Sorry Teachers, I Have Failed

It’s now only a few weeks until schools are due to go back in England. I really hope my daughters get a relatively normal school year, but it’s inevitable that a return to the classroom is going to highlight what I have known for a while: I have absolutely failed my children at helping them to learn during lockdown. 
3 siblings (a baby boy and 2 girls) laughing and being silly
Being a mum of 3 has made home learning challenging

My eldest has never responded well when I try to get her to sit down to work, we’ve had many tears over homework in the past so it’s no surprise learning in lockdown has been a constant battle. Or at least it was a constant battle, and then I stopped trying and I’ve watched her writing and ability to learn regress. I chose the easier path of letting my daughters’ play together rather than pleasing her teachers. She made such a lazy effort to complete the work they set when she did do it that she wasn’t learning much anyway. I have tried to teach her other things but her mind seems to be closed to development. I worry that my smart daughter who has always been near the top of the class academically without really trying is going to have a shock when she goes back to school. If she can control her fear of failure (which she regulates by just not trying), her anxiety and remembers how to apply herself she should catch up quickly. It's a big if.

I also worry about her little sister. Last year she was attending the nursery at the school, but it feels like she was barely there for a few months before COVID kicked off. The nursery sent through work each day in term time, but I was unable to juggle family life sufficiently to sit down with her for a few hours each day (or even 15 minutes) to complete it. Just before the teachers signed off for the holidays they sent a list of things children should practice over the summer. They are skills she would be expected to have if she had spent her 15 hours a week at nursery since March. Skills she is expected to have by completing the work nursery have set each day. Skills she doesn’t have.

I haven’t been completing the work nursery set for many reasons, the main being that I feel too overwhelmed working out how I can focus one on one with Little while her brother tries to pull the computer off the table, grabs the pencils and eats them, draws all over everything or climbs on to the windowsill and bangs on the glass. With my eldest the challenge is to get her to sit down and focus on work, but Little needs someone to work with her and I haven’t managed to.

I can try and ease my conscience by telling myself it’s more important that a four year old plays than can count to 20 (forwards and backwards) or knows her phonics. I genuinely believe that playing will help her become a more rounded and developed individual, but will the strengths in her creativity, imagination and vocabulary make up for everything else? Most days she struggles to get to sleep because she hasn’t had enough mental or physical stimulation so I can't even claim I am meeting her needs in other ways.

The school have sent a “Transition Passport” to be completed and be brought in when Little starts Reception. I’m guessing these would normally be completed in the nursery setting because I haven't had one before, but as a parent I find it confusing and it makes me feel my daughter is well behind where she should be.

Despite the wording I think it is ok to be completed by a parent (or key worker). How many children start Reception able to write a list of their favourite things? Even the sections where she is asked to draw herself and her family are going to be a challenge because Little prefers to draw things her own way, which tend to not resemble actual things. She could probably copy if we asked her to, but when she is drawing through choice it looks like a scribble by the time she is finished. I don’t want to tell her “this is how you draw a person”, but maybe I should be? Even the “simple” task of writing her name we might fail on because while she can just about manage it across a sheet of A4 she will struggle to scale down to the size of the line in the passport. 

We were doing ok with learning her first name and practising letters for a few days. We left resources out for her to practice when she felt like it, but then her brother started to climb on the table and destroy them so we put them away. They haven’t come out again.
An overhead photo of a preschooler using a dry wipe pen to draw a zero
Formal learning attempts have been few and far between

We have the same problem with drawing. My eldest used to have paper and pencils left out on a table when she was a toddler giving her lots of opportunities, but drawing (painting, writing etc) now is a battle to give the girls the freedom to do it while I stop my youngest destroying things or himself.

It would be different if all families were in the same boat, but they aren't. There will be children who have excelled at home where they have had the freedom to learn at their own pace. There will be parents far more successful than me at working with their children. There are the children who have been at schools and nurseries. And there will be children who have barely picked up a pen. 

Mixed in with all the guilt that I haven’t been good enough is the knowledge that this is all my fault. How different would it have been if I hadn’t been so desperate for a third child? If I had time to really focus on my first two? My son is an active one year old who is into everything. It’s exhausting and since he has pretty much given up on napping, relentless. My mental health has been just about hanging in there and it’s as much as I can do some days to feed everyone and keep them kinda safe. I have not created a calm, stimulating environment for them.

Oh I know this isn't meant to a test, and there is no "pass" or "fail". We are all managing as well as we can. Yes I know that teachers will take whatever they are given and work with the children to develop them, but I have also spent four years sitting at parents evening hearing all the things I am meant to be able to get my daughter to do, knowing full well she only does what she wants to do, and feeling told off. I have undeniably failed at being the mother she needs to teach and guide her. Failed at being the strong mother all my children need.

Yet despite my failings I hear my children laugh each day. They might shout, cry, argue and fight, but they are have plenty of happy times too. We all desperately need the routine and support of school, but I hope they have some happy memories of the year they spent long days together at home (and I cross everything that it's a one off).

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