‘I’ve nothing left to give’: parents on home schooling in lockdown | Education

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After the government decided to announce a new lockdown in England and close schools to most pupils, parents have been juggling working and home schooling once more. From practical issues such as broadband and printing, to concerns surrounding mental health, four parents spoke about how they have been coping this last week.

‘We’re not trained as teachers’

“Yesterday and today I mainly battled a migraine brought on by the sheer anxiety of trying to juggle a full time role with a child at home for the next six weeks at least,” said Esther Dusabe-Richards, a 39-year-old academic who lives in Leeds, and has twins, aged two, in nursery, and a five-year-old daughter in primary school.

Esther Dusabe-Richards’ five year old daughter at the park.



Esther Dusabe-Richards’ five year old daughter at the park. Photograph: Esther Dusabe-Richards/Guardian Community

Dusabe-Richards said her school has asked parents to send in evidence of home working every three days, which she said was well-intentioned but came across as “punitive”. It is sending about 10 worksheets a day, although pupils don’t have to complete everything, and the school doesn’t offer online learning because of safeguarding policies.

“When Gavin Williamson said kids needed three to five hours of home schooling each day, for parents of five-year-olds, it essentially means you have to teach them,” she said. “To expect that of parents is laughable, even if they aren’t working. We’re not trained as teachers.”

“The rhetoric needs to be: we’re in a huge crisis, let’s forget about targets and support one another. I have an incredibly supportive line manager, but if I stop and think about everything I’ve got to do today, I would just keel over.”

‘I’ve definitely lost sales because of the kids’

In London, Roger Mortimer, who owns a marketing company and his wife who works in publishing are working late into the evening to compensate for the time lost to teaching their five- and nine-year-old sons through the day.

Roger Mortimer with his wife and two sons.



Roger Mortimer with his wife and two sons. Photograph: Roger Mortimer/Guardian Community

“It’s difficult, I’ve had Zoom calls with the kids wandering in as I talk to clients. I’ve definitely lost sales because of the kids, but it’s not their fault, I just have to have a massive sign on the door saying, ‘don’t come in’,” he said. “At the start of the day, my wife and I work out which calls we’ve got and whether they overlap, otherwise we just tag team.”

Despite the difficulties, Mortimer said he felt better prepared for home schooling than he did during the first lockdown.

“The first lockdown was a nightmare. We were pretty much left to figure it out ourselves, no Zoom classes, just weekly packs of schoolwork to complete that was never marked. I’m still amazed I still have a job and marriage,” he said.

“This lockdown, admittedly still in the first week, seems much more organised. The days are structured and the boys respond to that so much better than the ad hoc chaos of the first lockdown. As parents we’re better prepared and have a better understanding of any gaps in our kids’ education.”

‘We’re stressed enough as it is’

For other parents, the expectations of online learning were impossible to meet.

In the seven years recently unemployed mother, Victoria Pattinson, 38, has lived in her home in North Lincolnshire, she has tried several broadband providers but has always had poor quality, which has made online teaching almost impossible. The costs of ink cartridges for her printer were also becoming “utterly untenable”.

Instead, Pattinson is teaching her twins, in year 1 at school, her own programme of reading, writing and maths in the mornings, with creative activities and supplementary themed work in the afternoon. She said the school have made “snippy” comments, requesting that the family attempt the work set by the school.

“If I were to try and do the school set work, the stress levels in the house through battling the connection, formatting and printing issues would go through the roof. We’re stressed enough as it is without being expected to be PGCE level teachers to our children,” she said.


‘I feel like I’m stuck’

Emma*, a 39-year-old mother of three primary school children in Yorkshire, has been forced to suspend her master’s degree as a result of home schooling demands, less than two months before she was due to complete it.

“I’m wrestling with the schooling during the day and trying to work in the evenings, but I can’t concentrate with them around me and I start snapping. It’s not fair on them,” she said. “As long as I finish my dissertation by May, I can graduate this year, but I’ve got no certainty about when the children are going to go back. I’ve spent this week applying for two jobs which I had hoped to start in February after I finished my course, but I can’t work out how I can start a new job and finish a masters.”

“I have nothing left of myself to give this time. I feel like I’m stuck. I’ve paid money to do my masters, and I can’t get an income from it.”

As a result of the pressures of home schooling, and having to suspend her studies, Emma’s mental health is suffering.

“My last resort is to call my GP, and say, please get the kids into school because I genuinely can’t cope,” she said. “They’re not registered as vulnerable kids, but I will get to a point where I can’t do this for a huge amount of time. If I could just have one school day, 6 hours a week, to catch my breath, it might save us.”

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘I’ve nothing left to give’: parents on home schooling in lockdown | Education

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