The art of homeschooling has baffled so many of us over the last year and few describe the challenges better than Victoria Smurfit.
The Dublin-born actress has spent the Covid-19 lockdowns in the UK after leaving her Los Angeles base to set up home in Virginia Water, Surrey, just 40 minutes from central London.
With working life put on hold for most in Smurfit’s profession, the About A Boy star - who won the Best Supporting Actress Award at the Irish Film and Television Association awards in 2018 for her performance in The Lears - has been getting used to learning a whole new set of lines in her daily life.
While certain aspects of this changed world are hard for all of us to come to terms with, some rays of sunlight can be found amid the daily trauma that has been emerging from news bulletins.
Speaking exclusively to Female First, Smurfit gave us a rundown on how she has coped with life holed up with her children Evie, Ridley and Flynn.
“I love the challenge of finding a silver lining in whatever situation you find yourself in, so I think there’s a luxury in being able to be there when your kids express concern about the situation we are in and encourage them not to worry, stress or panic,“ she explained.
“There’s goodness in all of us appreciating the simplicity and joy of a family meal we don’t have to rush, because, let’s be honest, there is nowhere to go.
“There are parts of this experience that have been enjoyable. When this is all over, I’ll miss playing cards online in the evening with some good buddies. I’ll miss the more gentle mornings meeting Evie for coffee at 7am, even though sometimes we plan to meet by the kettle, some days we go rogue and hang out by the fridge.
“One thing I want to keep is my daily cycling with my son and I have felt very grateful that I am not alone as the kids are with me, along with our three hairy dogs.
“Thankfully they all have damn good senses of humour, so the days are not without quality teasing. We re also on the edge of a golf course so we get to walk for miles and meet no one.
“I’ve missed the occasional meal I don’t have to cook and heading to a restaurant, having that choice. Sitting on your bottom as someone else brings you your dinner seems like the most luxurious thing right now.“
The art of homeschooling has been tough to master for many novice teachers in recent weeks and Smurfit has a wonderfully colourful way to describe the experience with her three children.
“Homeschooling is a test of fortitude and self-esteem, as it slowly dawned how little I appear to have remembered from my own education,“ she says with a smile.
“I have become convinced that a mother’s voice is equivalent to white noise, it’s hard to get the instructions to land.
“It’s also super easy to pull the wool over my eyes and get away with ’yeah course I’ve done it all Mum’ until the inevitable email from school which busts them.
“This experience has also enhanced my respect for teachers and the patience they must have. The ability to field so many questions from fidgety humans without frazzling is admirable.
“All of us parents have been learning on our feet in the last few weeks. How many parents have heard ’we don’t do it like that anymore in school’.
“The bit I have been enjoying is getting a refresher from the kids in history and on too many occasions, I ask the children to explain to me what it all means.
“Bouncing between grades 5, 7 and 9 maths, is a lot to take in. There’s a reason why the kids may hear ’Hey Siri...?’ from me as I hide around the corner!“
Avoiding the more terrifying parts of the daily news briefings and rediscovering some cooking talents have all been part of the revised routine in the Smurfit household, with a clear mind as important as a healthy body in these strange times.
“I am trying to avoid the sensational news and stick to fact,“ she continues. “The truth is no one knows how to manage this virus and we are all learning.
“I think it’s going to have a huge impact on how we all deal with each other going forward. The divide between ’ah you’re fussing’ and ’hey, be responsible’ is not going away and it’s going to be odd heading to the supermarkets wearing masks and gloves.“
With that, Victoria slipped back into her temporary role as a teacher of three and mother of six, with those dogs of course included in her clan.
There may never be a time like this in our lives again and when you hear the upbeat verdict of one of Ireland’s most beloved actresses of life in lockdown, it reminds us all that these times are special for so many reasons.
Words by Kevin Palmer for Female First. Follow Kevin on Twitter, @RealKevinPalmer.
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