Survival thoughts on Lockdown, Isolation, and Home Education…


Gillian Bell

Gillian Bell is a food entrepreneur, business consultant, writer and single mother. She has an MSc in Gastronomy, is an NLP practitioner and sits on the Board of Social Enterprise The Larder. For the past few years, she has been hiding out in the hills of Southern Scotland, where she grows vegetables, does lots of cooking and can work remotely with folks all over the world.

two small children playing in the woods

I’ve been asked recently to share my experience and learnings during this extraordinary situation. With our whole world on lockdown, we’re facing a virus that may take our loved ones, over stretch our health services and food systems to breaking point, collapse many businesses, change supply and demand networks and give governments the biggest challenges they have faced in a very long time — perhaps ever!

So let me share with you a few things that we – my family – have learnt, whilst my daughter has been out of school over two years — she suffered from extreme anxiety and has suspected Aspergers.

Experiencing lockdown for a sustained period is nothing new to us, firstly due to the Beast from the East, a school building move, and then health issues. Then last year I broke my shoulder, so not a lot was happening for at least 6 weeks.

We’ve faced unemployment, isolation and rejection. We’ve been fighting endlessly with the health and education system for support, getting nowhere fast, all the while having to move back in with my mother who suffers from depression.

Over the past 2 years, it felt like we’d fallen through a wormhole – like we’ve all just fallen into a different reality.

My biggest piece of advice is, if you want peace of mind, stop watching the news. Connect with friends and community by phone and internet. Perhaps even get back into writing letters.

The past two years have been an extraordinary time of learning for us, a time of healing, refocus, and connecting with community and nature. It has also been an extraordinary time of stress, anxiety and if I’m honest, at times, despair.

Personally however, I have rediscovered who I am: I was lost but I have found new peace of mind.

My daughter has come out the other side more loving, calm, understanding and ambitious for the future than she certainly was two years ago. She does however, has an addiction to the internet – but she’s not the only one.

One of the biggest learnings I’ve made is that with crisis, comes opportunity. And hope.

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Tips for Home Schooling

If your child wants to do it, then great. If it also works for you, go for it. There are numerous free educational resources out there:

Duolingo, Khan Academy, Open Culture, Open University to name a few. There are also lots of online educators offering their services for free.

But don’t force it.

If anything this might be a time for unschooling. The curriculum isn’t necessarily going to teach your kids how to live, how to eat, how to enjoy life, how to see the beauty in the everyday, or how to love.

Learn to cook together – when it goes wrong that’s a learning experience too!

Rediscover taste and smells, bake some bread, plant some seeds, watch them grow, harvest the produce then eat it.

Have you got an apple, lemon or chilli lying around your kitchen? Well, plant their seeds, grow them on your windowsill.

Reconnect with nature from the inside of your flat or house by open the window. Maybe even get a window box going. Get out in the garden, listen to the birds sing, or watch the sun rise.

Spot animals in the clouds; play eye spy; go out and look at the stars and moon together.

Put a tent up and sleep in it, have a fire, build a den and let your kids go a little ferrel.

Use it as an opportunity to rediscover ‘wonder’. If you have a garden, plant some vegetables. Plant a fruit tree – you can get them delivered to your home.

Or simply take a walk together and talk. What kind of trees do you have around you, how does photosynthesis work? Why are plants so important to us? What about the birds and the bees?

Let’s get to know our kids again without a forced timetable or schedule.

Rest, sleep in, have a cuddle. Bend the rules: school rules are out the window.

Listen to music, learn to play some music, dance around the house, have a sword fight with leeks, do some art, make some stuff, make a mess and then tidy it up.

Learn to knit or sew, and then make some clothes.

Play with your friends online, or get out and climb a tree. Eat some chocolate or ice cream.

Have some nonsense. Laugh together. Humour is a great tonic.

Clean out your cupboards together, have a spring clean, do the washing together and hang it out to dry.

What’s in your store cupboard? What might you need in the next month or so? Do a list and make a budget.

Where’s the best place to get it from and where will it come from?

Don’t panic buy! 🙂

Make a meal plan: who can do the cooking, and when? What’s everyone’s favourite food?

There is so much more to learning and education than what goes on in school.

Having said all this, there are kids that this might not work for: those with special education needs, or behavioural challenges, and these families might be really struggling – your child might be in serious meltdown because their whole world and schedule has just been taken away.

If that’s the case, then reach out and ask for help. This is a serious re-adjustment.

Set a schedule and routine that works for you and your kids. Be flexible and patient, it may take time to find what works. Be kind to yourself, and your kids, we’re all learning a new way of living.

Help each other: how are your friends getting on? Can you do Skype or WhatsApp Playtime?

Perhaps spare a thought for those who have had to leave their kids with other family members whilst they go off to work in the health service.

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Take Time for Yourself...

This can be challenging.

Especially if you’re all climbing the walls being shut in together. It’s going to take some re-adjustment and time. Everybody needs to find their space. Most importantly though, pick your battles and walk away if things start to escalate.

Meltdowns will happen. As they say in Scotland, “keep yer heid!”

You may be so used to rushing on a schedule, getting everyone else ready for school, getting to work, answering to your boss, rushing home, trying to cook, do the washing, tidy up, do homework with the kids, talk to the family. So take some time to stop. Take some time for you.

One of the most important things I have learnt in recent years is to meditate.

It started when I found someone I liked on Youtube after being made redundant. ThenI found an online course that appealed and did some training in Transcendental Meditation.

I am still working on it: learning, meditation and peace of mind takes practice. Lots of practice, and I’m certainly no expert.

I try to work it into my every day, (it doesn’t always work, but that’s OK). In fact, at the moment, while at the computer writing this, I’m listening to meditative music on Youtube.

You could try sitting quietly for 10 minutes, or take a walk in the woods. Perhaps you could even spend an hour in the afternoon just ‘letting go’. I can’t recommend this highly enough.

Get your kids into it too — however, getting them to sit still for 5 minutes can be a challenge, I know!

The world is about to get a whole lot more chaotic so build a sanctuary in your home and garden. Connect with your family and community, albeit online, for now.

Prepare and eat good food. Sit down together and enjoy it.

Go for a walk, go for a run, build something in the garden, put up shelves, spend time with yourself and your family.

Find ways to burn off excess energy and anxiety. Flexibility is key. If you feel pressure building up inside your home, or your head, go to the garden and have a wee scream to yourself.

Read a book, run a bath, listen to music, take time to just stop. The business of our everyday lives has just been put on hold.

In the quietness, you might just find a new way to live. You may find joy in the simplest things, and reconnect with the planet and the rhythms of nature.

All the best with it, and stay safe.

Gillian Bell

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