Opinion: Matthew Munson – The school family in these unprecedented times

The latest journey for Matthew and Bryan

When I was at school – from the mid-1980s to the late-1990s – they were just educational establishments in the traditional sense of the word. The school gates opened at 8.45am and closed at 3.30pm, and that was jolly well that. Holiday groups, after-school activities, and breakfast clubs just didn’t exist; the words were all there, but no-one had thought to use them in these particular ways before.

All these years later (I’m 38 as I write this, although – as my son delights in reminding me – I’m very close to 39 and then to “proper old age, Dad”), schools have changed dramatically. They are no longer “just” schools – places where children go to learn – but instead are places of comfort, safety, and security for the family.

My son loves school – I’m very fortunate that he never dreads going to school, although I still can’t drag him out of bed sometimes – and he feels safe and comfortable there. I remember going on the guided tour when I was first looking at schools for Bryan, and the moment I walked in, I knew it was the right one for him. A year later, and I see a lot of schools – like Bryan’s – step up to the challenges we currently face.

Bryan’s school, for instance, is continuing to provide a service for children of key workers during this moment in history (and I wonder if my grandchildren will end up studying these odd times during their school days). Breakfast and lunch are both provided, and the children are giving a structure for the day as their parents do the work they have to do. The teachers who are in have all volunteered their time and are staying open during the Easter holidays as well – giving up time with their own families to support the wider school family.

I hope that’s something we can all take away from this current situation; how people came together and treasured each other. Bryan is blessed that his school cares so much about the community they are a part of and he very clearly gets so much out of his education that the school clearly understands his needs.

I find myself rather excited to start Bryan’s home schooling tomorrow; we have a timetable (Joe Wicks included – gulp), rules (we remember kindness, respect, and love), and then time to get some fresh air. Bryan asked if he could start his lessons today – on Sunday – but I’m easing in slowly; I’ve never done anything like this before, and I’d rather like an extra day just to make sure I’m doing everything right! I’ll still make mistakes though …

But the most important thing for me is that Bryan and I are going to have time together. In the hurly burly of everyday life, it can be hard to carve out time for our little family. I don’t work on Thursdays and Fridays; my parents usually have him for the first part of the week, and then on my two days, I take him to his dance class and to his swimming lesson, and the weekend is upon us. So now I get some quality time with him, and perhaps this is an opportunity to look at any opportunities for me to rearrange our week so that we can sustain this after the lockdown finishes.

I want to appreciate the times we spend together for as long as he wants to spend time with me. Whilst I know he’ll miss his friends over the next few weeks, he’ll get to see them when this is all over, and we get to continue being a family.