A little boy holding a pencil drawing on paper

The stress of home schooling

From Brenda Brunsdon, Occupational Health and Wellbeing Team Manager

One of the biggest pressures arising out of the lockdown phases is that on parents to organise home schooling for their children. This is even greater where one or both parents are working from home. It is a difficult balancing act, giving your offspring the time they need with school work assistance and fulfilling your own work commitments. There is additional pressure from sharing the internet for computer usage and for Teams/Zoom meetings. On top of that there is a need to undertake preparation, for example, printing off work sheets, and producing feedback to the school on the work your child/children have completed.

Colleagues and friends have voiced how they are finding this element of the lockdown experience very difficult. Below is information on what is available to help, and articles by experts advocating different tips and approaches in relation to this area.

A lot of the influencers recommend building a structure to the home-schooling day. This is because it provides the children with an expectation of what is going to happen and that is supposed to help. However, there is an opposite viewpoint, perhaps rooted in an approach called ‘unschooling’. This recommends a more grassroots way of doing things. The belief is that children will gain the knowledge that they need from any activity; instructional, creative, or leisure.

However, there is a general consensus that parents who are home-schooling need to cut themselves some slack. ‘Be patient and don’t be too hard on yourself’. Perhaps read the article by Jan Barton Packer, below; her experiences will resonate with many: ‘I felt wretched, like a failure in every role I was meant to be doing.’ Her resolution for Lockdown 3 is to do it differently: ‘More detrimental than missing out on some worksheets would be for my kids to see their mother, anxious and irritable, at the end of her tether, unable to be there to support them through a very stressful time. ‘

Resources are available to support home-schooling. Many experts recommend utilising the BBC resources available for Learning at Home. Many recommend the benefits of getting your children to watch other TV based material like documentaries or crafts-based programmes. The Joe Wicks PE classes have been reinstated. The Employee Assistance Programme has a webinar scheduled for Friday, 22 January: ‘Tips for Home Schooling & Keeping Children Occupied at Home’; 12:00-12:30; follow the link to register to attend. If you can’t attend on the day, the webinars are available later on the Care first website and on the University’s Staff Health and Wellbeing webpages.

If you are finding the conflicting pressures of home working and home schooling becoming too much, do speak to your manager to discuss any adjustments that can be put in place. This is what the University’s COPE framework for staff support is for. If the stress of juggling the various responsibilities in your life becomes overwhelming, contact the Employee Assistance Programme, freephone telephone 0808 168 2143; someone is there to speak to you any time of the day or night.

‘Supporting your child’s education through coronavirus (Covid 19): guidance on gov.uk

How to balance working from home with childcare’ on Benenden Health website

’11 Essential Home Schooling Tips’: on mumsnet.com

‘Parents and teachers share their top tips for home schooling’ by Charlotte Dobson on Manchester Evening News website

Home school help: How to keep children focussed and stress down during lockdown 3’ by Liam Doyle on the Express online

How to Reduce the Stress of Homeschooling on Everyone’ by school psychologist Rebecca Branstetter on the Greater Good Magazine online, part of Berkeley Educational Science

Home schooling expert urges parents to ignore ‘outdated advice after classrooms shut across country’ by Ian Hughes on Stoke Sentinel website, (expert is Dr Harriet Pattison of Liverpool Hope University)

‘I’ve nothing left to give’: parents on home schooling in lockdown’ by Molly Blackall on the Guardian online

‘Why I won’t be homeschooling my kids this lockdown’ by Jen Barton Packer on Metro online

‘What is unschooling?’ on theschoolrun.com

Coronavirus and homeschooling in Great Britain: April to June 2020’: Office for National Statistics website