If you woke to an audible crack in Sydney this morning, allow me to explain: that was the sound of millions of parental hearts breaking.
Not because they were facing their 700th jigsaw puzzle and four millionth load of laundry for the day (that’s more of a 3pm meltdown thing).
Not because the ABC Kids app had imploded from over-use.
And not because they’d finally had enough of finding sultanas in increasingly bizarre places around the house.
No, the catalyst for their collective nervous breakdown came down to an announcement containing just a few short words: Home. Based. Learning.
With most of us still actively recovering from PTSD from 2020, the thought of homeschool reopening for business is enough to push even the most hashtag-blessed of us into a terminal decline. Despite Gladys’s attempts to sugar coat it as “just four days”, we all know the truth – if you thought the past fortnight was hard, just wait till you get to those 96 hours of living hell.
From trying to juggle day jobs, to balancing the needs of multiple siblings – and heck, even just finding enough space for everyone at the dining room table – there are plenty of reasons why homeschooling is so objectively hideous, as our Melbourne friends I’m sure would attest.
But in my humble opinion, the real basis of our dread comes down to one simple fact.
The delicate balance of the family dynamic rests on a certain balance of power. You, as parent, maintain your position at the top of the food chain, by virtue of you knowing stuff and being able to teach your kids how to do aforementioned stuff.
Every day, they benefit from your key learnings after decades on the planet, preventing them from making terrible errors of judgement that their little minds can only begin to grasp the consequences of. “No darling, the scissors aren’t for giving your sister a haircut.” “Let’s not put your toy car in the microwave, or the whole house will explode and you’ll have no toy cars left.”
Until they can just Google their own answers to life’s big mysteries, you are the sole purveyor of ready answers to all their questions. Why is the sky blue? Why does it get dark at night? Why are potato chips a sometimes food?
Then along comes homeschooling to shatter the illusion of you as this omniscient guru.
Much like when Dorothy discovers the Wizard of Oz is just a man behind a curtain, there’s nothing more humbling for an otherwise high-achieving adult, than spending five minutes fumbling with maths equations (“I don’t think we did it like that in my day”), desperately trying to decipher all the classroom jargon (“Siri, what is a jump strategy / word web / mind map?”) or trying to explain concepts that they have no real understanding of themselves.
How am I supposed to command respect from my progeny if I can’t even work out the button to press to upload their work to the right place?
For me, 2020’s rock bottom was admitting defeat over some kindergarten level Chinese homework and I remain easily triggered to this day.
So Sydney mums and dads: I see you.
Let’s hope for a return to school, before all of us parents get schooled.
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