Homeschooling, Unschooling, or simply trying to survive?

It is 11.03pm and Piglet might be in bed.

I say might be as he has been fighting sleep for two and a half hours and probably still isn’t quite there yet. Up to bed, teeth cleaned, pyjamas on. The pyjamas have been on all day so at that part at least took a bit less time than usual.

Into bed, story read, then as soon as the light is switched off Piglet needs the toilet, because of course he does. Then he starts clambering all over me. Clearly he is not going to let me go to sleep. I think back to the days of his babyhood, when I would whisper desperately “bedtime not playtime,” as he giggled adorably at me, hours after all the other babies were in bed, allowing their parents that bit of precious me time to drink a glass of wine, or converse with husbands. At least that’s what I imagine they were doing, all these people with the good babies and the husbands.

Piglet has never been one for an early night. But now, with the world in lockdown, I fear that it’s not so much not wanting sleep, as wanting a bit of mummy time, and feeling like the only way he can get it is to sit on my head while I pretend to be asleep in a vain attempt to be boring and convince him that it really is bedtime, not playtime.

The thing is, while all the other mummies; the good ones with the good babies that slept through the night and the husbands to drink wine and converse with, spend their days teaching their little darlings their times tables, I spend my days hunched over a laptop desperately trying to work, bribing Piglet with a combination of sweets and time with the Holy Grail of Children’s Entertainment, a.k.a. watching other children unwrap toys they don’t need on YouTube.

It’s only natural that Piglet should want to spend quality time with his Mummy in the only place where he gets her free of the computer for five minutes, namely the bed. And it’s only natural that the bed should therefore be used for crawling all over Mummy’s head (great way to get her undivided attention!) while she screams blue murder at you, rather than its customary purpose of sleeping.

I hold Piglet at arm’s length during the day, so that I can work, do workout videos on YouTube or simply scroll through the mindless horrors of the daily news, and then I lose my temper with him every night, when he finally gets me to himself and wants to play.

I am a terrible Mummy.

And that’s without getting the whole homeschooling stick out and beating myself with it. For the love of all that is holy, I am not homeschooling.

I’ll tell you what I am doing. I am trying to persuade Piglet to watch a CBBC programme about Maths before he switches it off after 30 seconds and puts on Transformers Rescue Bots.

I am bribing him with YouTube while I have a Zoom chat for a friend’s birthday.

And I am letting him build a hotel out of canned goods, and helping him feed sugar water to a tired bee that he has found struggling in the garden and watching it revive until it flies away. I just hope that in time, these moments make up for all the screaming and the shouting and the wanting him to leave me alone just for ten minutes so I can get some work done.

I’m not sure that they will, and I fear that when he goes back to school he will never catch up with all the children whose parents taught them their times tables, but work has to be done, so for now I will just have to settle for being a not-quite-good-enough teacher and a not-quite-good-enough Mummy.

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