden canes, dead branches from the hedge and potential 'paint stirring' sticks that Dad has amassed in the shed! George loves to build a fire and so we talked about the science behind it, looking at how to build up the wood to allow the correct balance of Fuel, Oxygen and Heat for the fire to succeed. It may have helped that we had marshmallows to be toasted as well!
4. Undertake the Lego 30 Day Challenge - George loves Lego and can spend hours playing, inventing and building. We have tapped into this love of Lego to help George start to (subconsciously) tackle maths in particular and he was over-the-moon when we discovered the Lego 30 Day challenges - there are actually far far more than just 30 days worth of activities as there are numerous challenge sheets available online to cater for different ages and abilities. You can find lots of them here: Google - Lego 30 Day Challenge
5. Do some garden art - we used a leaf from here and a flower from there, a stick from the hedge and a twig from the tree and slowly built up a number of little art installations. George really enjoyed the flat art installations and used an iPad to take photo's of them, but, it's fair to say that we all really enjoyed making 3D items out of the bits picked from the garden and the Boat Race was by far the most fun!
6. Use the daily exercise time wisely but consistently - we haven't had much luck in generating a "home-school" timetable as George is adamant that we are not to be delivering his learning as we are not his teachers! We have seen the benefit of using the same time-slot each day to undertake some family exercise and fresh air. We are really lucky that we can cycle to the canal within a few hundred metres of the house and that we don't have to touch anything at all from the moment we leave to the moment we return (and so our chances of spreading or catching the Covid-19 virus are pretty limited) - even without cycling though we have used the Ordnance Survey andStreetmap websites to look up our local area and have walked along the lanes and bridleways near our house. You must stay within the Government restrictions and fulfil the 2m social distancing requirements but the consistent time-slot and the daily exercise has proved to be quite the calming feature in our days!
We would love to see some of your ideas and activities so please share them, either in the comments here or on our Facebook page.
Whatever you do, we hope that you stay safe, stay well and stay at home just as much as possible until we emerge from the other side of this pandemic.