By Kidscape Parent blogger, MG Vaciago
When I realised that the schools were going to be closing due to the coronavirus, my initial thoughts were, “I am not a teacher, what do I know about History, Science and Algebra? How am I going to combine doing my job as well as home-schooling my 3 kids? What if they don’t want to study at all?” The anxiety was rising up in my body thinking of all the problems I could potentially face and yet when the first day of home-schooling arrived, the reality was a completely different one.
We had transformed a room in our house into a makeshift classroom, we had a table in there with a few chairs, lots of notepads, pens, pencils and a few whiteboards. The kid’s schedules I made over the weekend were on the wall and I was very apprehensive. Sure, I was a mum, and in some ways I had educated my children up until now, but this was different.
My 8-year-old was ecstatic with the “school” set up. It wasn’t because of the novelty of the classroom, it wasn’t even because of the fun learning props I had set up, or the fact he could turn up in his rugby kit, but it was because in his own words, he could just “get on and learn without the worry of being bullied”. This realisation completely blew my mind, he was excited because there would be no bullies and the fact that he was free to learn, was enough for him. He had no idea of what I had planned or whether he would enjoy it, but he was open-minded, full of optimism and enthusiasm. This really brought home how much he had had to endure on a daily basis. Not only was he expected to sit and listen to his teacher, he also had to participate in class, and do his ultimate best, all the while looking over his shoulder.
Our first day of home-schooling went really well, I had been doing my best to make it fun and interesting and the boys were all completing their last tasks of the day and I thought, this home-schooling malarkey might not actually be that bad. But then, as my 8-year-old attempted to finish the last question of his multiplication challenge, my 11-year-old innocently said “that’s not how you do it, you’ve done it wrong”. My 8-year-old immediately put down his pencil and began to sob into his hands. “What did I say?” my eldest asked innocently.
That’s when I realised how deep the effects of his bullying ran, how even an innocent comment from his older brother could rock his confidence so much that he was now reluctant to even finish the quiz, convinced he couldn’t do it. My oldest son was mortified “What did I say?” he kept asking. It wasn’t at all about what my eldest had said and 100% about what my 8-year-old had heard. My eldest was trying to help him, by explaining that he had worked it out in an overly complicated way, but my 8-year-old had heard only that “HE WASN’T CAPABLE OF DOING IT RIGHT AND HE HAD DONE IT ALL WRONG”, words he was so used to hearing from school bullies.
I sat the boys together so they could clear the air. My eldest explained that he was only trying to make it easier for his brother to work out the mathematical problem and there was no malice involved at all. My 8-year-old explained, that maybe he had overreacted but that he was tired of constantly having to try and ignore negative comments from bullies at school. Now that he was at home, he just wanted to get on and learn in peace. They hugged it out and apologised to each other, but it was at that point that I realised, the things we needed to work on at home would not just be Maths and English, but Resilience, Confidence and Self-belief.
Thankfully, for confidence and self-belief we turned to the Kidscape Zap course. This course is aimed at children between the ages of 9-16, but even though my son is only 8 years old, he really benefitted from it. The group was a really fun session with lots of other kids who unfortunately, were in the same position as he was. During the hour-long session, the first thing the children were asked to do, was write down what they were good at. This was a very positive starting point, as it reminded them that they all had talents and strengths and that the session was there to help them be proud of those talents and also to believe in themselves. It also taught positive body language, power poses and affirmations.
At the beginning of the session, my son was quite shy, slumping and didn’t really want to join in. He said he felt a bit silly doing the power poses as he wasn’t powerful, but the more he practiced it, the more confident he became. The fact, that other children were all doing it too, encouraged him to give it a go. By the end of the workshop, the change in him was evident. He was more confident, he sat straighter, he was generally much happier.
Since the Zap workshop, we now start our home-schooling standing round the table in our power poses, taking it in turns to state what we are good at and owning our talents and strengths. Hopefully, by the time school re-opens, this will come naturally to my son and he will be more prepared to handle the bullies at school. I can’t thank Kidscape enough for the session, knowing that he was not the only one affected and that there was someone willing to help, was invaluable for my son and for me as a parent.
ZAP workshops for children impacted by bullying (available online and in the community)
ZAP workshops bring together children facing a similar situation and teach a range of tools to increase assertiveness, build confidence and help manage bullying situations.
RISE transition support
Delivered in a classroom setting, these two hour workshops help build self esteem and prepare young people for the transition of moving up to secondary school.