It seems to be a peculiar past-time in this country to moan and find fault with everything and blame anyone but ourselves for our mishaps and misfortune.
I was watching a television programme last night about Britain’s bizarre weather conditions in 2020 and what struck me, actually you could have slapped me round the face with a wet kipper, was the behaviour of people in the heatwave of April 2020. An extraordinary heatwave saw people flocking to parks and to the beach. Some scenes looked more akin to those pictures we see of seals or penguins on a remote island where there isn’t an inch to move without stumbling over the next incumbent, all staking their claim to a little parcel of land on which they can sunbathe or nest. ‘Weren’t we supposed to be social distancing and in lockdown’? Of course, we blame the government for lockdown 2 and the tier system. How unfair it is that we can’t see our loved ones, oh the mental anguish when we miss school, or have to learn online or get made redundant or our business goes belly up. But flock to the seaside we must, go to the park and mingle is a necessity, rush to the pub and drink and make merry, have parties and raves and forget about social distancing and that awful thing that the government keeps wittering on about. Let’s blame the police for dishing out fines, its so unfair and let’s even blame the hospitals, that’s where my loved one caught Corona virus. Yes, the government were to blame for suggesting that we should ‘eat out to help out’, but did we really think it was suddenly fine to plunder food from every outlet that provided a cut-price meal? Like lemmings, people rushed to pack out restaurants and pubs in search of a culinary bargain and many got more than they bargained for. ‘Two for the price of one’ had a new meaning.
None of this of course is a new phenomenon; the virus might be, the behaviour is not. We speed along the road and when caught by the police ask them if they haven’t got anything better to do than stop us. We complain about the NHS but carry on drinking lots, eating rubbish and failing to exercise. Our illness in the morning is due to the bad kebab, not the large amount of alcohol we consumed. We moan about our rubbish grades, somehow expecting that the parties, the staying in bed all day, the failure to attend, the work commitments and all the other hubris will get us an A grade or at least a B. It’s the way the lecturers teach, not our lack of commitment, that’s the problem here, ‘oh and I’m paying for this rubbish’. In football, we blame the referee for not giving a foul or for giving a foul when we are convinced it wasn’t one and yet watch players carry on diving all over the place rolling around as if they’ve been scythed down by the grim reaper and then chewed up by Jaws before being magically revived by the miraculous sponge. More at home with an Equity Card, players constantly seek to bamboozle the referee, it’s no wonder they sometimes get it wrong. We moan about the stampede at the start of the shop sales, not that that’s been a problem this year, well not yet anyway, but we are part of the stampede, shoving and trampling over others to get to the much reduced bargain. We lament the demise of the high street, watching the tumbleweed blow past as we scuttle away to our laptops, pads and phones to do a bit more online shopping only rushing out in droves (social distancing ignored) to take advantage of the demise of yet another retail outlet.
Whilst ministers are trying to hammer out a Brexit deal, posturing and moaning about the intransigence of the other side, they probably secretly hope that there will be no deal. That way we can blame the Europeans and the Europeans can blame us. But are we not to blame for this monstrosity; we voted for it? We live in a democracy and are rightly proud of it and yet Trump like we are quick to point out that we personally didn’t vote for that bit that we don’t like, and the vote was probably rigged anyway. Having realised our error, we still voted in the government that said it would get it done and we didn’t care about the price. Let’s hope that a return to the troubles in Ireland doesn’t become a reality, but if it does, it’ll no doubt be the fault of the Irish. Our sense of history only stretches back to when we saved the world from the Nazis.
We need to look to ourselves and our own action and behaviour before we start blaming everyone and everything around us. Yes, misfortune does fall on some of us and sometimes it isn’t our fault but like it or not, many of the problems are caused by us and we compound the problems by blaming others. If we fail to grip the notion that we have responsibility, then history will judge us as a nation that moaned about everything and did nothing but cause calamitous problems for ourselves and the rest of the world.
In March 23, 2020, the UK went into lockdown. The advice given, albeit conflicting in parts, was clear. Do not leave your home unless absolutely necessary, banning all travel and social interactions. This unprecedented move forced people to isolate at home for a period, that for some people will come to an end, when the WHO announces the end of the pandemic. For the rest of us, the use of a face mask, sanitiser and even plastic gloves have become modern day accessories. The way the lockdown was imposed and the threat of a fine, police arrest if found outside one’s home sparked some people to liken the experience with that of detention and even imprisonment.
There was definite social isolation during the pandemic and there is some future work there to be done to uncover the impact it has had on mental health. Social distancing was a term added to our social lexicon and we discovered online meetings and working from home. Schools closed and parents/guardians became de facto teachers. In a previous blog entry, we talked about the issues with home schooling but suffice to say many of our friends and colleagues discovered the joys of teaching! On top of that a number of jobs that in the past were seeing as menial. Suddenly some of these jobs emerge as “key professions”
The first lesson therefore is:
Our renewed appreciation for those professions, that we assumed just did a job, that was easy or straightforward. As we shall be coming back eventually to a new normality, it is worth noting how easy it will be to assign any job as trivial or casual.
