Back to school… again

A hand holding a shell up with the sea as a background at Seven Mile Beach in tasmania

DorkySon has now been back at school for two weeks. It honestly feels like he has never been away. After a couple of months off, I’m amazed at how quickly we have all adjusted to the new/old routine again.

We are back to 6.50am starts, back to school lunch sandwiches cobbled together as I slurp coffee and scroll the news on my phone.

The news. Gosh. It’s impossible to write anything at the moment – even the simplest of family blog posts – without acknowledging what is going on in the world.

A few months ago, everything I read was in the context of Brexit. A few weeks ago, it was in the context of COVID19. Now, it is in the context of the necessary conversations and protests that are happening around racial injustice. Even here, on this small island, those conversations are taking place. Even here, we can listen, learn, amplify, educate and donate.

DorkySon has been initiating the discussion every night: asking about what is happening in the US, about how our friends are, about what needs to change. He knows that racism exists in Australia too; that it is often directed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; that since the coronavirus outbreak racism towards the Chinese community has escalated. He is far more aware than I was at eleven.

But the work we need to do – that so many of us need to do ­– is to become more than just aware. To become actively anti-racist, rather than just passively not-racist. Understanding your privilege is one thing. Using it productively is quite another, and so those are the discussions that are happening around our dinner table these nights. I hope that as a family we will keep holding each other to higher and better standards.

As is the way of eleven-year-old boys, we will have a long conversation about racism and world politics… and then without a blink DorkySon will segue straight into something unrelated. Last night he tried to teach me the rules of handball. The night before we worked together to imagine our dream Formula 1 team. He is coming home from school each afternoon full of new information and excited about learning – about grammar, about fractions, about volcanoes, about gamification. He is so pleased to be back with his friends, to be processing the events of the day not just with his parents but with people his own age too.

The homeschooling weeks were a lesson for us all. We learned that DorkySon is incredibly self-motivated. We didn’t have to nudge him once to get on with work. He set his own timetable each day and worked through the tasks until they were done. I learned that I am not a good teacher: not patient enough, not good at processing information verbally or aurally, completely hopeless when it comes to maths (even though I have a certificate in a drawer somewhere that says otherwise).

What I did love was the less formal work we did together. I loved taking a ten-minute break from my work when DorkySon took a ten-minute break from his, so that we could play a game of soccer in the hallway with a soft ball. I loved watching documentaries with him on Netflix, discussing the books we were reading, and taking walks together every afternoon.

Now that travel restrictions within the state are starting to lift, we are still walking at weekends – trying out new trails and beaches a little further from home. Last weekend we walked around the beautiful reserve at Coningham for the first time. Next on the list is Pelverata Falls. Really, we are spoiled for choice with half-day walks close to Hobart, so I hope these dry, sunny days continue through the winter and allow us to keep getting out and about.

Tasmania looks to be in good shape at the moment. We have gone more than three weeks without a new case, and things are slowly starting to open up again. On Thursday, DorkyDad and I went out for lunch to The Apple Shed – funnily enough, that was also the last place we went before lockdown began, so it feels like the circle is now complete. On Friday, I had a socially distant coffee with some friends I haven’t seen in months, and honestly it was the absolute best. It topped my happy tank right back up, and served as a valuable reminder that even introverts need a long chat with their pals sometimes.

I imagine it’s going to be a good while yet before we start to think about opening Tasmania’s borders, and longer still before Australia opens up to the world again. In a way that feels strange – almost all of our family and friends are in UK and the US and it is disconcerting to be cut off from them.

But in another way, it actually feels okay. We have chosen very consciously to commit to Tasmania and make it our home. For the next few months we will try and find the balance between reaching out and looking in, doing whatever we can to stay connected.


A few links, since you’re here anyway.

This is the verified GoFundMe to support Darnella Frazier, the brave young woman who filmed the murder of George Floyd. Join me in making a donation?

If you’re in Tassie, follow the Strong Blak Tasmania page on Facebook. Along with Nayria Niara, they organised the Black Lives Matter vigil on Parliament Lawns last Saturday.

There are a heap of reading lists doing the rounds at the moment: This is an anti-racist book list by Ibram X Kendi in the NYT; this one on Bustle also has a US focus; and this is a Twitter thread of books about racism to read with your kids.

Here is a book list collated by Readings which has more of an Australian focus, and here is another by Avid Reader. AusLit also maintain the Blackwords site, which pulls together resources by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers.

2 responses

  1. Oh gosh – I am not a good teacher either and I’m dreadful at maths; I can’t wait until A goes back to school in September – she has actually said that she would rather forgo her summer holiday so that she can get back in the classroom again and see all her friends properly. We have had some lovely times though too – bicycle rides and reading our books in the sun. What a year this has been! X

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