DURING these long, long, long, long weeks of home-schooling, we’ve gotten through quite a lot in my house. Little of it came from the kids’ school – we jettisoned that when it became clear that American YouTube clips about phonics and misspelled “fact sheets” about the “discovery” of the giraffe weren’t going to teach them much.

But over the course, we’ve done word puzzles, art projects, nature walks and maths, measuring how far we can throw that ball, how high we can build that tower, how many star jumps we can do in two minutes.

What we haven’t done is try to measure the exact duration of a week in politics. I wonder if John Swinney knows the answer? His last few days at work must have felt like an age.

On Tuesday he told the chamber at Holyrood that it’s the Scottish Government’s “ambition” to go back to schooling as normal in August.

If it’s safe, that’s my ambition too. Imagine it – pencils and paper instead of laptops without the correct software to open lesson packs, actual gym classes instead of living room livestreams with Joe Wicks, a single lunchtime meal instead of the incessant snacking of anything not hidden at the back of a high shelf. And no more dinner table arguments trying to force my beloved weans to “please, please, just goannae copy the lifecycle of a beetle and label the parts, the answers are right there, it’s not hard”.

Measuring my stress levels could have perhaps led to new learning about human tolerance, had we had a blood pressure monitor to hand.

Sometimes that has been complicated by the Scottish Government’s handling of the schools issue.

Just one week before Tuesday’s statement, Swinney had appeared before thousands of parents in a livestream organised by the National Parent Forum of Scotland, telling them blended learning was set to continue, the two-metre rule would likely still be in place in August because we won’t have a vaccine and the virus “will still be out there”.

At the time, preparations were being finalised in schools across the country, with many parents then told their children would be on school grounds on just one or two days each week.

It seemed quite certain. But by Sunday, the Education Secretary was telling my colleague Judith Duffy that the Scottish Government was “actively considering” a suggestion by Edinburgh University public health specialist Professor Devi Sridhar that schools could re-open full-time if new cases of Covid-19 drop below 20 by August 11.

Then on Monday, teachers pressed send on personalised emails to thousands of children telling them which days they were to attend and what classes they’d be in, prompting a flurry of Facebook messaging between families – were classmates staying together? Which friends would be separated? How would working parents manage? When would this end?

Enter Swinney to deliver a speech in Holyrood 24 hours later looking, as one headteacher put it to me, “like he had a gun to his back” as the goalposts moved. A full-time return is now the preferred position – coronavirus allowing – with blended tuition, the only thing schools have actively prepared for, now the fallback.

Political rivals crowed “U-turn”, while parents wondered what it all means.

One teacher told me the profession is “scunnered” and another said school leaders had been given no forewarning of the content of the speech, which triggered a mass of calls and emails from parents looking for answers.

“I’ve been on the phone all day for three days,” an early years teachers told me on Friday. “It took us days with metre sticks to get the classrooms set up for going back. Now I don’t know what we’re meant to be doing.”

Meanwhile, the EIS teaching union – the country’s largest – sent a message to its members describing the new strategy as “maybes aye, maybes naw”.

The latest position, as set out on Thursday, is that a final answer on what has become one of the biggest issues facing the country, and the SNP administration, will be given no later than July 30.

That’ll be less than a fortnight before term begins after what’s set to be the strangest summer holidays in living memory. Yes, things might be opening back up again, but there’ll still be limits on where we go and who we see.

And given the frightening scenes on Bournemouth beach last week, when a major incident was declared by local services due to the overcrowding on the sands, we’d all be best off asking ourselves about the wisdom of attempting normal summer activities too quickly.

The country’s Education Recovery Group (ERG) is to keep working over the summer to focus on a “smooth transition” back for all pupils, and a decision could be given earlier if the science supports it.

That’s something that might assuage parents and voters, although not my eldest. “Noooo,” he wailed on hearing that schools might go back full-time after all.

He’s only eight and quite fancies staying at home for three days per week. Given what I’ve seen in his inbox these past couple of months, I’m not sure I blame him.

It’s not that it’s bad. Well, not all of it. But it’s not good. The “discovery” of the giraffe sheet was quite something, explaining that the first people to find this creature mistook it for a cross between an elephant and a crocodile. At least it gave us a chance to discuss colonialism, even if that wasn’t on the official lesson plan.

We’ve also had vocabulary sheets with typos and those American YouTube clips I mentioned were set for his brother’s P1 class, along with not much else.

The thing with early years is that you can’t set that much meaningful work for them over the internet, because they learn best through play. And I don’t mean the kind of play that involves doing something with 14 paper plates (we were spared this particular baffling activity, but it was set for a friend’s child in East Dunbartonshire, as if all households have a stack of these in the cupboard just waiting for a maths lesson).

I mean the kind of play that involves investigating things independently or with peers, digging in sand buckets, messing around with paints, grubbing around in a space where the ground you stand on isn’t covered by carpet.

That’s the real schooling my kids have been missing out on these past few months, and it’s not something you can measure. We’ve done our best and engaged in all sorts of wholesome things – checking whether or not the swan eggs have hatched by the local pond, biking into the woods, colouring massive dinosaur-filled sheets, making our own topics using activity books and Lego annuals. But nothing we’ve done can fill that gap left by the peers whose homes we’ve walked by so many times, but whose doors we can’t yet chap.

Getting back to school full-time, without social distancing, would do masses for them, if it’s safe.

The big kid is worried about that. He agrees that if Nicola Sturgeon says it’s okay then it’s probably okay, but he doesn’t want to try going back to normal too quickly. That question of confidence in the health guidance and schools directives is going to be key over the coming weeks.

I’m writing from a position of privilege – we’ve got wi-fi, plenty of books and a back garden, and my kids are young enough that I have full confidence that this period won’t have impeded their academic learning – but I’m acutely aware that so many families lack one or all of these elements.

Incomes have been cut, jobs have been lost, and there’s more of this to come. John Swinney’s got a lot to measure as he works up to the final decision, and a lot of people ready to check his working. I sincerely hope he gets the answer right.