The Camaraderie With Other Mums On Instagram Is The One Thing Getting Me Through Homeschooling Hell

'Home school has morphed Instagram from a place I might have gone, pre-Covid, to gaze at someone else’s cup of barista perfect coffee, to the place I go to find solidarity over the fact I cannot and never will be an expert phonics teacher.'

Homschooling chaos

by Clover Stroud |
Updated on

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It’s 9:30am and I am trying to coax my three younger children - Evangeline, 8, Dash, 6 and Lester 4 - onto Teams to join their class mates for another morning of so-called home school. “Come on darlings it will be great fun!” I say, trying to make my voice sound fun, as they all glare at me with faces like thunder from the sofa. “And you will see your school friends! Don’t you all want to see your school friends? Because I know they all want to see you.” Evangeline walks out, slamming the kitchen door, Dash loses himself in a massive pile of Lego, and Lester curls up into a ball, telling me he does want to see his friends, “but in real life, not on a screen.”

My attempts at getting them to engage with home-school have not been pretty. This morning I might be coaxing and coercing, but I’ve also tried shouting, bribing, threatening and crying - and that’s just me, not the kids. Trying to oversee three children on three different screens, while simultaneously managing my own working life of deadlines and Zoom meetings, has frankly, boggled my mind.

I’m in a constant muddle about passwords and usernames, and finding chargers and laptops every morning - which I’ve often had to hide the previous evening to get the kids to leave Minecraft or YouTube make up tutorials and actually go to bed - is a daily challenge. Let’s not even start on making our printer work successfully: it’s enough to say that I have often fantasised about stamping on the blasted machine and splintering it into plastic. Ditto, pencil sharpeners. Trying to locate a single pencil sharpener in the black hole of my kitchen is often the final straw that breaks this camel’s back. And when that happens, you’re more likely to find me shut in the food cupboard, quietly hyperventilating into a packet of chocolate biscuits while clutching my phone, talking to friends on Instagram, who are, more often than not, all having exactly the same experience.

Because throughout this weird, challenging and frankly pretty deranging experience, is the knowledge that I am not alone. I know that I am just one of millions of parents up and down the country - and even all around the globe - who are facing exactly the same fights over phonics/printer cartridges/basic arithmetic. And while home school might have been a special kind of hell for many, many, many parents, the power of social media means we know we’re not alone. Instagram, especially, is like a massive global version of the village pump, or, indeed, the water cooler, where any of us can gather to share stories on home-school hell, and offer each other a bit of a slap on the back and camaraderie at the same time.

Because the thing that’s really been getting me through lockdown 3 (or is it 4? I’ve lost the ability to count from one to ten, despite the fact I’m supposed to be teaching Lester, who is 4, his basic number bonds) is the relationships I have with thousands of other parents - and they are, let’s face it, usually mums – in exactly the same boat on Instagram.

Home school has morphed Instagram from a place I might have gone, pre-Covid, to gaze at someone else’s cup of barista perfect coffee, admire their cool new kitchen or go green with envy over their weekend away in Seville, to the place I go to find solidarity over the fact I cannot and never will be an expert phonics teacher and that I have failed to get my kids to complete even one of the ten sentences they were supposed to write to demonstrate their mastery of full stops and capital letters.

Lockdown has, admittedly, made me even more addicted to my phone, which I carry around with me at all times, since in a time of no escape and non-stop isolation, it’s a sparkly little portal into other worlds, where I can meet and chat with other Mums who are finding this every bit as tough as I am. It’s also been a useful barometer of how the nation of other parents are feeling: I find my own mood, whether that’s slightly manic on a Monday morning when home-school looms again after the so-called weekend (remember those?), or on my knees with despair and boredom at another slow Wednesday afternoon when it’s pouring with rain and the kids are scrapping over the last three Pringles, is often reflected back at me in other people’s lives and experiences shared there. At a time when human company is pretty scarce, this is gold-dust. I go to Instagram to feel less alone. What I find there is whole army of cheer leaders to buoy me up through the day when I think I cannot take another moment of trying to get my son to learn about possessive pronouns or my daughter to create a map of the flags of the world, all done on Teams. Instagram, in short, is my bolt hole, a place to escape from home school hell and find a whole phalanx of women I’d really like to hang out with IRL, too. Maybe, in some not too distant future, one day I will.

My Wild and Sleepless Nights by Clover Stroud is out now (Black Swan. £8.99).

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