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How we've kept six kids entertained during lockdown

Published Date: 04 Jun 2020

Seven children between the ages of 2 and 19 standing against a wooden fence outside

Life in our house with seven children, a cat, a dog, a pet lamb and a dozen hens has never been dull. It’s never been quiet either; mess and commotion are all we’ve known for the past few years.

Yet when Boris Johnson announced we’d be going into lockdown, we knew things were going to change. Although our eldest is now at university, six lively children remain, three of whom are deaf, and the confines of our property would become our world indefinitely.
One perk that we benefited from immediately was that the children would be schooled under the same roof, as opposed to six different places.

It was daunting perk though, knowing that schools were closing and teaching fell to me. I had taught five-year-olds before, but a class of 30 certainly seemed preferable to trying to teach my own lively and gregarious gang.

However, we soon eased ourselves into a new normal. The crazy mornings with mum and dad shouting like hysterical hyenas were gone. So was the daily battle to get teenagers out of bed and stop a toddler feeding his porridge to the cat.

Things gradually evolved into what some would call ‘organised chaos’, and the children flourished in their new educational setting.

We have time for the hens to lay eggs for breakfast. Sam (19) organises PE lessons in the garden, Victoria (16) teaches them British Sign Language (BSL) and Jack (10) is reading to his younger brother. They’re also feeding the animals together.

I did notice the older kids were the hardest to keep motivated at first. They missed interactions with their friends and weren’t responding well to simply being ‘taught at’ around the table. They needed bigger challenges and a degree of responsibility for their own learning and that of others.

Despite their circumstances, they’ve adapted quickly. They’ve found their own strengths through a degree of control over their learning, then consolidated it by teaching others. As a result, they’re thriving.
As a six, they’ve also begun planting a vegetable patch and the boys have built their own tree house. Even if I still wince every time I witness a five-year-old driving nails through planks of wood, egged on by his big brother, this is still wonderful to see.

Yet it also makes perfect sense. Seeing them spend more time outdoors, largely in control of their own learning, has shown me the more we expect of kids, the further we raise that bar, the more likely they are to clear it.

They’ve become more independent and more conscientious, more driven and determined.

The perfect example of this, and by far the most rewarding of their lockdown activities, has been their packing and delivering of food parcels to deaf members of the community. All of them know first-hand the isolation and communication challenges deaf people can face on a daily basis, and how these are exacerbated during lockdown.

So once they discovered that deaf people were struggling to access help and support, they wanted to help. The girls are now making weekly trips to members of the deaf community, delivering food parcels and signing little messages of cheer from across the fence, boosted by Victoria’s knowledge of BSL.

The coronavirus outbreak has been a very challenging time for everyone, and a time of great sadness for many. So it’s encouraging that, in the midst of such fear and uncertainty right across the globe, far from being overwhelmed by the gravity of it all, children everywhere are rising to the challenge. They’re taking on new roles and responsibilities. They’re thinking of others, teaching and mentoring. They’re considering where their food comes from, reassessing their priorities and finding joy and amusement from the simple things.

No one can say that this situation has been a good thing, but it’s always important to try and make the best of it wherever we can, and children are perfectly placed to bring the energy and imagination it needs.

I don’t think any of ours will emerge from this lockdown as they went in. From my perspective, that may be the best lesson they ever learn.

Linda-Jane

Linda-Jane and her husband Colin live in Northern Ireland with their seven children. Daughters Victoria (16) and Alice (13) have severe to profound hearing loss and son Henry (2) has moderate hearing loss.