Working together and creating great new family traditions! How one local family tackled home-schooling and came out smiling

For parents and children up and down the country home-schooling has been one of the great challenges of life during the pandemic. Here 11-year-old Lola Jenner, who attends King Offa Primary Academy, and her mum Kirsty tell their stories, explaining how they have faced the challenges and telling us about some new family traditions that are here to stay!

Lola’s story

I’m Lola and I thought I’d share my lockdown learning experience with you!

Both my parents are key workers but decided not to send me and my siblings to school because I am being treated for a condition at Great Ormond Street Hospital. This meant that my mum and dad had to change their hours to look after us, they also worked some hours from home and sometimes worked early in the morning and late at night to be able to accommodate our learning.

The Jenners! The family dealt with the challenges of home schooling together.

I would sit at the table and start my learning at around 9am, but sometimes I’d start earlier and complete my purple mash Maths work from my bed! When my parents were working, if I struggled with any lessons I would either ask my siblings for help or FaceTime my nan and grandad or my friends, this meant we could complete the challenging work together. Someone in my class also made a group chat ‘Cool Clarke Class Chat’ which was amazing as I could keep in contact with all my friends and everyone would talk and discuss the learning.

I loved having weekly phone calls with the Year Six teachers, it was really nice to hear what they were doing in school, they were also interested in what I was doing at home and not just my school work.

I particularly enjoyed the PSHE lessons, especially making a coat of arms shield that relates to me and things that I am passionate about. In mine I added my family, football, Harry Potter, Black Lives Matter and music. I also really liked the English lessons and reading the book Holes, as we only covered the first chapter of the book, I asked if I could borrow a copy from school. Once I had read it I was able to do a quiz on accelerated reader, which meant I could get my points up even though I wasn’t in school. We also found the film of Holes on Disney+ and watched as a family.

Before we went into lockdown, we had been learning the ukulele at school, I absolutely loved this and wanted to continue to learn it. My mum and dad were so kind and brought me my very own ukulele! I played it all the time and taught myself lots of different songs, some of them were really tricky especially ‘here comes the sun’ where I had to pluck the strings instead of strum them.

Lola and her ukulele.

A few of my favourite songs I have learnt are, Say You Won’t Let Go and Train wreck by James Arthur, the Scientist by Coldplay and Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi. My mum sent a video in to school to show my teachers, she also shared it on Facebook and some of my friends saw it as their parents showed them! I was so embarrassed as I didn’t think I was good enough for people to listen to me sing and play, but everyone’s comments really boosted my confidence.

When we sat down to dinner as a family each evening we started a discussion where we would say a positive and negative each from our day and then discuss how we could turn a negative into a positive. I really enjoyed this as it helped us all see there was still positives around us at this hard time.

To celebrate our achievements at the end of each week we decided that every Friday after school we would have a nice home-made milkshake. This has now become a tradition in my family and we choose a new flavour each week.

So far some of my favourites have been Lotus Biscoff, Mint Choc Chip, Snickers and Ferrero Rocher.

Before we went into lockdown I had just started a Saturday morning boxing club. I was so upset this had been cancelled but the amazing staff at Box HIIT Gym adapted and started our sessions via zoom. It was so good to still be able to do this, one week they set us a challenge of walking 50km through January. I never thought I’d achieve it but was determined to, after my school work I’d go for walks with my family and managed to achieve the 50km in 12 days!

I’m so happy to now be back at school as it’s my final year before I move on to secondary school and I don’t want to miss it! I just wanted to finish by thanking all the teachers and staff at King Offa Primary Academy for being so amazing! It really is the best school!

Kirsty’s story

Our lockdown journey, like everyone else’s had its ups and downs! But we worked through it together, as a family.

I have three children 14, 11, and nine, the work for me was challenging but my children impressed me each and every day with their learning. It’s clear the things they have learned at school have stuck in their heads and as a bonus for me, my eldest had already done the work the other two were set!

We tried to keep to a morning routine of getting up, having breakfast and start lessons at 9am. We had a few challenges, such as no-one wanting to wear headphones and having a volume battle of who’s video was the loudest!

Milkshake Friday has become a Jenner family tradition.

However, we worked through it and made compromises. Sometimes the children would ring their friends and complete lessons together. It was lovely to hear them discussing lessons and each other’s views and also just to hear them laughing and chatting with people other than each other.

We ended each week with a milkshake and started the tradition in our house called ‘Milkshake Friday!’ Which was a massive boost and celebration that we’d completed another week; this is something we will definitely be continuing!

Before the first lockdown, Lola had been learning ukulele at King Offa Primary Academy. She really enjoyed this and seemed to be a bit of a natural, so we decided to get her own ukulele. Lola was so excited and spent her afternoons teaching herself new songs on it, one of my favourites is – Say You Won’t Let Go by James Arthur. After a bit of convincing Lola finally let me send a video of her playing and singing to her teachers.

My husband and I cannot fault the teachers at King Offa Primary Academy in any way, they were very efficient and kept us up to date. If I had any queries they were answered pretty much instantly. We never went a week without a keeping in touch phone call, which I feel was lovely for the children to be able to speak to their teachers.

Lola had a lesson on the book Holes and wanted to read the whole book, I asked in one of our keeping in touch calls and they had it out ready for us to collect from the office that afternoon! At the end of each week when I emailed their work in, we always got a response on commenting on the work we’d sent.

I can imagine how hard this has been for the teachers having to adapt to setting home learning alongside teaching the children who are in school. We both feel teachers have not received the right recognition throughout the pandemic, and feel they should be up there at the top with the heroes of the crisis.

From the bottom of our hearts I thank you for everything you have done.

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