ONE LEARNING FROM COVID 19 THAT WILL CHANGE THE WAY WE LIVE OUR LIVES FOREVER - PART ONE
COVID 19 is the pandemic that no one was prepared for. It has destroyed lives, families, and cities in the space of 2020. Living In Victoria, Australia we have been the worst affected in the whole country. 2020 was certainly not the year I thought it was going to be.
Knowing all too well what a real Flu looks like, and knowing that the girls would go down hard if they contracted COVID 19, I pulled them out of school before instructions from the government to do so. The conversations around this were questioning, and painful. This is the strongest the girls have been in 5 to 6 years. They had started to build friendships and keep up with full days at school. The decision and conversations were met with tears, but understanding that if they caught it, there was a chance we could not sit beside them when they were admitted into ICU. They would fight this deadly virus alone. The thought of this for even a split second tore my heart and made the choice that much easier. This also included their little sister, as I did not want her unknowingly contracting it and bringing it home.
The homeschooling of three children around their medication, hospital telehealths, pain, multiple therapies, and daily needs has seen us have wonderful days, but also some that have left me simply exhausted. Living in a space all together has left me extremely grateful for our home, and the land that we have. We do have space, unlike others, and use it when we feel we need to. I put schedules into place early to help with the daily runnings of the house and zoned the house so the girls could help with the housework. Some days this worked seamlessly and others not so much.
The lessons that I’ve taken from this time together are many and as a result, have made me once again look at the path I am walking down. The way we live, what is most important, and am I doing all I can to support this…
I have always believed in schooling. I have always thought the girl’s education was so important to help them become the little women they are destined to be. Putting the girls into good schools, who will support them, help educate them, and allow them the feeling of belonging, has been one of my top priorities. Inclusion for a child when you are different does not always happen. Given the years of experience we have with the education system, not all schools are made equally. And while some will bend over backward, and do all they can to help educate and support complicated children, some find it easier to send them home.
I have three children. Two have spent years in and out of the hospital system, and one who hasn’t. Although my youngest was there with us, she was also younger than the primary school level, and grew up faster than the other two, given the challenges and the way we were living. My youngest fits the box. She is smart, has common sense, and is great at problem-solving. The other two are behind. They never developed common sense due to their valuable years of learning being taken away from them. Having many of their life experiences spent more in a hospital room than outside living. The research shows that when a child becomes seriously unwell that their little bodies fight and are no longer capable of learning.
This is quite evident with my oldest who became seriously unwell during grade 2. At this point, she was an avid reader, was on top of all work, and was a superstar in the classroom. I had no concerns on any level about her learning, or ability to do so. But this is when her learning started to switch off, and her legs started to become sore, and her weight and growth started to decline. I put education in place for her during each stay in the hospital through the Royal Children’s Hospital Education Institute, and although her learning has progressed it hasn’t progressed much. Children and adults who experience trauma have difficulty retaining new information. After doing my research to learn how to best support this for my children, I learned that consistency was key. Seems quite simple in a typical world.
Unfortunately for us after grade 2, we spent year after year in and out of the hospital and she went through surgery after surgery. There was a period where there was an overlap of the girls’ illness and we found ourselves in the hospital with both the girls, as her younger sister started to fall seriously unwell. So although I knew the formula was consistency, we simply could not provide that. As the classrooms continued to learn, and the kids their age continued to develop, my girls just fought through one admittance after another. Still ignorantly believing I could keep them up with their education, I tried to put all I could in place to support them with their learning, it was fruitless. We read, created books that they were proud of, tried to teach, and learn maths, but nothing was retaining. Instead, the learnings were around when to feel anxious; how to react when the pain came, and what to be afraid of. What different dressings would burn, what lines hurt more and where, and the awfully long waiting game for a new organ. The sounds of the beeps, what they meant, and constant noises- that still haunt us all.
Now I have girls in two wonderful schools. Two in primary and one in secondary. But the reality of COVID saw the schools trying to support them when I pulled them out, and I very quickly learned that both the schools really had no idea of the level of where the girls were working at. As I tried to help them through their school work I thought it was me. Was I teaching them incorrectly, was I talking another language? I spent weeks trying to teach them the material that was sent home, and didn’t question for a second the school had it wrong, after all, wasn’t this the work they were doing in class? I was pulling my hair out.
It then hit me like a tonne of bricks. The work was way too hard, and they simply could not comprehend the work that was coming home. It was not me, it was definitely not them, it was the school setting the work way above the level in which they were capable of working. They were able to work through it with help in a classroom setting, as they had assistance in the classroom. Of course, the flaw in this system is that if they cannot understand it, how can they retain it? They can’t. After many phone calls later explaining this work was not for them, the schools started sending out tests to see the level in which they were working at…
The schools I have the girls in are not state schools. They are wonderful schools with excellent reputations. The dealings with the schools have been a pleasure and socially and mentally the girls are supported thoroughly. To discover they really had no idea where the girls were academically was more than disheartening to say the least, and to be honest it added an extra layer to my list that already almost felt too heavy. What had they been doing in the classroom this whole time?
With knowledge comes power. It’s knowing what to do with that power that I find the most difficult. What it does, however, is give us more options as a family. The many life decisions we have made in the past have included the education system and all it stands for. Although I understand this is extremely relevant to some, it simply isn’t for others. It has taken me many years to work this out, and if COVID hadn’t have isolated us out of necessity, this reality may never have hit me as hard as what it has. The decision for the girl’s educational future has somewhat shifted through my eyes. Time will tell what knock-on effects this will have, but I feel they will be life-changing…
You are always your child’s advocate. Don’t wait for government rulings to protect your kids.
Always remember that whilst their ‘educational’ journey is different as a seriously ill, and chronically ill child, remind them of all the things that they do know- that their peers don’t.
You can even suggest for them to make their own story and share it with their class, or even the school. This gives them a sense of achievement that often they can’t get from being behind in the classroom. It also teaches them that they have learnings that can help pass on to others- and be a teacher themselves.
When children are seriously ill it is incredibly difficult for them to retain their educational learnings. If their illness is over a prolonged period of time, have them academically tested at the school so the school understands exactly where they are at.
Education in a formal school setting is only one option for seriously ill children. Home schooling could offer the whole family a different way of learning and living. Or even a part time schooling option, so the weight is not all on the parent or carer.
“Teach your children that they live in a world of magnificent abundance, that there is enough for everyone, and that it is in sharing the most, not in gathering the most, that the most is received.” Neale Walsch.