Lockdown 6/Furlough 3

Homeschooling

With a huge range of lessons, ideas, activities and support online you’d think it would be easy to home-school: but as almost every parent is finding, it’s not actually as easy as all that.

For a start, when has a child ever taken any notice of his or her parent as a teacher? Years ago there was no way my parents were going to teach me to drive; I attempted to teach Isabella piano at one point and we stopped after one lesson. My first day of homeschooling with Edward and Bella I had thought had gone quite well; however since then trying to get them to do anything has been an uphill battle (though once Edward has buckled down to something he normally gets on with it without demurring too much).

Bella is, fortunately, very self-motivated: she may not always study at a steady pace but when she puts her mind to it she throws herself into it. However having offered to teach her some French in order to help with the GCSE course (which she is doing outside school as school can’t timetable French for her), she told me she’d do it herself. The clear indication was that I was not good enough.

Edward then informed me that I was a ‘crap teacher’. This is because I taught him how to calculate areas and perimeters of triangles, squares and rectangles using some basic GCSE questions. Apparently I shouldn’t have done that… meanwhile Alex is teaching Edward history. Or at least, I thought he was teaching him about the First and possibly Second World War. In fact it is far, far more specific than that: Alex is teaching Edward about the development of weapons during that period. I think Edward’s historical perspective is going to be somewhat skewed…

Alex meanwhile insists he has nothing on and nothing to do, whilst admitting that he hadn’t looked at school emails for at least a week. He has at least signed up to a ‘MOOC’ (Massive Online Course or something) and it’s a topic he’s keen to study – the development of the British Army from 1815 onwards (notice a theme here?). However it’s already started so he’s going to wait for the next start date…

I hope he remembers to check when that might be…

Living alone – or not

Having had the boys for 3 or 4 days, Isabella came here when they went back to the house in Penrith. It meant that unusually, I haven’t actually been alone for about a week. It’s been nice having the kids separately and because Bella is old enough to leave on her own I’ve got out for a couple of runs: she’s also made me do more yoga as she has started doing yoga herself.

Meanwhile having finished Melvyn Bragg’s The Adventure of English (which was absolutely brilliant, and enthralling from start to finish – and made me so grateful that I was born in a country where English is my native tongue, and I haven’t had to learn it!), I then read Alexander McCall Smith’s The Unbearable Lightness of Scones. I’d picked this up as a bit of ‘light’ reading but then found passages with some insightful and relevant comments on the human condition.

The first was this, which was applied primarily in the book to someone who lives alone:

“…there are many of us, surely, in that category; we may feel that we have numerous friends, but how many can we telephone with no purpose other than to chat?”

It made me think about the current ‘lockdown’ situation; about being alone myself at times; who I have been in touch with and who not. Over time it’s changed: there was a slightly frantic flurry of activity in the early weeks as we adjusted to this slower, quieter pace of life and in a slightly panic-stricken way did our utmost to stay in touch with people. I’ve found – and I don’t know whether this is true of most people or not – that whilst I’m still chatting to people, I’ve become a bit pickier about it, and that some of the people I’m in contact with the most are not necessarily the ones who I thought I might have been. It’s been brilliant to have zoom ‘drinks’ with Caroline and Jo, who otherwise I wouldn’t speak to for months: we’re currently talking to each other more or less once a fortnight. I’ve caught up with friends I haven’t spoken to for ages, such as Kath – and then I’ve had phone calls to friends who I might otherwise see for a run or at choir but who I wouldn’t normally ‘need’ to phone. Workwise I actually feel closer to the nationwide team of which I am part than I had before this all started; and my sister and I have been conversing far more than we would normally do (which is nice – we hated each other as kids but we’ve grown fonder of each other over the years).

Then nearly every time I’ve been out I’ve ‘bumped’ into someone I know, which has meant having the chance for a nice chat, or at least waving and saying ‘hi’ as I run past. And everybody but everybody has been generally friendlier – it was always the custom to say ‘hello’ as you walked or ran past people at the Tarn, but now everybody seems to be doing it all the time. I feel even more part of the community than I did before, despite being in my house a lot and at times alone for days at a time. Saturday was especially good as I spoke to a couple of friends in my garden. It’s sad not to be able to hug people, but great that we can still chat.

Boredom? The meaning of Life?

One of the characters in the Alexander McCall Smith book suddenly realises one afternoon that she has nothing to do, and she finds this unsettling and immediately starts to look around for another project: ideally one she can do from home.

It’s been crossing my mind the past few days that life has become like a constant weekend: no need to do anything at any particular time, or at all if you don’t want to. Is this what retirement is like? Are we given some sort of purpose in life by our jobs? It’s made me wonder what it must have been like in pre-industrial days, when ‘work’ would have meant, for some, surviving – finding enough food; ensuring warmth and shelter. We seem to have progressed to a stage where it is necessary to be using our brains and to be Doing Things in order to feel useful or important. Or is it partly so that we don’t have to face up to the reality that we are, in fact, no more than rather sophisticated (which in middle English meant adulterated/corrupted) animals ?

Bluebells

The bluebells are out in all their glory this week, and in fact I think look better than I’ve ever seen them. I had a lovely run through the woods down to Lanercost Bridge (there’s a plain modern bridge and then a rather lovely old packhorse bridge alongside it) with a haze of bluebells on the way back; then on Sunday I went for a walk round the Tarn with Edward and he did tree-climbing. Every time I go out I am conscious of the abundance of spring flowers, which never fail to lift my heart.

It’s always so good to get out and I am incredibly grateful – and relieved – that I can. I spent a day indoors last week, only going out to put something in the bin. Whilst I did extra yoga, it just wasn’t the same as being out in the spring sunshine and the countryside, and the day felt a bit weird – a bit incomplete. I’m resolved to continue to go out daily even if it starts raining soon!

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