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Home schooling six children changes perspectives

Home schooling six children aged between six and 16 during the Level 4 lockdown, while juggling a business is a sobering concept for most of us.

And, perhaps it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest – if we’re honest – that it’s a horrifying thought for everyone else.

North Canterbury couple Peter and Claire Hansen own Peter Hansen Drainage. They also milk a small herd of registered Jerseys near Rangiora.

In between all that, they have a team of six energetic, smart, and busy children – some of whom are well on the way to becoming young adults. This is an action-packed household at the best of times. 

Peter, 42, and Claire, 38, share some of their reality with the Waimak App. Including, how they will come out the other side with some telling insights…

Claire candidly says home schooling half a dozen children during the lockdown has been far from a walk in the park.

But, it has had some incredible high points too. And, outside of some natural early meltdowns, which Claire doesn’t shy away from (eased by a couple of quiet “medicinal gins” here and there) she appreciates her family’s development as they edge ever closer to the finish line.

She said the range of ages between their children had presented her with the biggest challenge.

“I think if I was teaching six eight-year-olds, it would have been a little easier,” Claire said. “It’s been the mental jumping between ages, subjects and levels that I’ve had to budget my mind for, when it comes to checking up on their work.

“Overall we knew it was going to do some good for our family. But we probably didn’t expect the level of anxiety it was going to cause me. The first couple of weeks were pretty tough.”


Unrealistic to be perfect

Five attend Rangiora New Life, and 15-year-old Ethan is at St Bede’s.

“Originally I had seen all these Instagram images of lovely home schooling setups in beautiful houses on stunning desks,” Claire said.

“But, in the end, after four days and a couple of melt downs, I realised the kids could still do their work if the house was a mess.

“And, that it was highly unrealistic of me to keep everything completely tidy with seven other people living here 24/7.”

She said they have one of the biggest families at Rangiora New Life, and the school checked in on them regularly. St Bede’s had also been supportive.

“I’ve worked out I’m an extroverted introvert,” Claire said. “I definitely need my space, but I feel blessed because I have the older kids, and they have picked up the slack and helped a lot, so it’s not just been on me and Pete to push them.”


Course content surprising

One of the surprises has been course content.

“I’m sure that the content is adaptable to the current situation, but as a parent you often think they’re sitting at a desk doing reading, writing and math, and now I’ve learned that they’re doing learning-based activities too.

“I was a bit old school in my thinking. It’s quite cool to see how many different avenues of learning there are. That surprised me, and perhaps pushed me a bit with the four younger ones, because it’s taken a lot of energy and planning.”

Having enough devices was one of the early challenges. And, realising that learning without the solidarity and friendships within a classroom has been another. However, the bonus has been that the elder Hansen children have stepped up. 

“Joseph is year 13 and he’s really motivated, so he self-managed brilliantly. And, he runs 10km every day. He’s even more driven than I am to get his work done,” Claire said.

She said 15-year-old Ethan and 12-year-old Elijah are also focussed, and self-managing well.

“Israel is 10, and he gets bored easily, so when that happens we send him for a 2km run,” Claire said.


Missing friends…

Nine-year-old Brooke and six-year-old Lauren have missed their friends, and being younger, they have needed more attention.

Claire said working out what her children responded to in the schoolroom has become easier as time has worn on.

“A lot of Lauren’s activities are practical, so I’ve had to get organised. Last week Ethan had finished all his work for the week by Thursday and he was pumped to have Friday off. So, I got him to help Lauren with her two experiments, and he was great. I appreciated his fresh legs on that.”

Claire said tuning into their youngest, Lauren, has changed her lockdown school-room experience.

“After two weeks, I realised that Lauren is used to doing a task with her schoolmates. And, here she is at home with everyone on their own devices doing their own thing, and she had to work on her own.

“So I joined her and wrote a little project along the lines of what she was working on as well. And, straight away she was in to it.

“Since then, I’ve been able to go on to more of my own business work.

“We’ve all been a work in progress, and I’ve definitely had to let go of a lot of my ideals. But the kids are now really comfortable, and they’ve really impressed us with what they’re capable of adapting to.”

Claire said while Pete had now headed back to work, he also brought a welcome dynamic to the classroom.

“Pete loved doing some of the projects with the kids. He’s great at making things like that fun, and he had a great time while he was home during Level 4, so that was cool because it gave him that opportunity to spend time with them.”


Everyone tighter

She said, without question everyone had become tighter.

“Absolutely. The girls are so much closer now, and the older and younger boys are all getting on well. If my 12-year-old [Elijah] has a math thing, I get him to go to Joseph, and through that interaction they’ve found a new level of respect for their siblings.”

Is Claire looking forward to schools re-opening their gates?

“Heck, YES. And, I think the kids need it too.

“They need the socialisation and their friends. They’ve been missing them, and I have a great appreciation for our teachers.”

So, while they wait for the announcement Claire continues to take one day at a time.

“We’ve had no directive from the schools just yet. I try not to think too far ahead, so I don’t have a melt-down.”

What they are saying...