Parents worry about greater expectations for homeschooling

More parents are struggling with homeschooling and worry about greater expectations on them this time round.


It’s week three of homeschooling, with no real end in sight, and many parents are finding this time around harder than before. Maybe the expectations are higher and the patience/resilience levels lower. Schools, which are on their knees balancing a range of different demands, seem to be slightly more prepared and have got more stuff online than in the past. That, of course, raises issues for those who don’t have access to online learning.

What’s more, there seems to be a broad range of school responses. Some primary schools have online stuff all day; others have online kickstarters for every lesson then leave time for kids to work on their own; and others have the occasional online lesson. We’re in the latter category after last year having just one Zoom for the entire few months of lockdown. Last year all work was done in a notebook with lesson ideas being posted on the school website. This year the school is using Google Classrooms and the work supposedly has to be handed in at a certain time. It used to be at 4.30pm, then it changed to 3pm and now some days it is 12 noon. If you don’t hand in the work on time the computer tells you off – ‘handed in late’, it states. For some reason, possibly because, as a journalist, deadlines are a constant, this really, really annoys me. I can’t work and teach simultaneously [although I’ve tried, using the mute button]. My partner also has a lot of morning meetings. Flexibility is all in Covid. I spoke to a relative, who is a teacher, about it. “That’s just a Google Classroom thing,” she said. “We’re just grateful if you get any of it done.” She sounded stressed out even contemplating the week ahead, fending off parents desperate to get their kids into school and claiming dubious key worker status and teachers worried about their own safety as numbers in the classroom rise.

According to a survey, many parents are finding the more structured nature of the school day a challenge this time round. The survey by the Parent Ping app found nearly half of primary school parents felt teachers were expecting more this time round and nearly half said lessons were more structured, for instance, live Zooms at 9.30, when you might be in the middle of a meeting. Part of the problem is that both teachers and parents are all too aware of the long-term damage of what seems like endless disruption to children’s education.

Secondary school students are finding the uncertainty really difficult. More than anything teenagers need some sort of motivational input, although the main parental involvement seems to be to get them to get up. One of my daughter’s secondary schools sent out a ‘useful’ suggested timetable last year. It stated that students should aim to get up around 7.30am, have a shower, go for a run or other exercise and then be ready to start work at 9am. I felt this was possibly put together by a teacher who was having a bad day and feeling a tad sarcastic. Have they tried getting a teenager up in lockdown? Just getting them to go for a walk at any time in the week is an achievement in itself, let alone a daily run.

Every day, I go into their rooms armed with tea and enthusiasm at around 8.30 and get greeted by grunts. I then do another round or two in between meetings. Usually they are still under the duvet unless they have a ‘live’ lesson. Daughter two complained that her teacher sent her an email before 9am one morning to tell her she had a ‘live’ lesson at 9. She didn’t see the email til noon. Firstly, she wasn’t up at 9 and secondly she is a teenager – email is the single most unlikely place that teenagers look. She was, however, up at around 2am. Had the teacher sent the message around midnight she would have been more likely to pick it up.

Getting teenagers to stick to any sort of ‘normal’ schedule after all these months of upheaval is virtually impossible, ditto getting them to do any work in an upright position. Even I find it harder and harder to get up early. All sense of time has gone out of the window. Every day blurs into the next, except for Friday because once the school day is over both parents and children can relax…even if parents have six more hours to go until they can clock off.

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