Self-Isolating My Family in Southsea: Day 11, Home-Schooling

Local parent, researcher and writer, Maddie Wallace, continues her daily diary describing the experience of self-isolating with her children in Southsea. Today, Maddie gets creative with homeschooling and jackfruit (masquerading as pork) for dinner.

All that Fortnite training paid off because Z came nowhere in the top 50 of the tournament and is now going to keep up his end of the bargain and have a 3 day X Box break. They both are; S just doesn’t know it yet.

Letting them do their own thing for a bit has partly been about seeing what they’d do when left to their own devices. The answer is: zero schoolwork. Forts have been built, gardening has been done, off-curriculum education has happened, things have been learnt – just not the work being put online by their teachers.

The trouble is they’re very resistant to it. And not because they’re treating this as a holiday. They know what’s going on in the world right now and don’t see the point of doing a test on their grammar when they could be about to get sick or lose someone they love.

I understand how they feel. I’ve done no PhD work in the last 2 weeks either. I’m sitting down first thing in the morning to write this, and because I’ve told A I have to ‘work’, she wants to work too. A is only ever compliant when she wants to do something, so making my work look fun and important meant she happily accepted engaging with some of the apps and activities sent by her school. We now both ‘work’ every morning, or she does PE with Joe and I put my headphones on.

Homeschooling is a tricky one. For some it’s the only way to maintain structure and sanity while the world is going crazy. For others it feels wrong, too stressful and all they want to do is hug their kids and have fun with them to reduce the stress everyone feels. I made the decision on about day 3 last week not to force the issue immediately. I’m a teacher so I’m capable of running my dining room like a classroom, but it didn’t feel right – much to my mum’s dismay. So far, I’ve felt I needed to be relaxed with schedules and more creative with incorporating learning into other things. One of the fundamentals of teaching is self-reflective practice, where you continually evaluate how things are working out and what you can change. It’s now time to implement a more formal structure. It will be resisted by my sons, but perhaps if they help design the structure, they’ll be more inclined to stick to it. If you’re a parent going through this, my advice would be to go with your gut; you know your kids the best.

Mine pushed for the space to kick back for a bit and do what they felt they needed to do. Z has played way too much Fortnite, but in fairness to him he was in isolation in his room for a week feeling unwell with a cough and experiencing massive anxiety about whether he’d infected his grandparents or me. If Fortnite helped him get through it then that’s OK. S hasn’t played anywhere near as much as I expected him to. He’s been gaming in the evenings after dinner and has been helpful around the house and with his younger sister. Most of the time – when he’s not been chasing her with worms.

I started flexing my authority again today by getting them to pitch in and clean the house. Because it was mandatory and not optional, S and Z just did it, but A had a huge meltdown at my suggestion she might like to flick a duster about or sweep a floor. She shut herself in her room to hide from the vacuum. Then she sat on the stairs wailing while I was mopping the hall floor.

‘I hate life, it’s so hard!’ she cried. ‘How do you make it look so easy?’

Perhaps I need to do more moaning about parenting. I could sit on the stairs screaming about how hard it is that the people I live with keep leaving their shoes all over the hall floor, despite knowing I broke my ankle twice at the end of 2018 just while walking along.

We’re out of fresh food so I went through the cupboards for dinner and attempted to pass jackfruit off as pulled pork. S ate a whole wrap before he questioned it.

‘Is this chicken?’ he said, poking about in the top of his wrap with a fork.

I mumbled something incoherent about pork while shoving another mouthful in.

S is the fussiest eater I’ve ever met. He doesn’t even like chips. Left to his own devices he’d live on Cheerios, pepperoni pizza, chocolate milk, apples, cheese and nuts. All of the nuts. Monkeyboy is his name: eating nuts and swinging from the rafters is his game.

‘What’s that? Is that fat?’ He hates to see any fat on meat.

I told him it was a piece of the core I’d failed to shred. He shrugged and ate another mouthful before the frown came.

‘Wait, what? Pork doesn’t have a core.’

‘No, but jackfruit pretending to be pulled pork in barbecue sauce does.’

He looked at me as if I’d just served up faeces.

‘You gave us fruit? For dinner.’

He really struggled to finish that second wrap.


Learning in nature: Newt, Milton Common. Image by Maddie Wallace.


Image by Xandra_Iryna from Pixabay.


You can find each day’s diary and all of Maddie’s previous articles for S&C here. Don’t miss Ian Morris’ self-isolation diary, 89 Not Out.

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