As online meetings became a new reality and working from home, the office space and the use of massive buildings with large communal areas seemed to remain closed. This is likely to have a future impact on the way business conduct themselves in the future.
Given how many things had to be done now, does this mean that the multi occupancy office space will become redundant, pushing more work to be done from home. This will alter the way we divide space and work time.
During the early stages of the lockdown, some people asked for some reflection of the situation in relation to people’s experiences in prisons. The lockdown revealed the inequality of space. The reality is that for some families, space indicated how easy is to absorb the new social condition, whilst other families struggled. There is anecdotal information about an increase on mental health and stress caused from the intensive cohabitation. Several organisations raised the alarm that since the start of the lockdown there has been a surge in incidents of domestic violence and child abuse. The actual picture will become clearer of the impact the lockdown had on domestic violence in future years when comparisons can be drawn. None the less it reveals an important issue.
The home is not always the safest place when dealing with a global pandemic. The inequality of space and the inequality in relationships revealed what need to be done in the future in order to safeguard. It also exposed the challenges working from home for those that have no space or infostructure to support it.
In the leading up to the lockdown many households of vulnerable people struggled to cope with family members shielding from the virus. These families revealed weaknesses in the welfare system and the support they needed in order to remain in lockdown. Originally the lack of support was the main issue, but as the lockdown continued more complex issues emerged, including the financial difficulties and the poverty as real factors putting families at risk.
Risk is a wider concern that goes beyond personal and family issues. The lockdown exposed social inequality, poverty, housing as factors that increase the vulnerability of people. The current data on Covid-19 fatalities reveal a racial dimension which cannot longer be ignored.
During the lockdown, the world celebrated Easter and commemorated Mayday, with very little interaction whilst observing social distancing. At the end of May the world watched a man gasping for breath that died in police custody. This was one of the many times the term police brutality has related to the dead of another black life. People took to the streets, protested and toppled a couple of statues of racists and opened a conversation about race relations.
People may be in lockdown, but they can still express how they feel.
So, whilst the lockdown restrictions are easing and despite having some measures for the time being, we are stepping into a new social reality. On the positive side, a community spirit came to the surface, with many showing solidarity to those next to them, taking social issues to heart and more people talked of being allies to their fellow man. It seems that the state was successful to impose measures that forced people indoors that borderline in totalitarianism, but people did accept them, only as a gesture of goodwill. This is the greatest lesson of them all in lockdown; maybe people are out of sight, appear to be compliant in general but they are still watching, taking note and think of what is happening. What will happen next is everyone’s guess.
“Give the children love, more love and still more love - and the common sense will come by itself” - Astrid Lindgren
My children are aged 5 and 7 and they have never been to school. We home educate and though ‘home’ is in the title, we are rarely there. Our days are usually filled with visits to museums and galleries, meet-ups with friends, workshops in lego, drama and science and endless hours at the park. We’ve never done a maths lesson: sometimes they will do workbooks, but mostly they like to count their money, follow a recipe, add up scores in a game, share out sweets… I am not their teacher but an enthusiastic facilitator – I provide interesting ideas and materials and see what meaning they can take and make from them. Children know their own minds and learning is what they are built for.
If there was ever a time to throw away the rulebook it’s when the rules have all changed. Put ‘home’ at the centre of your homeschooling efforts. Make it a safe and happy place to be. Fill it with soft, warm and beautiful things. Take your time.
All this to say that what children need most is your love and attention. This is so far from an ideal situation for anyone – so cut yourselves some slack and enjoy your time together. You don’t need to model your home like a school. Share stories and poems, cuddle, build dens, howl at the moon, play games, look for shapes in clouds and stars, do experiments round your kitchen table, bake cakes, make art, explore your gardens and outside spaces and look for nature everywhere. This is the stuff that memories are made of.
As adults we don’t continue to categorise our learning by subjects – we see the way things are interconnected across disciplines, sometimes finding parallels in unlikely places. When we allow children to pursue their own interests we give them the tools and the freedom to make their own connections.
What’s important is their happiness, their kindness, their ability to love and be loved in return. They are curious, they are ready made learning machines and they seek out the knowledge they need when they need it.
It’s an interesting time to be a home educator – more children than ever are currently out of school and the spotlight is on ‘homeschooling’. I prefer the term ‘home educator’ because for me and my family it isn’t about replicating the school environment at home and perhaps it shouldn’t be for you either.
Treat it as an extended holiday and do fun stuff together but also let them be bored.