Yesterday I shared my thoughts about the impact the Covid pandemic has had on children's mental health and physical wellbeing. You can read part 1 here.
In this second part, I share my thoughts on how my children have been affected and how the trampoline got to the beach, and its significance.
How the changes affected my boys.
My two youngest were not expecting life in England to be like this. They were looking forward to joining a Karate club, being able to make some friends their age, and as much as I didn't want them to go, they were looking forward to school. They had already gone through a significant transition following my decision to leave their dad and come back to a country that is pretty much foreign to them. They were used to being unschooled and went to school for 3 weeks before we were back to homeschooling.
The first lockdown wasn't so bad, and if I'm completely honest it was a little easier. My old house backed onto a disused car park and many of the street's children would still play there. We also found, as summer crept up, that we could go for daily walks to the beach and spent most of our time in the water or with nature.
I didn't really notice the impact on my boys until they returned to school in September 2020. At first, my youngest was very reluctant, but within a couple of days, he seemed to take to school like a duck to water.
My eldest boy, on the contrary, was excited to go but by the second day, he was refusing school. I asked him what was troubling him and he said that he was finding the work too difficult, that being in the same year with his brother would be better for him.
Not wanting this to escalate in the future, we talked through what was troubling him and it turned out that he was quite behind 'school standards' with his reading and writing.
I felt a little ashamed but then remembered that in an unschooling journey, children learn at their pace. He is a bright, intelligent boy and has a wealth of knowledge on a variety of topics, he preferred to learn by experiencing rather than documenting which is completely different from the way they learn in schools in the UK.
After a conversation with the teachers and the Special Educational Needs lead, a learning plan was agreed for Ty to give him the extra help he needed to catch up. This helped him immensely and by Christmas, he was reading and writing at a much better level.
He began to feel happier and more confident. I could see a return to the enthusiastic and inquisitive young man that he is. Something that I was afraid school may take away from him.
I think we are fortunate that the school fosters quite a nurturing environment. For a mainstream school, they have invested a huge amount of effort in ensuring their pupils' mental health and wellbeing are a priority.
The second lockdown wasn't quite so simple.
Just when we thought things were becoming a little more stable again the dreaded news of another lockdown hit. No back to school, the dead of winter, and no end in sight to the restrictions for the foreseeable.
This time around it felt like a rollercoaster ride. One of highs and lows. We would get up early in the morning and head down to the trampoline on the beach. My kids were getting loads of exercise and the fresh winter air felt very beneficial for our health and wellbeing.
That was just it though. My boys are outdoors kids. They have been free range most of their lives. It was no wonder that the story was very different at home.
As the days passed by, my boys' enthusiasm for completing the set school work dwindled. We drifted into this kind of zombie-like mode. Then my internet went down and to this day is still not fixed.
Some days we couldn't get out as the weather was too uncomfortable to be doing outdoor pursuits. When the north wind blows down on the coast it brings this bitterness that makes us feel as if we are on an antarctic mission rather than having an enjoyable day out.
On those stuck in days, my boys would get bored very quickly, we don't have mainstream tv or a console. It got so bad at one point that I couldn't even cook dinner without them fighting each other.
We were all feeling pretty stressed out. Fortunately, I have some good friends who are in my bubble who took the boys out sledding when the snow came and also gave them a few breakdancing lessons. Which takes me back to the proverb;
"It takes a village to raise a child".
Not just for my sanity, for my kids too. If we are all crammed into one tiny space with little to do, of course, it's not always going to be like an episode of the Brady Bunch. With this little bit of extended family to offer support and guidance, my boys were able to let out their frustrations and channel them into something productive. It offered them a little piece of sanity in this mad world, and even if it was only for a few hours here and there, it certainly helped them.
On the days when the weather wasn't blowing a force 7 gale, we would go down to the beach with the trampoline.
How did the trampoline get to the beach?
There is a group of teens and pre-teens that practice Parkour around town. We met them about a year ago on one of our beach walks. Around December last year, they found an old 6ft trampoline on a Facebook freecycle page, and with a little help from one of the mom's they placed it on the beach.
The trampoline is for the whole community to use and any family that has passed by the trampoline has found a little joy in watching their little ones bounce around on it before continuing on their walk.
We found ourselves down there most days during January. On occasion, after breakdancing we would have a little bounce on the way home too. Sometimes we would bump into the Parkour teens and other times we would be on our own, enjoying the quiet serenity that the beach, the abandoned boats, and the changing tides brought.
This Easter break has been no exception and on venturing down there, we found that the little trampoline had been replaced with a larger 12ft one. They move it back and forth into the sea. Yes, it was really warm enough for a brief swim last week.
For mine and the other kids, this has brought them a little comfort and something to look forward to. It's a day out where they can let off steam, and burn unspent energy.
I'm a firm believer that fresh air and exercise promotes physical health, increases dopamine levels, and helps sustain a positive mental state. It truly is a gem and I am glad that this one little goodwill gesture can bring about such positive feelings in my children.
I can only hope that our children will be able to emerge from this with love, nurture, and good guidance from family, friends, and peers alike. That they have not been too traumatized and they are able to carry their experiences through with them in a positive way.