Helping your kids with their homework is tough enough at the best of times. Just try to keep up with the ever evolving methods of long division! It’s harder still when you are trying to juggle that with full-time or even part-time work. Combine the two, and throw in a whole curriculum to work through, and you have a perfect storm that has even the most unflappable parents tearing their hair out.
The government has now announced tentative plans for limited numbers of children to return to school from 1st June. However, reduced class sizes and the prioritisation of students who are sitting exams means that millions of families will find themselves stuck in homeschooling limbo for some while longer.
For parents, the challenges of turning the home into a functional office and classroom can quickly prove overwhelming, let alone learning the necessary skills to teach while also adapting to the unique demands of remote working and life under lockdown. Frankly, it can be a surefire recipe for burnout. But, with some forward planning and reframing of expectations, there are lots of things that parents can do to make the next few months more manageable.
Be Kind To Yourself
Since the lockdown began, it’s felt as if we’ve been constantly moving in fast-forward. We tune into the daily briefing at 5 o’clock to find out what the next step in the government’s strategy will be. Given the scale of the impact on every aspect of our lives, we all want to find the ways to keep living as normally as possible. It is important to accept that this cannot happen overnight, and that this does not mean we are failing. We have all had our routines upended, adults and children alike. Acknowledging that it will take time to find a new equilibrium is an important step in ultimately creating the right environment for working and learning.
Find Your Own “Normal”
Old habits die hard. Many of us are so used to being at the office from 9 to 5 and sending the kids to school from 9 to 3 that it can feel like this is the only acceptable way to do things. With a willingness to adapt, new routines can be established that work for everyone. Make sure you build opportunities for flexibility into your homeschooling plan. If your child is particularly invested in a topic on one day, let them pursue it for several more hours, rather than shuttling them from subject to subject. Traditional classes are organised to meet the demands of the school day. Since the shape of the “homeschool day” is more elastic, kids will often be able to explore their interests independently and at different times, freeing you up to focus on your own work.
Big Picture Projects
There is no point in sugar coating it, this is never going to be fun 100 percent of the time. Homeschool is still school after all. But a great way to keep kids engaged in the knottier subjects is to devise a large-scale creative project that they can work on over a longer period of time. This way, they’re incentivised to apply themselves in algebra so that, when the hard stuff is out of the way, they can resume construction on their fully-working volcano diorama. Well, perhaps fully-working is a little ambitious but it’s good to dream big!
Having a go-to background project can also be very useful when you’re in a pinch; faced with a conference call you can’t reschedule, but you don’t want to leave the kids to their own devices (literally).
We’re All In This Together
It’s important to cut yourself some slack as you’re getting to grips with this new normal, but it’s equally important to realise that none of us is an island. This applies both within households and in the wider community.
Despite the fact that over three-quarters of women in the UK are in work, they still disproportionately shoulder the responsibility of childcare and now homeschooling. Trying to keep your child’s education afloat while also staying present and engaged in your professional life—where women often face serious institutional disadvantages anyway—without any meaningful support network is truly draining and ultimately damaging, both for mother and child.
Outside of the home, you have a whole network of parents from the same school in the same boat and, with a wealth of free videoconferencing apps at your disposal, it’s never been easier to organise your own classes. Grouping multiple kids into virtual classes and organising rotas with other parents has a myriad of benefits. Kids can bounce ideas off of each other, parents can plan lessons more efficiently and free up more time to focus on their outstanding work projects. A bonafide win-win.
The Coronavirus pandemic feels surreal enough even in moments of relative peace and quiet. Trying to suddenly manage so many conflicting interests and schedules under one roof only adds to the madness. And while you cannot change what is happening outside, there are many steps you can take to make the situation much more bearable. As long as you are trying your best, no one can ask for much more.