Mums are taking on majority of homeschooling responsibility in lockdown

Mums are picking up the vast majority of the home teaching burden during schools lockdown, according to new research.

The survey of hundreds of parents carried out by education resources and lesson plan experts PlanBee, found just 11.8% of fathers are taking the lead on helping their children keep up to speed. 

PlanBee’s Oli Ryan, a former primary school teacher, said: ‘We know that not all families are willing or able to help their children with home learning, but we were amazed to find that there was such a huge gender disparity in terms of who was taking up the teaching mantle.’ 

He continued: ‘The vast majority of primary school workforce are women, but we still find it surprising that when it comes to home teaching dads appear to be doing so little. If it’s a sign that teaching young children is considered to be “women’s work”, it’s pretty alarming.’ 

And parents – the vast majority, women – are allocating significant parts of their day to home schooling, with more than a quarter (28%) spending more than four hours a day teaching their kids. 

Fitting in home schooling with other work and other commitments was the top challenge for parents, with over a third (35%) citing it. Keeping children engaged with learning was their second biggest bugbear, at 31%. 

And only 11% said they were loving homeschooling their children.

Homeschooling is also having a big impact on parents’ perception of teaching, with nearly one-third (33%) saying it had altered their attitude. 

‘Trying to get children engaged to learn is very hard,’ said one respondent.

‘I know it’s a challenging time, but my year 4 struggles to engage if he doesn’t like the subject and I can see how that would translate in the classroom. Hats off to all teachers!’  

Some felt that homeschooling was too ambitious and that the emotional state of their children was more important: ‘Some need to realise the situation that some are in with just trying to maintain mental well-being without the constant barrage from schools for replicated school days.’ 

Although there was wide respect for the work of classroom teachers, not all parents believed that schools’ management of home learning was up to scratch, and there were complaints that there hadn’t been enough thought about the practicalities of the school work to be done at home. 

One parent said: ‘I’m actually pretty annoyed with the school – the work sent home is unrealistic, with no thought as to how this is supposed to work.

‘We’ve been given the work with literally hours’ notice, so no prep time at all, and in spite of the fact we’re delivering it.

‘Trying to explain two different topics to two children, alternately is difficult at best – hence my giving up and abandoning the school work and doing our own thing so they were both working (at different levels obviously!) on the same topic.’

A number of commentators have suggested that lockdown is reinforcing archaic ‘gender roles’, with women shouldering the burden of the additional domestic chores – and it appears homeschooling responsibilities fall into this category.

However, this isn’t the reality for everyone – in lots of families, the parenting and educating responsibilities are split more equally and based on individual circumstances.

‘My husband is definitely doing the most,’ Katrina told ‘His workload is a bit more flexible to allow for it, whereas I run a business.

‘Saying that though, the kids (14 and 8) are quite self disciplined and following work set digitally by school.’

‘My partner is picking up most of it because he’s not working while my work has continued,’ says Jade. ‘He sorts the schedule and supervises and helps and then I step in and do more “fun” stuff like exercises and dancing lessons and cooking or art.’

‘We have a son in year 7,’ says Claire. ‘Generally speaking, I’ll do English and anything that requires lots of writing and my husband does maths and anything visual (arts, DT etc.).

‘We basically work to our own strengths and it seems to have worked so far.’

But it isn’t plain sailing across the board, and plenty of parents are struggling to balance everything.

‘I am doing it all so my husband can concentrate on his full-time job,’ says Sally.

‘I insanely love my kids, but homeschooling is joyless. I’m not ashamed to say I hate it – conflict, lack of concentration, bewilderment at missing friends etc. Every day there are tears.’

Parents need huge amounts of support at the moment, so if you have friends with children at home – check in with them and see how they’re doing.

PlanBee has provided some tips to make home schooling easier for parents:

What’s cooking?

Baking provides a wealth of learning opportunities ­– and produces some delicious results.

Working through a simple recipe with your child will help develop measuring skills (maths), following instructions (English) and can help them understand reversible and irreversible changes (science).

Nurture nature

Planting seeds and watching them sprout and grow is always a rewarding activity. And you don’t need a garden; a few simple supplies are all you need to get you started.

Pop some multi-purpose compost in a plant pot, plastic cup or old yogurt pot, sprinkle the seeds in and cover with compost.

Encourage your child to take responsibility for making sure the plant has enough water and sunlight, and challenge them to record what happens to the seed each day.

They could take photos, measure the height to record in a graph, draw pictures or write updates.

Make them an expert

One of the best parts about educating your child at home is that you can harness their natural enthusiasm for a given subject.

Are they crazy about LEGO? Challenge them to find out when LEGO was invented, by who and how it became so popular.

Do they love singing and dancing? Challenge them to write and perform their own songs, or even create a music video.

Are they crazy about science? Challenge them to put together a demonstration or presentation about their favourite scientist.

While your children are out of school, use this time to get them enthusiastic about learning. If they love what they’re doing, they might not even realise they are learning.

Keep them moving

Being less able to go outside and play with other children may mean that your child is less active than normal. But there are lots of ways you can incorporate exercise into your new home learning routine.

YouTube is an endless source of great exercise and dance videos for your children.  

Once upon a time

Engaging your child in creativity by planning and writing a story is a great way to embed some learning in a relaxed way.

Ask children to pick a main character, a setting and a special object (such as a magic key, a treasure map, a broken lamp or a buried time capsule) and let their imaginations run riot.

Once they have finished their stories, there are lots of ways to present them to the world too. They could stick with the good old traditional pen and paper method, or try creating an eBook. 

Children can create their own books, adding photos, images, drawing pictures, writing text, inserting videos or even recording their own voice. They can then publish their books once they’ve finished.

You can make it

Model making can be a fun way to engage children in a topic or subject.

You could use playdough or modelling clay to make a model of the solar system or to show the different animals and plants in a habitat or food chain.

Or you can use recycled objects, such as boxes, food packaging, bubble wrap, newspaper or anything else to make a medieval castle, a space ship, a dinosaur or a Tudor galleon. 

If you have any genius homeschooling tips for keeping children engaged, we want to hear from you.

Get in touch: [email protected]

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