Sunday, 29 March 2020

A dog's eye view of lockdown

Hello.  I'm called Blossom.  I'm not sure if you've noticed, but there's something going on around here.
For some reason, the humans are staying in the den and not going out on patrol.
My soft place in the den.  They call it my "BED"
 In normal times, they get up in the morning and we go on our first patrol then its time for breakfast.
After that they go on patrol to other places.  Daddy goes on "HOSPITAL" patrol and Mummy and the small ones go to "SCHOOL" patrol.  They call it "WORK".  I am on guard duty at the den.  Fay comes at lunchtime and takes me on fun patrol with all my dog friends.  Later everybody comes home and we have a lovely evening together with the pack, though sometimes they go out to another patrol which they call "SCOUTS". 
This is my Mummy.  I love her.
 For the last ten days though, Mummy has only left the Den twice, and not at all in the last week!  I don't know what's going on but I really love it!  Daddy is taking me on patrol in the morning, and then he's out at Hospital Patrol all day, but Mummy and the Small Ones stay in the den with me!  A couple of times the Small Ones have taken me for a quick patrol to the field but I don't understand.  I want to run and bounce with the other dogs but they keep me on the "LEAD".  At least I'm out and about a bit though so I can keep an eye on everything.
This is my "sun place".  I sit here to keep an eye out for any cats or squirrels who come near my den.  Also it's lovely in the sun.  I sometimes fall asleep a bit.
 So what has this meant for me?  A LOT of cuddles!  I get to have a cuddle with Mummy whenever I want to!  I bring her my toy or I nudge her with my nose or my paw.  This is my way of signalling to mummy that she is spending too much time on the "COMPUTER" (she thinks she is still on patrol, but hasn't worked out that she's still in the den).  After that, she invites me onto her lap and I nudge her until she's stroking or tickling just the right bit.
This is my favourite toy at the moment.  I usually destroy toys but this one is proving quite tough.

me looking thoughtful.  I'm actually distracted by a cloud.  Nobody needs to know that though.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Thoughts on Home working and what we're all doing in the shut-down.

I posted yesterday about Home Learning and how to support the children during this shut-down.

In the meantime, what have I been doing?  As a teacher I am technically a key worker but my underlying kidney disease, vasculitis and immune suppression mean that I am classed as "extremely vulnerable".  I have been home-working since last Wednesday, and as of Monday evening am on the list of people who are not supposed to leave the house for 12 weeks.  

 Each morning I have started with my home-working teaching tasks while the children have been busy with their work.  This involves working with my Year 2 colleagues to compile appropriate work for the children to do from home in each of the subject areas.  As parents email the work in, we note it, respond, post something on the school twitter-feed, post the answers for the parents to be able to mark their work and generally follow up.  We're also taking the opportunity to catch up on paperwork and planning across the school.

After I've done this, I move on to virtual Scouting.  I'm running a Cub Pack and a Beaver Colony so I'm regularly posting activities or badge work that children can be getting on with at home.  I'm looking forward to running a virtual meeting on a video-call platform too so they all get to see one another.  We'll probably have a go at that next week.  

In my County Scout role I'm rearranging adult training modules so that people can pick up on them after the shut-down, but also supporting people to use this opportunity while they are at home to do some e-learning and get their training validated.

Once I've done this I move on to writing.  I'm trying to warm-up my skills a bit by entering writing competitions.  I know that I'm unlikely to win any prizes but the discipline of a deadline and trying out writing in different genres is quite refreshing.  I've entered a Travel Writing one so far, and am now working on an entry for a humorous poetry competition.  Also the fact that I'm stuck indoors, I can stretch my wings a bit here on my blog.

Each day I'm also making sure that I get some exercise.  I've returned to my old favourite Claire Sweeney Slimming World DVD but also had a go at Joe Wicks does PE this morning with the children.  I'm attempting to tame a mature and somewhat wild garden, starting with a patch that Miss Busy has asked to adopt.  Also, the house hasn't been so clean since just after we moved in.  We do have some decorating to do but, while the sun is shining, the garden gets priority.
Plus, of course, spending time with my children.  Making sure that they are getting some of their schoolwork done and not spending all day in front of a screen.  Making sure that they are okay.

