Coronavirus Diaries: Our Second Month In Lockdown

Here we are again, folks. Welcome to our second month in coronavirus lockdown – the sequel nobody asked for but everybody is getting anyway, a bit like The Angry Birds Movie 2, Peter Rabbit 2 and Hotel Transylvania 4. Yes, 4. (If you missed the first month, read it here).

Firstly, I hope you and yours are doing OK during this weird, unparalleled and troubling time. I’d use the term ‘unprecedented’, but I’ve heard it so much over the last few months that it’s lost all meaning.

Us? We’re doing well. It’s obviously challenging, frustrating and a bit boring, but we’ve settled nicely into a routine and are getting on with things. We’re keeping ourselves to ourselves, aren’t travelling anywhere and are adhering to the rules still in place. We’re not an ‘at-risk’ family, but have chosen to err on the side of caution.

The silver lining to this whole coronavirus debacle is being able to spend time together. I’m not going to pretend that it’s all plain sailing as it most certainly isn’t (just ask our neighbours about my shouting!), but I am thankful that we’re all safe and are experiencing ‘bonus’ time as a four that was usually reserved for weekends.

So, what has the last month looked like for us? Well, here goes…

Homeschooling

With no change to schools and nurseries just yet, both kids continue to be at home full-time and find themselves enrolled in “Daddy’s School of School School”. In reality, this means doing a couple of Y1 tasks with L each day which are set by proper school, as ‘Beetle’ does whatever he wants as long as (a) it doesn’t destroy the house, and (b) it doesn’t distract L from working too much.

L is a really motivated kid and she enjoys learning, so I’ve found it relatively straightforward to complete work with her. The school has continued to set a few tasks each day, which cover different topics and allow her to build upon previous knowledge as well as learn about new things.

our second month in lockdown ve day decoration

Online resources continue to help too – the likes of Bitesize, Mathletics and Phonics Play provide additional opportunities to cement her learning in an independent fashion. I’ve also found that I’ve begun to incorporate topics we’ve learnt in everyday life, be it fractions when dividing a pie for tea or counting in 2’s and 5’s when playing with her toys.

In a way, this means that everyday is the same. We don’t tend to have a differentiation between weekdays and weekends anymore as we do the same combination of activities each and every day. This involves educational things like school tasks, online resources, activity books, colouring, crafts, reading and YouTube videos (Cosmic Kids, GoNoodle etc), alongside going for a walk, playing in the garden, playing with toys etc.

Despite it being half-term next week, I don’t see things changing too much. The main difference is that we won’t get new tasks from school, but that doesn’t matter too much as there’s some we haven’t done yet. For some people, this lack of differentiation or ‘working’ during half-term might be their idea of hell, but it’s working for us and that’s the main thing.

our second month in lockdown L making a crossword

I don’t wish to blow my own trumpet (which, I did actually play at school), but L seems to have progressed really well over the last few months. I had a fear that she’d miss out and her learning would come to a standstill under my tutelage, but I think an increase in one-on-one time has done her good. That being said, I’m no teacher and have a new found respect and admiration for those that work in our schools!

Due to his age, there’s not really any formal learning for ‘Beetle’, but he’s developing each and every day. Having his big sister around is definitely helping him to learn as he follows and copies everything she does. His vocab is coming along brilliantly and, through osmosis, he’s recognising colours, starting to count and properly holding pens at a much younger age than L was.

our second month in lockdown kids colouring

The big news is obviously around the planned opening of nurseries and schools from 1st June. As the proud owner of a two-year old and five-year old, these plans directly impact both of our children. Just this week, we’ve had emails from both ‘Beetle’s’ nursery and L’s school around the intended measures being introduced to help keep staff, parents and kids safe.

For nursery, this includes things like different drop off and pick up processes, more use of outside space and increased cleaning. For school, we’re talking about a two day week, reduced class sizes, different classroom setups and packed lunches eaten outside.

On the face of it, all of these changes are positive and go a long way towards increasing and improving safety. However, kids are kids and I think it’s going to be impossible to successfully social distance, particularly when you consider how quickly colds, sickness bugs and head lice spread in these kind of environments.

As much as I’d love them to return to some kind of normality, I just don’t think we’re there yet. Personally, it feels like the openings have been rushed, that the ‘Five Tests’ have not been met and that we need more information about the implications of previously relaxing lockdown measures.

For me, there’s a lot of unknowns and, as a parent, I want to know that the kids are as safe as possible before they leave the protection of our family bubble. As such, our stance is that they’ll both stay at home for the time being and won’t be returning as soon as these establishments open.

Although this has been a really tough decision, I recognise that we’re in the fortunate position that I’m around to look after the kids. This has definitely made the decision to keep them at home an easier one because we don’t have the ‘need’ for them to return, e.g. we’re both trying to juggle full-time jobs with full-time parenting.

If things are looking OK after a few weeks, I’d be happy(er) for them to return. However, that would put us into late June / early July, and I’d then question whether there’d be any point L going back to school so close to the start of the summer holidays. Sadly for her, September is probably the most likely return date.

Things are slightly different for ‘Beetle’ as he goes to a private nursery. This doesn’t close during the summer holidays, so it’s likely that we’ll defer his place until July / August, upon which he can then return to doing two days per week when things are hopefully a bit safer.

Whatever happens, it’ll be interesting to see how the next few weeks unfold and my thoughts go out to all families dealing with similar difficult decisions!

