WFH diaries: My kids are more creative than I thought
The pile of artworks is growing – and growing. So far, while I’ve been WFH and simultaneously ‘home schooling’, my kids have followed videos on how to paint a cat in the style of Paul Klee, and draw a woman in the style of Picasso. My son, 11, hitherto resolutely disinterested in art, has suddenly become addicted to illustrator Rob Biddulph’s charming tutorials – we’ve a gallery that includes bears, sausages dogs and (my favourite) a six-tentacled, bug-eyed green alien, which seems to fit the slightly science fiction reality we’re all living in now. Tomorrow, we’re making a tissue-paper rainbow to stick in our window, along with everyone else.
Even the app-based school-work seems more creative. This week, my daughter, 6, had to invent an insect (meet the world’s first ‘caterhopper’), and deconstruct Robert Burns’ classic love poem A Red, Red Rose, which seems ambitious for Year 1. She’s written an epic story about superheroes (I couldn’t quite follow the twisty plot, but it involved Flash Man and Drown Man beating the s&*t out of each other).
Amidst all this madness and darkness, and constant, unbearable bickering and asking for snacks (there aren’t any – get used to it), and stacking the dishwasher yet again (arghhhhhh), there are flashes of light. My son has stepped up, taking charge of the timetable, supervising his little sister’s work and minimising those dreaded bangs on the office door, for which I’m truly grateful.
On my ‘off’ days, we’ve visited the allotment (it’s allowed, it counts as exercise) to hunt for caterpillars (no luck, it’s too cold, but we found a worm), and planted beetroot seeds (that’s science lessons covered). We’ve made (appalling) cakes, and the ancient sourdough starter is out of cold storage and coaxed back to life (home economics). We’ve had surreal tap dance and disastrous piano lessons by Zoom (it took the whole half-hour to find a camera angle where the keyboard was visible), and my son wrote a spine-tingling haunted house story. Yes, PE with Joe Wicks already feels like waking up to ‘I Got You Babe’ in Groundhog Day – but, then, I do so love that movie. We’ve even started writing a script for my son’s proposed vegetable gardening YouTube channel.
Every evening, our talented musician neighbours play the French horn and sing opera for the street, and we’ve gathered tearily at the front door to listen (music lessons, sorted). I’ve watched a video on the Charleston, and even tried learning a few steps (it’s harder than you think) for my son’s dance project. Dusty board games have been brought down from shelves (though not Pandemic).
What have I learned? That in my book, everything counts as home schooling – including the video-link pub quiz my son insisted on Zoom-bombing (turns out those Horrible Histories facts did sink in.) That there are unexpected gems on your doorstep – we’ve discovered overgrown, unexplored trails in our usually empty-ish local woods, to responsibly socially distance from the suddenly materialised masses.
That I love seeing their creativity develop, and that they’re probably having a whale of a time, even when I’m not. That I never, ever want to be a primary school teacher.
That, as we’re all discovering, people are lovely, kind and generous (like the local student giving my son video WW2 history lessons). My highlight? Doing a bedtime story swap – one night my friends read to my daughter by video, the next my daughter read to them (my treasured Frog and Toad stories, by Arthur Lobel).
Yes, on my WFH days, they may or may not have played several unsupervised hours of Mario Kart. I might have subscribed to the Disney Channel, so we can cram extra work hours in (Toy Story 4 again? Yeah, whatever). I frequently feel like we’re living on a spaceship, and the arguments, at points, have been truly horrific. I can’t deny I’m not sometimes envious of those people for whom lockdown is the chance to finally learn the ukelele and read Proust. But this suddenly simpler way of life, means as a family we’ve all discovered a bit more creativity. And that’s a crumb of compensation for all the other awfulness in the world right now.