What are you all doing during this shut-down?  What does your day look like?

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Thoughts on "Home-learning"

Schools are closed and many of us are cooped up in our homes with our children.
Miss Busy doing yoga as set by her teacher
That's no bad thing.  We all lead over-busy lives, racing around from activity to activity.  While nobody wants this Coronavirus and we all wish it would go away, while nobody wants to be forced to stay indoors and not be able to work (and for many people - earn money), this time of enforced confinement may be the reset button they were looking for in their lives.  It's certainly a time for us to re-establish a connection with our children.  

Most of us leave the children's education to school.  We occasionally glance at or support homework, and we turn up at parents' evening, but we aren't really involved with their learning - that's school's job, right?  Now we are being asked to support and guide our children through all their learning tasks for a protracted amount of time.  Many schools are trying to support the parents and continue managing the task of educating by providing work each day and asking the children/parents to submit it.  As parents, how do we manage this?

First, I think it's important to remember that you are the parent and you know your child.  You have a few options here:
1) stick to the school timetable, or create your own strict timetable.  Use the school's materials or some you have provided or sourced yourselves.  You can either work with your child, ensure your child understands the task and supervise them, or rely on your child to stick to the timetable.
2) use the materials the school has provided, or materials of your own, but throw the timetable out of  the window.  Opting instead for a "as long as you get everything on the list done, you choose how long to work on it and when to do it" attitude.  This works well with children who are largely independent, but you can also encourage children to come to you for specific tasks or if they need help.
Miss Busy helped me out by trialling an activity I set for my Year 2 class.
3)  Ignore any "formal" learning materials.  Take this time to connect with your child, trust that they will fall into a natural rhythm and that they will be learning through living.  Encourage creative activities, but don't be too hung up on curriculum or formal lessons.  If you are following this option, you should let your school know your intentions.  During this time of shut-down there is nothing to stop you doing things your own way, but teachers, who are working hard to provide and follow up on set work will be concerned about you and your children if they don't hear anything.

They are also working on the 30 day lego challenge
I've personally gone for option 2.  My children are independent enough that they know how to access the work that school has set and are keen to complete it.  The main rule is that they must do these activities before they play any computer games or watch TV, but they can do them in any order and I encourage regular breaks.  We are only on day 3 but already the way they work has evolved.  To begin with, Miss Busy was trying hard to stick to normal school hours of working.  However, I noted that she was sneaking on to games on the computer in between school activities because she had finished them in less than the allotted time.  When I pointed out that she didn't need to wait until "the lesson was over" before moving on, and that she could start before 9am if she wanted to, she was liberated.  This morning she started at 7am, got all her school tasks done by 10am, played on the computer for an hour, made the lunch, and is now playing in the garden.  
Miss Busy's portrait of Henry VIII
Mr Build-it has loved the independence to work through tasks at his own pace and has very much enjoyed e-mailing his work to his teacher.  Today, however, he was traumatised by a music task which involved singing, and encouraged children to submit a video of them singing a song.  I tried to assure him that this was not compulsory and that nobody would even know if he had sung the song or not, but he felt that if school had set the task, be must complete it, even if he hates having photos taken or singing where people can hear him (despite the fact that he has a lovely singing voice and is happy to play the piano to an audience!).  There were many tears and he put off starting any of the school work for some time, to evade getting to the point where he needed to do the music.

So how to manage this process when you are also supposed to be working from home:

Steps to success:
  • make sure your child has somewhere to work / concentrate / focus on whatever activities they are doing and the tools they need - sharp pencils, rubber, ruler, pens, art material, access to computer etc.
  • check in with your child regularly to ensure that they know what they are doing, help them if they don't.  Depending on your child, it may be a good idea to have them working next to you as you will be able to help them focus.
  • Ensure they take a break.  If they are struggling to focus, they need a change of activity, a breather or a snack.  In school they will be regularly moving from talk-partners to independent work, from carpet (whole class) to desk, snack time, assembly etc.  Up to year 3 they rarely sit still for more than about 20-30 minutes at a time.
  • Once their fixed "work" is done, celebrate!  Whether this is by taking photos of the work to send to the teacher, sharing it with Gran via a video call, having an hour to play on the computer or a star on a chart.
  • After this formal learning is done, make the time to spend at least an hour doing something with your children, whether this is a new hobby, gardening, housework, playing a board or computer game, reading, playing Lego, an exercise DVD or something completely different.  Spend time together and show that you value their company.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Covid19 - Time to stay at home

Since my last post, which unbelievably saw the traffic viewing my blog explode to more than 900, the government's advice has evolved rather drastically.  Like... from primordial slime to vertebrate evolution in just over a week. 

