Like many of us, Tania Davidge has been thrown for a loop by the demands of COVID-19 isolation and juggling work with the supervision, feedback and conversation kids require for online learning.
So, I get this email from Justine Clark at Parlour and it goes like this:
Our new series asks the Parlour community to share stories of Home / Work – What is your working-from-home space like? What do you do there? What are the challenges and what benefits have you found so far? Do you have tips, strategies and suggestions to share with others?
Would you contribute?
My response to Justine, via text, goes a little like this:
FARK! CHILDREN REQUIRE SO MUCH FEEDBACK AND TECH SUPPORT!!!
Be under no illusion that those of us who can, are now working from home.
I should know.
I. Already. Work. From. Home.
My current workday (?) is anything but normal.
Hence my follow up text:
OMFG I AM NEVER GETTING ANYTHING DONE AGAIN!!!
I must say this COVID-19 thing has thrown me for a loop. I like being productive and I miss people – representations on a screen just aren’t enough. I’m lucky, however, to be in a position that allows me to take the time to help my kids through their online learning from home. I am at the pointy end of finishing my PhD and many projects I have been working on were already on hold (well kind of) to enable me to get the job done. Enter the pandemic… So, I’ve sucked it up and popped my PhD on hold – again.
My son is 10 and my daughter is 12 and I have discovered how social learning at this age really is. Currently, my husband and I find that while we might not be setting the learning tasks we are providing the feedback, comment and conversation that friends, classmates and teachers typically provide. In addition, we are also help with Phys Ed. The constant interruption is exhausting for all of us. On Friday morning I popped out for a run and when I came home my son was asleep at his desk in his elephant onesie.
My son is not quite at the point where he can schedule his day on his own. He relies on the structure of the classroom and his teacher. He loves learning but he gets thrown, and consequently upset, when things don’t quite go to his meticulously thought out schedule. We now spend time every morning together going through his tasks for the day, putting together a plan and reinforcing the fact that a SCHEDULE IS ONLY A GUIDELINE. And we talk about how, at the moment, we all need to be a little more forgiving of ourselves when things don’t quite go according to plan.
The food in our house simply seems to vanish. The rate at which it is being devoured is astounding but it is nice to hang out together over lunch. I’m running netball drills at lunchtime with my daughter, giving her feedback on her writing and helping her to connect with her friends. My husband who is a mathematician is maths support (although I would like to note that I still provide support here too!) and tech support. My daughter works in her room on an iPad with a keyboard and my son works in the kitchen on Frankenstein tech cobbled together from a keyboard, mouse and a repurposed spare TV running off a raspberry pie. Oh, I mean Raspberry Pi, which looks like a quarter of the insides of a computer. It can’t seem to run any kind of video conferencing but thankfully is good for schoolwork. My son uses my computer for Zoom meetings with his class. *eyeroll* #moretimelostinmyday
I’m not really getting anything done on my PhD although I am moving ahead at the pace of a snail. So, there’s that. I’m at the point where I need to focus for significant periods of time on my writing and that is difficult with the constant distractions.
Did I mention that my son sings to himself as he works? Mostly pop songs and show tunes.
Heaven help us all.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. My children have passed the age where I am able to engage as directly with their learning, so in many ways this time has been a wonderful way to reconnect with how they learn. It has been fantastic to discover more about how they approach life and what engages them as they acquire knowledge. And, as for the PhD, I’m going to take the advice I’m giving my kids and simply be a little more forgiving.
Tania Davidge is a Melbourne-based architect and the co-director of OoPLA (formerly OpenHAUS).