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Three familiar Northern Ireland faces on coping with homeschooling


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Cool FM’s Pete Snodden at home in Bangor with wife Julia and daughters Elayna and Ivana

Cool FM’s Pete Snodden at home in Bangor with wife Julia and daughters Elayna and Ivana

Ivana reading

Ivana reading

The sisters watching Joe Wicks’ video

The sisters watching Joe Wicks’ video

Kerry and Dan

Kerry and Dan

Kerry McLean’s children Dan and Eve homeschooling

Kerry McLean’s children Dan and Eve homeschooling

Leesa Harker

Leesa Harker

Lexi, daughter of Leesa Harker, working with numbers

Lexi, daughter of Leesa Harker, working with numbers

Cool FM’s Pete Snodden at home in Bangor with wife Julia and daughters Elayna and Ivana

Parents have begun the daunting task of homeschooling their children after classes closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Kitchens, dining rooms and living rooms are now temporary classrooms - with schedules being drawn up and pinned to fridges, full of plans for numeracy, literacy, arts and crafts and PE lessons.

Among those taking on the role of teacher is host of the Cool FM breakfast show Pete Snodden. He has been teaching daughters Ivana (9) and Elayna (5), who would normally be attending Ballyholme Primary.

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The sisters watching Joe Wicks’ video

The sisters watching Joe Wicks’ video

The sisters watching Joe Wicks’ video

For him, one of the key things they want is to try to keep the connection of the girls to their friends through video calls throughout this challenging time.

The family are working to a rough schedule, but they hope to be able to inject some fun into each day.

Pete was quick to give full credit for their plans to wife Julia - he says he is simply following them, like the kids.

He said: “We get up and have breakfast and do a bit of exercise. This morning we did PE with Joe Wicks, then after that it was academic work.

“The school has been really good and sent us home worksheets, so we’ve been doing those and each day we pick something different.

“We were doing numbers with my youngest on the fridge with number magnets and we were putting them in order and working out sequences.

“With my eldest daughter we have been doing times-tables and she has an advanced reading book, and I let her read a chapter or two.”

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Ivana reading

Ivana reading

Ivana reading

At lunchtime they got to catch up with friends, as they would in the playground, only now it’s via video calls.

After that they were planning some creative time with musical instruments or baking.

Pete said: “It’s really difficult for everyone. But what we don’t want is for this period of time to be a moment that the children look back and think it was really bad for them. So we are trying to keep a bit of academic work going and teach them as much as we can, but have as much fun as we can.

“We are hopefully going to instigate a few chores, that is easier said than done.”

Pete also called for anyone who has come up with a good homeschooling technique to share it with him and he’ll share it on air.

“At this stage, it’s all about trying to help each other out in whatever way we possibly can.”

Belfast author and playwright Leesa Harker is also at the helm of the home classroom with her two daughters Lola (12) and Lexi (9).

Leesa Harker

Leesa loves learning, and if anything, she thinks it will be her children asking her for a break.

Her youngest was sent home with a bumper pack of work and timetable from her teacher, Natalie Mullan at Seaview Primary School, while her oldest daughter’s work is scheduled to arrive this week from the Belfast Model School for Girls.

“For my youngest, basically her teacher planned the whole day for us and gave us a timetable of what we should be doing.

“But she sent a note saying you don’t have to stick to it - if you don’t get it done, don’t worry.

“It was a whole variation of different things, she has been absolutely brilliant.

“For Lola, I had some key stage two workbooks I ordered off Amazon, which I had from last year, so she did a few different bits.

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Lexi, daughter of Leesa Harker, working with numbers

Lexi, daughter of Leesa Harker, working with numbers

Lexi, daughter of Leesa Harker, working with numbers

“It’s just difficult because they are at different stages.”

But Leesa isn’t daunted by the topics, as she described herself as being a “total swot” at school.

“I loved homework and I loved schoolwork.

“I’m still doing a degree now, it’s never-ending, I just love learning things.

“So I’m probably the worst one for them because I’m all into it and they are probably like: ‘Give us a break’.”

But anything she isn’t sure of, she is happy to look up and has decided not to stress about it.

“I said to myself last week, if it doesn’t go to plan and I don’t get everything done in the day that I’m planning to do, it’s not the end of the world.”

Her daughters have also started writing a journal about their experience.

“This is history that we are in now,” she added.

“They will be learning in school about what we are in now.”

Meanwhile, Radio Ulster presenter Kerry McLean is facing the task of teaching Tara (13), Dan (12) and Eve (4).

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Kerry and Dan

Kerry and Dan

Kerry and Dan

And while she originally trained as a teacher, she has been daunted by catering to the different ages of her children.

“But what I have tried to do with the oldest two is echo the day they have in school,” she said.

“We have followed their timetable from their school, Dalriada. The school has been great in sending out loads of work and stuff for them to do.”

She added: “I can’t remember half of the things they are talking about, so maybe by the end I’ll have learnt a lot as well.”

But she says she can see the pressure of the situation in her children.

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Lexi, daughter of Leesa Harker, working with numbers

Lexi, daughter of Leesa Harker, working with numbers

Lexi, daughter of Leesa Harker, working with numbers

“They are OK. I think they are quite stressed and I can see that in them,” she said.

“My husband and I are trying not to talk about Covid-19 in front of them.

“I’m currently trying to study myself to do a degree in psychology. It’s stressful, but at the same time I can’t complain because we are fit and we are healthy and we are together.

“And as long as we are in that position, I’m not going to complain about it.”

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