It’s been a surreal few weeks to say the least. If you have a young family your routine has gone from frantically rushing around to get everyone ready to ultimate lockdown and home schooling. My husband and I are lucky enough to be able to work from home and we were ready for the challenge of isolation. Our neighbours had already formed networking groups to help each other and our local shops are delivering essentials. It feels like there’s a new-found community spirit.

Monday was quiet. No usual hustle and bustle of a rushed breakfast. The kids (six and four years old) weren’t messing up the house and refusing to get their uniforms on. No parents shouting ‘Coat, shoes, lunchbox!’ as they head for the door. It was weird. It was calm, serene and everyone was sitting together at breakfast together for the first time in weeks. Even social interactions had changed, with family and friends sending the odd text and phoning to check in every day. Parents at the school weren’t heading out for their usual last-minute school drop off, they were at home in their pyjamas, with their second cup of coffee sending each other ideas for home learning projects while their kids were jumping around to an online live PE lesson. We haven’t even checked the news (we know it’s going to get worse… but we know we are not helping ourselves by reading about it).

‘Home learning’ is a vague term really, as a trained teacher I can usually find a learning opportunity in any given situation, but as a parent it’s very different. It started out so promising with formal lessons at the dining table. English, maths, followed by my husband’s afternoon science and art offerings. By day three we’d left the restrictions of the dining table. We were finding we could learn about measuring and the three times table when making cupcakes. English was writing letters to family and neighbours. Science was finding the joy of nature in our tiny back garden. The highlight of the week being a visit by our resident toad ‘Charlie’, who we thought had deserted us for a neighbour’s pond. My four-year-old scared the life out of us by shouting “snake!” when a caterpillar crawled onto the picnic blanket (definitely city raised children!). We planted seeds in the sunshine with a hope we can grow tomatoes. Getting back to nature (even in a tiny garden) is profound, it’s like we were missing a vital element in our lives.

Gratitude seems to be playing a larger part of our daily routine. What we once took for granted we are now thankful for, especially when it comes to our good health and wellness. As a family we have learnt to connect. As parents we’ve learnt we don’t need to ‘correct’ our children, they are perfect and have their own unique characters that we need to appreciate. Maybe with less rules for a while, they will find more joy and laughter. Instead of being ‘bored’ they will have time to take the initiative to find their own activities without being micro-managed by a parent (I hope).

In our family, all of us, young and old are really reaping the benefits of learning things in this new creative way. According to the NHS, learning new things, and in different ways, can have a positive impact on our mental wellbeing. It can boost our self-confidence and self-esteem; contribute to us building a sense of purpose and help us connect with others. And, in just the short period of time my family and I have spent at home together, I’m starting to notice this.

It’s comforting to feel like there is a ‘new normal’ despite the threat of the virus; that there’s more ‘togetherness’ even though we are not together; that the planet might benefit from less CO2 emissions, less consumerism; that hopefully we’ll live our lives with more kindness, gratitude and care. It’s all about ‘taking time’ (now we have it) to find the positives, learning to break bad habits and appreciate what we have.

There’s no place like home.