'Downtime is essential': Homeschooling mom of eight talks family life under lockdown
Photo albums are the usual go-to when nostalgia hits but for one local family of 10, pulling up their blog is more appropriate for a trip down memory lane.
The family's matriarch, who is known only by her nickname Se7en, has been blogging about her "gang" for the last twelve years.
"We had been travelling as a family and wanted to document our life and adventures so that our extended family could keep track of what we were up to," the mom of eight tells Parent24.
"We never expected anyone other than our immediate family to even glance at our blog," she says.
Since then, the blog has grown and it is "read by families from all over the world, looking for fun things to do with their kids... parenting and organising tips, recipes, and homeschooling ideas."
Lockdown life has changed things for our family
Like many South African families, life under lockdown has required the Se7en family to adjust their usual routine.
"Apart from missing visiting friends and family, my oldest son got married in January, he and his wife have moved across town and we have all missed them terribly."
Even with one less sibling, Se7en says there is always something to do.
"Just keeping up with all the housework, feeding everyone and schooling seem so much harder than usual."
Still, the family feels lucky for the things that have remained the same and even enjoy a few perks.
"Since the mountain has become available again we have all spent a lot more time outdoors... Instead of trying to fit a hike in once a week, we have been going for a walk or a run on the mountain almost daily because everyone is home."
Nothing like homeschooling during a pandemic
Even the family's homeschooling routine has changed. According to Se7en, contrary to what some may assume, homeschooling does not always take place in the home.
"Our regular homeschooling includes lots of activities out of the house: outings and meeting up with friends, classes with friends like woodwork and art, hikes and exploring, beach cleanups... There has been none of that during lockdown."
Se7en says she has also adapted the intensity of her children's education, explaining that "a gentle approach" has become her preferred homeschooling style during the lockdown.
"In extraordinary times like these, taking a gentle approach to schooling will help our kids to survive the stress of it all, as well as ourselves. A morning spent insisting that your child complete several worksheets is not really what homeschooling is all about (ever)."
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'When an activity is fun...they will be learning'
After more than a decade of homeschooling, Se7en says she's discovered that when an activity is fun and a child is relaxed, learning is easy.
"Your children can probably learn just as much about numbers and numeracy by playing board games, for example. When an activity is fun and your children are relaxed, they will be learning, they can't help themselves."
Another top tip she gave was: "Reading a great book together in a sunny spot will be just as good for their language skills and literacy, as insisting that they fill in a comprehension sheet or write another report."
Breaks from the screen are also necessary, says the homeschooling mom.
She includes "screen-free time" into her kids' daily schedules. However, this remains an ongoing battle, she says.
'Make sure you find a little time for yourself each day'
And don't forget to take the pressure off of yourself as well, Se7en advises, because it is all too easy for parents to overdo everything during the lockdown.
"There is always at least one more thing to do. But every day I take a break. Often my break is a quick coffee before the kids wake up. Sometimes it is sneaking to bed immediately after supper with a book. Sometimes I potter in the garden. I firmly believe that just a little downtime is essential... Make sure you find a little time for yourself each day."
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