Thanks for squeezing us in, Matt. How different are your days at the moment?
Routine seems to be working (a bit) for us. We still try and get everyone fed and dressed by 9am, ready for the day. A bit of Joe Wicks PE on YouTube, then drawing a picture for 30 minutes, then writing a story about that picture. That’s followed by two pages of English homework and two pages of maths. Then it’s lunch and a few educational apps in the afternoon. Add in two 20-minute playtimes and that's a reasonable day, I reckon. But also, they are watching a lot of Netflix as well.
So you’re home-schooling then? Is it going well?
Teachers have years of training and a natural calling to pass on knowledge. I do not and have to stop myself saying, “Just bloody because! Alright?” every time my kids ask, “Why?” I've embraced under-achievement. But we’ve settled into a decent routine: if I get three hours of genuine education in, I'm content. You're not expected to move them seamlessly through key stage milestones – you're supposed to help them remember how a pen works.
And you’re structuring the days a bit like school days?
I'm starting to find the school days easier than the weekends because there is structure. Educational apps and YouTube lessons have saved my sanity, such as writing with Jane Constantine, maths with Carol Vorderman and storytelling with David Walliams.
Are there any other online resources you’re using?
There are loads. The BBC is launching a new series of educational programmes. Apps like Bug Club and Mathletics are great because kids can move through them themselves.
What about real-world activities?
A teacher pal told me ‘real-world maths’ works best. Do sums with your loose change and ‘sell’ them snacks. Weigh things when cooking. For English, pick a word and come up with synonyms: five real and five gibberish. Or write down the last sentence they said and then make as many words as you can with all the letters.
How do you keep the kids engaged?
No one knows. Wear a clown suit? Speak only in song? Probably maintain eye contact and use your ‘nice man’ voice, but I haven't really worked it out...
Any advice for working dads looking to do their bit on the parenting front?
Do a bit of everything, I reckon, but also remember it's not possible to do it all. Six hours of school, plus seven of regular parenting, plus an eight-hour work day is 21 hours – leaving three to eat, sleep and perform basic hygiene functions. Even if you're splitting all of that with a partner, it's not really possible.
If your partner’s working too, how do you recommend splitting it?
We've divided it up: each one takes the kids on alternate days so the other can work. Then the ‘teacher’ gets 3pm to 6pm to catch up on their work. But basically, everyone has to accept less now: your boss, clients, schools. Let them know and have no shame.
Do you find time for yourself among all this?
Someone recently suggested recreating the commute. That doesn't mean you all stand in a small space elbowing each other, but you can recreate that time. Take 30 minutes at the beginning and end of each work/school day to read or exercise, or just stare out the window. Make it clear that's what you're doing and you want to be alone – and return the favour to your partner.
Finally, are you getting any alone time with your partner?
It's not that different to pre-lockdown: if you have kids and work, there's not much time for each other. At our house, we've agreed to put our phones away after 8pm, so we're forced to interact rather than quietly seething as we each scroll through Instagram.
Matt’s 5 Fun At-Home Activities For The Kids
- Kitchen disco: I get mine to mosh to Nirvana for five minutes.
- Paint pictures: you can stick them in the window.
- Chore games: five points for whoever puts away the most toys.
- Obstacle courses: make them, the kids do them and you sit back as timekeeper.
- Embrace boredom: send them off to amuse themselves – with no telly.
Follow Matt @Papa_Pukka
Buy his book – co-written with his wife Anna – here.