Classroom or crisis?

by Georgia Cadoret

Homeschool - there has been little else talked about by any parent across the country over the past few months. The lack of space, the juggling your pyjama-bottom-work-from-home responsibilities with fractions and PE, the constant bargaining and compromise - in one way or another, these somewhat unnatural schooling circumstances have posed new challenges for everyone involved.

Not only has this put inevitable pressure on child-parent relationships (surely the only lessons a parent wittingly signs up for are sex-ed and how to put your trousers on the right way round?), but the imbalance of the melding of home and school - the place of learning and that of relaxation; the impossible subversion of fun and focus - has put children's health under massive strain, both mentally and physically.

With only one week left of homeschool (optionally name: "crisis school"), we spoke to Georgie, mother of two and founder of her business A Happy Life. With two teenage boys of 17 and 18, Georgie noticed that food and nutrition played a huge part in their overall focus and happiness.

"I’ve noticed that the less nourished my kids are, the grumpier and less motivated they are," says Georgie. "And what I mean by that is not the amount of food that goes in, it’s what goes in. I’ve encouraged them to start the day with a bowl of porridge as this is a great source of energy."

Georgie has studied extensively in mindset, wellbeing and psychology.

"Oats release their energy slowly due to having a high content of complex carbohydrates and soluble fibre, so if you eat porridge for breakfast you'll stay full for longer and will be able to concentrate for longer too.

"I’ve also insisted on the boys drinking at least a litre of water a day. Drinking water throughout the day is really important so that when you come to study your brain is hydrated and functioning fully. It’s important to remember that when your brain has a full reserve of water to work with you will be more focused, have greater clarity and be able to think faster. There as been a recent study from the University of East London and the University of Westminster, which found that drinking just 300ml of water can boost attention by nearly to 20%.

"The link between water and cognitive performance has been proven time over time and I’ve even seen the results from my youngest son who never drank water before and now drinks at least one if not two litres a day. His performance in class and feedback from teachers have been very encouraging. Who knows if it's the water but he has even said he feels like he concentrates more.

With only one week left before sprogs leave the kitchen table to go back to the classroom, there have surely been valuable lessons to take away from such an intense learning curve. Predominantly, these have been getting to know and understand our child's abilities, difficulties and strengths with regards to both personal health and learning. It has been a unique time for getting to know our kids in ways we may not have previously been able to.

"Having boys means that you are dealing with hormones that can peak and fall at any minute! The most frustrating thing I've had to deal with is the “CBA” (can’t be bothered) attitude which drives me mad. I think it must be a boy thing, but the suggestion of going out and exercising is like asking them to climb Mount Everest - they look at me as if I’m mad by just suggesting it.

"Both of them have put on some weight (like us all) and I know they feel uncomfortable about it, but seem unable to do anything about it. So, as the mean mother I am, I’ve negotiated (I have to do this a lot by the way) that they can have the Xbox if they go out for at least one-to-two hours a day. That means either walking the dogs, going for a run or taking some exercise outside. My goodness what a difference it has made to their moods. They actually come back into the house speaking instead of grunting and actually have even said how good they feel. Who knew I would be right?

"I know it sounds silly, but having daily battles over food, screen time, working and revising it is a light relief to see the benefits of something you’ve instilled into their daily routine actually work."

Well Life Triber, Deena Dawes, has recognised and wholly accepted the barriers to learning that home school presents for her kids.

"Home schooling is when parents choose to teach their kids at home - they have support groups, outdoor learning and all sorts of other activities. I bumped into a home school mum recently who said this lockdown makes real home schooling much harder. So in this house we call it crisis schooling… children are not designed to be taught by their parents, so we shouldn’t feel guilty about getting frustrated with the lack of listening or attention, or even the odd case of doing the work for the child just to get it handed in - we should give ourselves a break… we are doing the best we can given the situation."

Panel member Georgie is a certified yoga instructor and founder of A Happy Life.