Leona lives with her partner, son Alexander age 7 and his older sibling.
Images from Leona and Alexander’s discussion.
Have you talked about coronavirus with your child? What does he understand about it?
We did talk right at the beginning when lockdown started. At the beginning, we called it Coronavirus and then it became Covid. We explained that it was making people ill. If he’s had questions, we’ve answered them. But he’s not really had many. The only thing he’s annoyed about is that he can’t get off the island.
I don’t think he’s really talked too much about it. I guess because we don’t really know anyone who’s had it personally. I think for him, someone else is ill and it’s annoying him because he can’t do stuff.
How did you get on with learning at home?
During lockdown, well with home-schooling, he wasn’t keen. He’s in Gaelic medium education. That was hard work. I don’t speak Gaelic, I know a little bit. Whereas Alexander is fluent and has been since he was about three or four. The fact I couldn’t speak Gaelic meant that I had to stop and translate what he had to do and he’d get really annoyed that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t explain it in Gaelic so I’d have to do it in English and he’d get really annoyed that I wasn’t a good enough teacher.
When lockdown happened, Alexander got a laptop from the primary school. I think the only thing that could have been a stronger support when it came to learning was for the parents who don’t speak Gaelic. Gaelic lessons would have helped – for those parents who were interested. I know I would have been interested to have learned some Gaelic so I could help him. I had to stop and Google everything.
But I would say our school bent over backwards. If you had an issue, you’d call up and they’d tried to sort it that day. So I have no complaints. I wouldn’t change it for the world though – I’d rather we struggled through in Gaelic than teach him in English. I just wish I could have done more in Gaelic for him. Alexander is teaching me bits and I’m learning off the internet. But it got to a point where I was concerned about him losing his Gaelic because we weren’t speaking it and the people he would normally speak with are out with the family. The postie will stop and speak to him in Gaelic so he wasn’t always just speaking it in school. The school put in place a phone call with him every week just to have conversation and then he went to the Hub twice a week where he continued with his Gaelic.
How did he get on at the Hub?
To begin with, he was quite happy then all of a sudden he didn’t want to go. He had tears and he never had tears when he went to nursery so it was kind of a shock. Because it was a different school, different children and different teachers – he was feeling a bit insecure. That only went on for two weeks though and then he was fine again. There were one or two children from his school but it depended on which day he went. He’d always come back talking about someone or other. Alexander makes friends very easily. He’s very caring and sensitive to other people.
Overall, what was the experience of lockdown for you and the family?
We’ve not got much social stuff here – we’ve really only got the local shop so it didn’t make too much of a bigger impact because we don’t really have anywhere to go. The only downfall for Alexander was that he couldn’t even go in the shop with us. Even now, we don’t allow him in the shop with us. In general, not much has changed except that we weren’t going to our mates down the road. We don’t have any family on the islands but we use video calls to keep in touch with them anyway. Just as it lifted, my sister came to stay for about two months which gave us someone different to talk to and play with. It has made a difference but because of where we live, we’re quite isolated anyway so it’s not a huge change. The weather is not the best here so going out isn’t always an option!
Another thing was that the ferries became limited, working around the deliveries because no one was allowed to travel. But I must admit, the communities across the island worked together because the local shop doesn’t do deliveries so people banded together to do shopping for the vulnerable. One of our local councils started to do milkshake deliveries – something for the kids. They did that twice. They bought notebooks and stuff just before they went back to school. Little parcels for everyone. So the communities have all tried to band together to help everyone and make sure everyone gets some human contact, someone to talk to.
During the actual lockdown, there was frustration for Alexander – not being able to go outside and play with the neighbour’s kid down the road. Once you could see the frustration starting to build, if it was nice, we’d go for a walk up the hill or down the beach and collect stones or something. So that on the good days, we did get fresh air.
I think we’ve learned to tolerate each other a lot more. Normally the kids would get a break from us at school and they weren’t getting that.
My partner was at home for the first part of lockdown, he was furloughed from his job. Half way through furlough they called him back in which gave him a bit of a break. I didn’t work before but I took on some work (key worker role) but I had to stop because of my health.
You have mentioned the access you have to the outdoors, do you have a garden too?
We’ve got a garden, but we’ve got hills right outside our door and the beach down the road. So when the weather was good, we’d go there.
How has Alexander found the return to school?
He is not keen on the masks but he will wear them for the entire school bus journey. I don’t think he quite fully understands sanitising his hands all the time. The children now spend a lot of time in outside classrooms but where we live, the weather isn’t always fantastic. We’ve had to order him wellies because he’s come home with wet feet. The changes I know that have been made is that the classes have been moved to bigger classrooms when they are doing indoor work. And they try to keep the three main classes dotted at different ends of the school so they’re nowhere near the other classrooms.
Did you have any worries or concerns about Alexander going back to school?
I didn’t have any concerns about him going back to school because at that point we hadn’t had any cases on the island. But the last week before the October holidays, I pulled him out of school because we did have cases here and I was waiting on results of a test myself. That was when it spiked quite high and then the high school had cases confirmed. But the school is quite good at communicating via email. I’ve got the council on Facebook and they regularly update what’s going on.
Looking ahead, is there any other help or support you could benefit from over the coming months?
As long as the schools are still open, nothing else. Gaelic lessons for parents would be important.
I am 7 years old.
Coronavirus spreads. It’s a wee germ that just spreads around the world. It’s a cause of sickness. I wasn’t able to visit people. I was sad because I couldn’t see my best friends. Coronavirus was spreading across the world so I couldn’t see them at school. I was doing maths by myself sometimes.
This picture is how I felt when school started again. I was feeling happy! I am happy that school has started again because I get to see all my best friends again. I’ve been playing tig, some Fortnite with them in real life and playing with my favourite friend. It’s good at school. I’m in P3 but the same class though because it’s P1-4 in one class. I’m also in Gaelic class.
And now, the tables have moved at school and we have to wear masks on the bus there and back. I’m not worried, I am just happy.
I’ve got a question for you. When my mum gave you the photo of my model, did you see the smiley face on it? I was trying to do the sun but that didn’t turn out very well because it kept sliding down the stick. This is a person, a tree and the sun that didn’t work. That’s me with the sad face.