Well, so much for an unplugged childhood

We are four days into homeschooling and that clattering sound you hear is me and all the other formerly groomed professionals throwing all their dearly held parenting philosophies out the window, along with their dry shampoo and their will to live.

Screen time? Go for it, kids. Breakfast tomorrow is Cheezels with a refreshing mug of Fanta. If anyone makes it to bed before midnight, I'll be happy.

And to think, up until just last month when I heard the word "homeschool", my mental image was unvaccinated waifs with snotty noses weaving twigs into faerie-crowns.

Now they are my tribe.

I've always been scared of working from home, ever since the morning I set my laptop up in my sunny living room 18 years ago to write a feature about corporate mergers, and woke four hours later with dribble on the mousepad and QWERTY imprinted on my forehead.

I wasn't game to try it again until our first baby arrived, and I arranged to work one day a week from home, knocking over a bit of work while the placid infant gurgled in a woven rush basket at my feet, gazing at the handmade felt dangly ceiling mobile I'd bought on Etsy.

Working from home with a baby never quite looks like this. Picture: iStock
Working from home with a baby never quite looks like this. Picture: iStock

Within a week I was sitting in a cubicle at our nearest public library and the only gurgle was coming from the breastpump poorly concealed under my jumper.

And this time around, I've set myself up in our spare room with a cobbled-together stand-up desk made from a bookshelf, a pile of old annual reports and a very heavy cardboard box marked 'Artisan Sausage-Making Kit'. I'm awaiting the moment my husband notices it and says "I've been looking for that!" whereupon I'll have to take it all apart and prop up my laptop on the never-used rush baby basket.

And now I have realised why my fear of WFH was nothing compared with my fear of homeschooling, which has now manifested into a terrifying reality.

See, the thing about carefully curated parenting is that it doesn't take up enough time.

We've always been into daisy-chains and mud pies and creative water play and kitchen science projects, like lava lamps made with aspirin and food colouring. But each of those activities occupies even a mildly sentient kid for only seven minutes, and mine are awake for at least 14 hours a day.

All the good homeschooling intentions have gone out the window. Picture: iStock
All the good homeschooling intentions have gone out the window. Picture: iStock

Most kids, I reckon, are capable of enthusiastic parent-child interaction for approximately 13 per cent of the time. The rest is spent eating, complaining, fighting, sobbing and pounding on the home-office door demanding to know when we can make artisan sausages again and what has happened to the kit.

Thank God for backlit screens is all I can say, with a special namaste to my new celebrity crush, the lady on YouTube who adapts blockbuster kids' movies into yoga routines. Cosmic Kids. Check it out.

And for as long as this lockdown lasts, I'm embracing screen time as not an impediment to the handspun childhood, but its essential ingredient. I can't do hours of playing shops with buttons for currency without my little friend the iPad by my side in case of emergency.

Judge me if you will. Or come round for a session on the macaroni necklaces and see how long you last.

Originally published as Well, so much for an unplugged childhood


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