Mary Corkery homeschooling her children Ben (10) and Joni (11) PICTURE: SHELLEY CORCORAN
When An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the closure of all schools almost two weeks ago, the penny dropped on the seriousness of the coronavirus in Ireland.
For parents like Mary Corkery, it was time to face into the prospect of having children at home and, in many cases, homeschooling.
A teacher at Gaelscoil Longfoirt, Ms Corkery was well up to the task with her two kids, Joni (11) and Ben (10) who are pupils at the school.
“We went in to school as normal on Thursday, March 12. Everyone was excited about our annual Lá Glas which was to take place the following day,” Ms Corkery explained.
“The classes were busy practicing their dances, tin whistles, songs, etc for the big Céile in the yard. Then all of a sudden, before we knew what had happened, we were gathering up books, typing out emails to parents and trying to organise work to send home for the following two weeks.
“ You can imagine the disappointment for the children when they heard that we had to postpone the celebrations. Even then we had no idea of the severity of the situation.
“ I think that the Government made the right call and hopefully we have managed to save a lot of lives because of it.”
There are a number of resources available for homeschooling, Ms Corkery explained. The boys brought home their books and the school is keeping in touch via email.
“All of the main school book suppliers, Folensonline, mycjfallon.ie, edco.ie have made their online books and resources free for parents for the duration of the Coronavirus and this is a massive help,” she explained.
“All the lessons and resources for them are found there. Twinkl and other online learning platforms are also offering free subscriptions to parents at this time. A lot of the museums around the world are offering free online tours and there are any amount of live dance, exercise, and music classes being offered online.
“Audible Stories is giving free access to stories for children of all ages. The Body Coach is giving free PE classes Monday to Friday at 9am on YouTube.”
Ms Corkery herself is keeping the school's Facebook page updated with a number of resources that will be helpful to parents at this time but stressed that there doesn't need to be a particular structure to homeschooling.
“I think it would be important for parents to know that any work sent home can be just used as guidelines and that they should not feel under pressure to complete work with their children,” she said.
“There should be no pressure to make it like actual school. A little bit of reading, maths and some fun activities is plenty for any Primary School child at this time.
“This is a hard and difficult time for everyone and the more the children are relaxed and having fun the more they are learning.
“Activities like cooking, baking, building with Lego, playing in the back garden are all so important too.”
Most importantly, this is a time to be positive. While children are missing out on playtime and learning in groups, it is a good opportunity for parents to spend time with their little ones while they learn.
“Take is as a time to be silly, make up games, write stories, make movies or just sit together and talk without the pressure of looking at the clock and having to rush off,” she said.
“If this virus is showing us anything, it's that life is so precious and every moment we can spend together is so valuable.
“ Of course it is hard not to see friends, visit grandparents, have aunties, uncles and cousins calling, but it is far better to not see them now than to risk never seeing them again,” she concluded.