I have been a Grandma from afar for nearly four years now. My eldest daughter and family first moved to Tokyo for two and a half years, and then, a few months ago, moved to The Hague. I have travelled to see them all many times and they fly back to the UK each summer but regular contact with my grandsons, now aged 7 and 4, is through some sort of technology. However, below is a photo of Ted posting a copy of his birthday list to me earlier this week.

It took him all morning to write it (expensive times ahead, and I’m only showing you one page) and to remember my address, write it on the envelope, find a stamp, walk with an adult to the post box and then to ring me to find out if I’ve got it yet!!

The Netherlands closed their schools earlier than the UK did, so I have been involved with the boys home-schooling since Day 1. We have got into a routine where I do Joe Wicks with them as many times as is feasible each week day, then they tell me what their learning tasks are for the day. These tasks are set by their own teachers every two days. Often Arthur, aged 7 and in Year 3, has some improvements to be made to a piece of work after live, virtual conferencing with his teacher. Ted, aged 4 and in EYFS, goes with the flow a bit more. Earlier this week, in a bid to distract his parents from his phonics learning he decided to try and cut his own hair. The result is a real distraction and a good job no one else will see it for a while!

Every couple of days we arrange a WhatsApp video call and the boys read, show or tell me about what they have learnt, what games or exercise they have played in the garden (thank goodness they have one and not just the typical Dutch courtyard) and we discuss what they could try next. I try and set them tasks or challenges separate from school- based work, for example can you memorise all the Pokémon characters and tell me what they do, how many hits of the tennis trainer can you do consistently, can you record yourself reading a bit of your favourite book and send it to me.

Since both their parents have busy jobs, I also try to have another half hour slot every couple of days where we make or build something together. We have made play doh and biscuits, built a castle in Lego, practised washing hands while singing various songs and rehearsed the boys “first dance” ready (hopefully) for Auntie Grace’s wedding later this year. Thank you YouTube for clips from “The Greatest Dancer” and to Oti Mabuse’s daily slot.  These odd half-hours allow both parents to make  important, private calls, even if I find it incredibly hard work to ensure both boys are safe when they go off screen – “Don’t worry Grandma I’ll go and get a knife”!!

Yesterday morning, Arthur buzzed me quite early saying ”Grandma how good are you at equivalent fractions?” Answer, usually OK but not always at 7 a.m. Nevertheless we talked through the sequence of number patterns with a couple of examples, he recorded some and then was good to go on independently. I then got out of bed!

On Saturday night we have a family games evening which involves three and sometimes four households, though Bangkok-time is rubbish for live conversations together. The boys choose a game that we can all play together and they move the pieces for us; last weekend it was Monopoly. On these occasions we can have a special drink!!! and some nice snacks, and in the breaks (Monopoly is intensive and competitive in our family) we all have to tell a joke or something funny that has happened today!!

It’s amazing how we all look forward to the “get-togethers”, how the technological meetings have quickly become the new normal, and how lovely it is to be so involved with the boys learning on a daily basis.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to go and do a bit of research on the West African Gaboon Viper ready for tomorrow!!

Joanna Bamford

Joanna Bamford

Joanna Bamford is an Education Adviser working for Juniper Education. She has many years’ experience as a senior leader and headteacher in a variety of schools in Essex, and now works as an adviser both in the county and in a number of other local authorities.