Before I truly grasped the impacts of Lockdown back in March, I faced our strange new circumstances almost energetically. This response was echoed by the majority of students, and in fact the general population. We were filled with the enthusiasm and inexperience of a nation that believed the pandemic would be over once we had mastered banana bread and binged Tiger King on Netflix. Oh the innocence!
Even when all school buildings were abruptly shut, and our learning converted online, we viewed it as a short-term response. Suddenly our timetables included elements never before incorporated into our meticulously planned study sessions. Looking back on this period now it reads like a piece of dystopian fiction. However, at the time it was our inevitable reality and we adapted accordingly.
Those of you who followed my Leaving Cert Exam Diaries will know that I was approaching my exams, which we all know by now never came to be. Alas, I didn’t know that back in March, so I threw myself into “Pandemic Homeschool”. Needless to say, I learned a lot from my experience.
As students prepare to return to schools for the first time in almost six months here is a little reminder of some of the highs and lows, we experienced of pandemic homeschool!
The Highs And Lows of Pandemic Homeschool
High: Later starts
I have extremely strong feelings about early mornings. Or at least I would if I could muster up that sort of energy before 7am – spoiler alert; I really can’t. Taking out the timetabling of my morning commute to school gave me a precious extra hour in bed every morning. The time spent travelling to and from school adds up over a week so the lack of this really made a difference to some students.
Low: Bedroom and classroom combined
It may have only been one extra hour in my bed, but it was roughly ten additional hours in my bedroom. Collapsing onto my bed at the end of a day hunched over a desk is not nearly as gratifying when said desk is a mere three steps away. One of the definite lows of school from home was that many of us felt that we were never completely “off”. Exam year students constantly have that niggling feeling of being “on duty”. Having our leisure space and study space constantly being one and the same further exacerbated this.
High: Kitchen access
One of the definite benefits of being at home was the kitchen access! I think I consumed more coffee than I did actual knowledge most days. Many of us also enjoyed the added bonus of being able to cook hot lunches or prepare fresh food. School lunch inspiration is tricky but if you are stuck then try these suggestions.
Low: Loss of social aspects
At the height of lockdown, we were unable to see our friends. This is completely contradictory to our usual school experience which is inherently social in its structure. There were no more early morning chats by the lockers or teamwork projects in class. Nor were our lunch breaks spent huddled together around familiar tables. This was a definite downside to lockdown and something that will hopefully not be repeated.
High: No Uniform
School uniform rules were a great deal laxer in my bedroom than any of my previous classrooms! Tempting though it was to spend all day in our pyjamas, this tended to hinder our productive mentalities. I definitely still chose items that were comfier than pleated skirts and wool jumpers! An added bonus of the lack of uniform also meant no late-night ironing of blouses or early morning scrambles for clean white socks.
Low: Maintaining Motivation
Motivation is tough to maintain at the best of times, especially for exam year students. In the midst of a pandemic it is even harder. Pre-existing procrastination habits warred with our challenging new circumstances and the unrelenting ambiguity. Add to this the distractions we all faced working from home and frankly it was a miracle we achieved anything!
As we enter into new territory – schools operating during a pandemic – it feels somewhat inevitable that at some point this year some Irish schools will be forced to temporarily shut and return to homeschooling for a period of time. The only we can do is take the highs with the lows. We’ll eventually come out the other side.