Work

Things continue to be slow for me as a result of coronavirus. My inbox isn’t dead, but 99% of emails received seem to be companies jumping on the bandwagon by offering free printables for kids or SEO-types trying to flog poorly written copy filled with links to their clients. Either way, the result is the same. Delete!

I’ve had one or two bits of work which have been enough to tide me over. However, as I’m basically looking after both kids on my own during the week, I wouldn’t have that much time for work anyway. I can’t quite get my head around how other families are managing (or not, should be the case!) if both parents are working full time whilst looking after the kids.

As coronavirus has impacted my income, I was relieved to see that I was eligible for the Government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS). Considering the clusterfuck caused by Boris et al over the last few months, I was happily surprised at how easy it was to check my eligibility and claim the self-employed grant.

It took no more than five minutes, and I actually received the money into my bank account within the six days window they stated. So, credit where credit is due – they managed to get the scheme up and running in a pretty fast time and the grant I was given provides us with a bit more financial security.

However, I do feel for those that aren’t eligible. Whether it’s directors of limited companies, those that have only become self-employed recently or people who saw 51% of their income come from PAYE, these people have sadly fallen through the gaps despite needing help too.

For the Missus, she’s now a few weeks into her new role, has been busy getting up to speed and seems to be enjoying it. Her company switched to ‘work from home’ mode pretty quickly, and as she already had all of the equipment needed, it’s been quite a seamless transition – albeit pretty weird being part of a team she’s never physically met and probably won’t for months!

The company seems to be functioning with people working from home, so there isn’t a burning desire to get people back into the office, which obviously comes as a relief. I just hope that her company, as well as thousands of others around the country, use this epidemic as a kick up the arse to increase flexibility and change working cultures for the better. Fingers crossed.

Other Activities

When not homeschooling or working, most of the day is taken up with entertaining the kids. Not much has really changed from last month’s update – it’s a combination of spending time playing outside in the garden or doing stuff inside like watching TV and films, playing with toys or doing slightly craftier things. We did get the paddling pool out – something the kids loved, but I’m not so keen on!

our second month in lockdown jigsaws and playing

Obviously one of the biggest rule changes is the fact that we’re now allowed to go out for unlimited exercise and can travel for short distances in the car. This has made things easier as it means we can, for instance, take the dog for a walk in the morning and then explore in the local woods in the afternoon.

Rather than just walk around the block, we’ve started going for longer walks into the nearby forests. This has been great as it has meant that we’ve discovered more about our local area, plus it’s been great fun for the kids to find dens, climb trees and play hide and seek.

 

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Another day, another (local) outdoor adventure as I attempt to turn us into this generation’s Swiss Family Robinson.

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Although we can now travel in the car, we’ve preferred to stay local and on foot. That being said, the day after the relaxed restrictions were announced, I took the kids in the car for the first time in months. We drove 15 minutes down the road to a woods I’d seen mentioned on Facebook which was home to fairies and dinosaurs – yes, really.

 

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Triceratops are returning to the Hertfordshire woodlands. Nature is healing. We are the virus.

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After eating way too much chocolate at Easter and because of an ever increasing sedentary lifestyle due to coronavirus, the Missus and I are a few weeks into a health kick. We’re not doing anything revolutionary – just watching what we eat, cutting out the crap and exercising more – but we’re starting to feel better and are seeing positive results.

Other News

‘Beetle’ has replaced his love for Peppa Pig with a new love for Paw Patrol, which, let’s be honest, is bordering on obsession. L has sadly moved on from Miraculous to a combo of Dennis & Gnasher, Henry Danger and Pac-Man And The Ghostly Adventures.

I attempted my first lockdown haircut and it didn’t go too bad. Nothing drastic, just a 6 around the back and sides to attempt to tidy up. I even managed to do something that resembled blending!

L has really enjoyed helping us cook recently. We had a week of Hello Fresh earlier in the month and she was really keen to be involved in the food preparation. As someone who could do nothing in the kitchen prior to going to Uni, I’m keen for her to develop those culinary skills as earlier as possible.

our second month in lockdown L making tea hello fresh

The Missus and L have got into a nice routine in the morning where they get up and read with each other. They’ve finished The BFG and aren’t too far away from completing Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. The upside is that I get to sleep in until ‘Beetle’ wakes up, which at the moment, is 8.30am. Muwhahaha.

It was my birthday at the start of May. I’m not really big into birthdays so didn’t particularly care that we were in lockdown. It was a shame to not go out somewhere for the day as we usually do, but it was fine. L was very sweet making me loads of presents and planning a party in her room. They also made me a huge brownie, then I had a drunken Zoom chat with my mates the following day.

Things have eased down at the bug hotel. I think there’s only one solitary bee guest at the moment as the others have checked out. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next summer and whether the eggs (?) hatch and allow me to create my own bee army to take over the world.

After barely reading for the last few years, I’ve continued to grab 10 minutes here and there when the kids are happily playing. I read both of Peter Crouch’s books last month and have just finished Louis Theroux’s latest. Now I’m onto Tyson Fury’s. Can you tell I like autobiographies?

Following the Louis Theroux theme, we’ve been re-watching all of his older documentaries in the evening. I’ve seen them all before, but it was a long time ago so it’s been good re-visiting them. I’ve also nearly finished Fleabag – behind the times, I know.

 

So that’s our second month in coronavirus lockdown. If we’re here this time next month, then I’ll be back to turn this into a trilogy. Hopefully though, fingers crossed, things will be looking better in the UK come the end of June and we’ll be returning to something that resembles normal. Or, at least, the new normal. Until then, stay safe.