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Why I’m Tossing Out The iPad And Teacher's Schedule For Homeschooling

For many Aussie parents, the realisation that homeschooling was indefinite led to a panicked dash to the liquor store. And rightly so.

It wasn't until I was suitably stocked up on vodka and red wine that I had the headspace to digest, reflect and plan.

With 6581 unread WhatsApp messages from anxiety-ridden school mums, family friends and siblings, I put my phone on silent and reviewed the suggested homeschooling timetables from the teachers.

Then I deleted them, and took a swig of wine. Instead, I started brainstorming other life skills I can teach the children from home economics (think cooking and gardening) to writing a budget and reading maps.

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Now before you judge me for being a booze-hound mum who turned her back on the education system, give me a minute to explain.

I absolutely respect and support my daughters' school teachers -- they are very experienced, compassionate and hard-working. I also know this is unchartered territory for them as they do their best to support their school communities during this once-in-a-century pandemic.

But I also know that given my husband and I are predominantly working from home, there is much our primary-school-aged daughters can learn from us.

Cooking, hygiene and nutrition are essential life skills. Image: Getty Images

We've probably never had so much one-on-one time with them since they were newborns.

And with almost all of the school syllabus now being delivered online from apps and websites, due to social distancing requirements,  this would require my five-and-seven-year-olds being in front of screens for most of the day.

So, instead I am kicking it old school and leaning on everything we can do while self-isolating -- from baking, weeding to oral history.

It's an attempt to turn a dire time into an opportunity to really connect with my children and teach them valuable life skills that are often overlooked in our tech-heavy and fast-paced lives. And of course there is still reading books and picking up the trusty HB pencil for writing.

This also means the strict 9am - 3pm schedule does not need to be adhered to -- and let's face it -- when you're working from home its an almost impossible task to do two jobs at once.

There are ways to teach your kids their literacy and numeracy milestones in more practical ways. Image: Getty Images

This gives me the flexibility to teach the kids plant herbs in the morning, write creative stories at midday and make bolognaise at 5pm.

It's not about turning our back on literacy and numeracy, it's about finding more hands-on and collaborative ways to teach the syllabus.

This includes experimenting with measurements and ratios with flour while baking, asking them to spell 'fertiliser' while you're handing it to them or using length comparisons with thread during a textiles activity.

Sure I don't have five children to manage or a 16-year-old who needs to be online to get support for complex physics assignments -- so my approach certainly isn't a one-size-fits-all scenario.

And of course I’m not shutting down comms with the school and teacher entirely -- I read and respond to their messages and once a day I submit photo summaries of the work we have done for review.

If you're still reading at this point, you may think these are gendered activities being delivered to young girls, further entrenching the socialisation of 'domestic chores' as the domain of females.

Gardening is an excellent way to teach responsibility and also good for mindfulness. Image: Getty Images

Well, you'd be wrong because should I have had sons, I would be teaching them the same things. On next week's agenda is Introduction To Shed Tools and they'll learn to differentiate an allen key from a spanner.

A good understanding of household repair, cooking, nutrition, textiles and budgeting can also lead to an array of careers from dietitian to fashion design.

And for those who do have the 16-year-old physics student, they too would benefit from building or refining their home economics skills. Even if this means a lesson in how to use the lawn mower and how to repair holes in socks.

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When I left the teaching profession eight years ago, I never thought for a minute I’d be back doing it again. Never.

So parents, whatever your household type, or how you rate your teaching skills, please don't underestimate the sort of 'education' you can provide your children .

You'll also be pleased to know I don't drink anything at the end of a 'school day',  still reserving my much-loved glass of wine for the weekend or virtual catch-ups with friends.

But I must say, as I  wear the makeshift DIY school teacher hat indefinitely,  I'm comforted by the booze stock.

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au