The Challenges Of Home Schooling

Understandably, we were not expecting to be going down this path again of home-schooling but alas, it has happened. As a sister to a seven year old brother, I understand and hear of the struggles and challenges that are faced most days. It is hard for a child to understand and adapt to a routine of "my parent is my carer and looks after me" to "my parent is now my new teacher". The routine of "I only see my parents in the mornings and late afternoons of a weekday" has since gone for the foreseeable future. Even though I am not a parent myself, I understand and feel the strain of many parents out there who's working lives have now been disrupted due to childcare and home schooling.

Lockdowns can be scary and can provide us with a sense of uncertainty. We don't know what's around the corner. After Lockdown 1.0 personally I thought that that would be the last ever "major" lockdown and the Government would only carry out to pursue the mini lockdowns across the country. Two lockdown's later, how wrong was I? With many jobs on hold and people being furloughed, people are desperate to get every penny they can get, especially to support their families. If you're working from home and find yourself home schooling, that in itself can be a challenge. Where do the priorities lie? That of your child's education or your own income to benefit and support your family.

Speaking to a few parents that are currently home schooling their own children and asking them how they were coping, responses were "upsetting", "challenging", "stressful" and "not brilliant" and they felt very unsupported by teachers during this home schooling process. However some parents felt that their home schooling with their children was going "pretty good!" I was curious to get the true honest opinions from parents to comprehend how they really felt, since I'm not going through this at present.

These are some of the factors that parents were struggling with whilst home schooling:

- working from home makes it harder

- getting to grips with the technology (video calls)

- too much screen time makes children lose interest in what they are doing, even when they are told they often have too much screen time prior to home schooling

- too much to fit in at once (home schooling, full-time job, cooking, cleaning and parenting)

- it can be a challenge to ensure children's work are submitted on time

When asked "if you could have it, what is one thing that you would like to have to support you when you are home schooling?" I had some really interesting responses from parents. You can really understand, even though I am not a parent, how they are feeling and what pressure this method of teaching really puts on them. Some things suggested by these parents came through at "a pack for my child to work through", "more feedback from the school" and "more up to date and quicker technology". When taken into perspective, these parents are not teachers. They have never been trained to take on such a job and nor can I imagine they want to! Sometimes it can be nice to have a chance to not be "mummy" or "daddy" for a moment and just take a moment to yourself. With the need for home schooling, the demand for a parent to be present simply increases creating a higher case of stress, anxiety and upset within a household. Interestingly though, I asked parents if they felt teachers were giving enough support to parents after seeing so much negativity on social media. I felt rather shocked from these results after the abuse and anger I have seen towards teachers and schools on the internet, however, from a survey I had submitted, 71.4% said that they felt teachers were giving enough support to parents compared to a low 28.6% who said they felt unsupported by teachers.

I'm sure people can appreciate that these teachers are human beings after all and have never been placed in this situation either so it's probably equally challenging for them to teach over resources such as zoom just as it is for the parent to help their child over zoom. To teach over technology means the lack of control from a teacher is reduced, therefore it's obvious a child will start to lose their motivation and interest over time.

Tips to help parents with home schooling:

- be firm when you need to - there could be subjects at school your child does not want to do but still has to

- help your child with tricky tasks or subjects - listen to them to help find a solution

- stick to a strict routine - then your child will get into the pattern of things

- be flexible, kind and patient

- find the positives out of a situation

- be kind to yourself as a parent - home schooling is not an easy task therefore you shouldn't beat yourself up about it if your child is struggling or has a low attention span

I didn't think it was fair though for parents just to blast their comments at teachers without hearing their side too. I spoke to a few teachers on an anonymous basis just to understand how they were feeling. I asked them a few questions very similar and to follow up with what I had asked the parents.

Prior to hearing this feedback, I personally assumed the teachers would be biased about their work because that's probably what most people would be thinking. I think it became interesting to how I asked "do you feel teachers are offering enough support to families with home schooling" Predictably most of the answers came back as "yes", however I discovered some more in-depth answers to this question.

- "Yes and no. When they ask for help ‘most’ schools are very accommodating. But I think a lot of families will struggle and not ask for help. I think teachers are at their limits and are absolutely doing there best"

- "I think it’s difficult: it’s massively a two way street where parents have to be aware of their child’s learning and notice if things are being completed. Children aren’t old enough to appreciate the value of their education and often need a parent to help motivate them through - in the absence of a teacher"

So is it that the teachers are suggesting that parents don't seek support when they need it whereas parents find that support is not given to them when it is expected? I feel there is a gap here in the equation. Perhaps there is a lack of communication between parents and these teachers who feel they are doing enough unlike the parents who don't feel all that supported? Maybe the initial thought from anyone reading this should now be "I need to contact my child's teacher and tell them how we are really coping at home", or teachers need to "check in our their students parents more often to understand and how they can support them to the best they can from home".

I also asked these teachers if the Government had supported them in any way. I was particular curious to find out in this tier effect if those at the top had offered support when they advocate how much help they are giving to people. The simple answer is "no". Every teacher in that survey came back with the answer no. And I find this very interesting, not only the honesty but asking why is the Government not supporting schools and teachers. They found that the Government had "delayed staff with information and a lack of clarity whilst offering some guidance" and that "teachers and students should all have been provided with the technology required for remote learning. It was unfair to expect everybody to automatically be prepared" I agree with this too. Not everyone owns a printer. Not everyone owns a computer. So if the Government expect every child in the United Kingdom to have this, how can they expect a child to learn the way they have asked them to learn electronically?

There was also lots of things the teachers would change regarding the home schooling situation. Ideas came back such as:

- Less time required for students to learn. 5 hours is too much for younger students to be online. They should only have 3 hours per day

- Paper booklets from schools

- More tech for all students to ensure they can access the learning. This ensures that poverty isn't a barrier for them.

- Less screen time (again). More work that doesn’t involve the computers particularly for primary school aged children.

- More severe repercussions for students that consistently fail to engage with their online learning

- More support for teachers - they are all working so hard and over hours

I think it's so important to applaud everyone for doing such fabulous jobs during this extremely challenging and difficult time. I hope this article helps you and educates you on the roles everyone is facing right now and to emphasise the importance that it is okay to not be okay!

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