To start with, the schools were staying open for as long as possible.  The government was hoping that we would develop herd immunity without too many of our elderly or vulnerable people taking ill.  I'm not sure what changed their minds but somewhere towards the beginning of last week two terms became all important.  
Self-isolation - if you had any symptoms of the Covid19 virus at all then you should stay home from work for 14 days.
Social Distancing - if you had any underlying conditions or were older then you should keep your distance from people, working from home if possible.

Things moved very quickly at that point.  Most notable was the crazy panic buying.  Who knew that toilet roll would become such a valuable commodity?  Supermarket shelves were being emptied faster than they could be filled as everybody prepared for self-isolation or lock-down.

On Monday evening The Scouts announced that all face-to-face activity would be suspended until further notice.  Care homes closed their doors to visitors.  By Wednesday I accepted that because of underlying kidney disease and treatment with immune suppressants, I should probably stay home from work.  I wasn't alone.  The schools, which were still open at that point, began to creak.  Children with coughs were being kept home but more significantly any pregnant staff, staff with underlying health conditions, or staff exhibiting any symptoms of Covid19 were staying at home.  These home-workers began to prepare the work that would be needed for when (not "if" by this time) the schools closed and the schools struggled on with a reduced staff.  On Thursday that announcement came.  The schools would close on Friday evening except for the children of key workers.  Measures were then announced to support workers and businesses financially through the closures.  Interestingly, we now learn who the "key workers" are in our society.  The ones that we can't do without.  It isn't the financial sector.

Today, Monday 23rd March 2020, I got a text message instructing me to stay home and not go out for the next twelve weeks.  The NHS believe that if I were to get Coronavirus I would be at high risk of becoming extremely unwell.  Now it turns out I'm not going to be the only one who can't go out.  The Prime Minister has announced further restrictions.  Nobody is to go out unless absolutely necessary - which WILL be enforced.

In the meantime, I'm working from home, educating my children who are learning from home, Scouting from home.  So more on how we manage those things over the next few days.

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Covid-19 - Why we should keep the schools open but stay away from gran and grandad.

Okay, I'll admit it.  The whole Covid-19 thing is blowing my tiny brain.  I have felt myself swaying between being a bit blase about the whole thing - I mean... what's all the fuss about?  And then hearing and seeing my husband, who is a Doctor and therefore knows a bit about this stuff, being very worried, which has got me very worried!
 Anyway, he's explained a bit about the science behind the UK government's decision making, which has finally made it make sense a little bit, so I thought I'd share.
Why we should keep the schools open but stay away from Gran and Grandad.
First, it's important to realise that for most people, when they get this virus it won't make them very ill at all, but while they've got it, they'll be able to pass it to other people.  Once they've had it, they will be immune and they won't get it again and therefore won't be able to pass it on to other people any more.

What the government are hoping is that the healthy people amongst us will pass it around between us, not get too poorly, but develop immunity.  Once enough people are immune, the virus will no longer be able to race through the community any more.  While that's happening (and they haven't really explained this bit very well) we should keep away from vulnerable people (the elderly, immune suppressed or people with underlying health conditions).  If they get it, they could get very poorly.  If they shut the schools, parents still need to go to work, so where will the potentially infectious (though not ill) children end up?  That's right, they'll be passing the infection to their elderly grandparents.

That's why the government are not "locking down".  The danger is that in places like Ireland, where they are locking down and keeping everybody home, fewer people are getting the infection and therefore fewer people are becoming immune.  As soon as they lift the lockdown the infection has the potential to spread again.

Bear in mind that the government scientists are constantly keeping this situation under review and may change the advice if they feel it makes sense to do so.

I don't pretend to be a scientist and would welcome comments and arguments but for the first time this is beginning to make sense.