Keeping kids engaged in lockdown is parents' biggest challenge

Keeping children engaged during lockdown is the greatest challenge for parents, according to a new home school UK survey.

Aside from juggling work commitments with home learning, UK parents' biggest challenge is getting their children to engage with the learning AT ALL, according to our home schooling UK survey.

We asked a group of dedicated parent educators—all of whom have recently enrolled for free home learning resources from PlanBee—how they were getting on with teaching their children at home during the COVID-19 lockdown.

One hundred and thirty parents from around the UK responded, and the results indicate that parents directly responsible for teaching at home face significant challenges, and require greater support.

Here's what we learned from parents about homeschooling during the lockdown:

 

The majority of parents teaching their children at home do not have teaching experience.

We wanted to know just how many of the parents we surveyed actually had experience teaching primary-aged children. While the results of our survey indicate that most parents lack experience, that number is likely even higher among the general public, as respondents already familiar with PlanBee already may be more likely to have worked in a primary education setting before.

 

Mums are overwhelmingly responsible for teaching children at home during the lockdown.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, in almost eight out of ten homes it is mothers who are primarily responsible for teaching children at home during the lockdown. Fathers are responsible for homeschooling in just one in twenty homes.

Responsibility for home learning is divided between parents in only one in ten homes. However, it's worth noting that we didn't ask respondents to specify how equally the task was shared between parents.

 

Keeping children engaged is one of the trickiest challenges for parents; teachers can sympathise!

It's not surprising that the biggest challenge for parents is trying to fit in teaching their children around their many other commitments. Trying to work from home during the lockdown without children is challenging enough; the additional obligation to keep children occupied and educated compounds the pressure parents are experiencing.

Roughly a third of respondents told us that keeping their children engaged was the most significant challenge they faced. It's one of the biggest challenges for teachers, too. In addition to trying to plan for stimulating learning experiences, parents must overcome an additional barrier: being seen as an authoritative educator. Children often don't see their parents in this way; how often do we tell them 'you're so clever' or 'I could never do that'?

There's no easy way to shift from 'parent mode' to 'teacher mode' if your children aren't used to structured learning at home, but we've come up with some ideas that might help you begin to create a culture of curiosity and learning for you and your children.

 

Most parents are spending fewer than three hours a day teaching children at home, and that's a good thing.

What's clear from our survey is that there is no conformity concerning the amount of time parents are spending actively teaching and learning with their children: everyone's doing different things!

It's reassuring to see that nearly all those we surveyed are managing to find some time for homeschooling. Many can dedicate a reasonable amount of time to it each day, too.

Here at PlanBee, we believe that most parents should only be doing a couple of hours or so of directed teaching and learning with their children each day. While children might have spent five hours or more being taught each day at school, it's essential for the mental wellbeing of children and parents that we adjust our expectations during extraordinary circumstances such as the lockdown.

That's not to say we think that's the best approach for all families. Many respondents have found that they can spend more time on home education: roughly one in five spend more than three hours a day teaching. While that's great for those who can spend this much time—and enjoy doing so—it's certainly not necessary for most. We were struck by the sentiments of several Twitter teachers when lockdown began. Their message was this:

 

Remember: you're not 'working from home'. You're TRYING your best to work at home during a crisis.

 

Parents: if you're managing to get your children to engage with meaningful learning at home—even if only for short periods—you're doing great! We hope parents take away the same thing as us from this result: most parents are not trying to recreate the same learning environment at home which children have at school. The majority are trying to do at least some home learning under challenging circumstances. How much they're doing varies significantly. And that's fine.

Check out the rest of our home education articles, tips and advice.

 

Schools are regularly providing Maths and English for children learning at home during the lockdown.

The focus for schools is to regularly provide learning materials for the core subjects of English and Maths. Many are often providing planning for other subjects, too, according to the respondents.

The good news here is that schools are rightly dedicating their efforts to providing resources for the most critical areas of learning for children. Understandably, the difficult circumstances caused by school closures do appear to have resulted in a 'narrowing' of the learning being provided, though.

That said, the reduced provision of planning for other subjects such as Science, Geography, History and Art may be causing concern for parents: how can they ensure their children receive a broad education while they're stuck at home?

Here at PlanBee, we want to support home educators as best we can while schools are closed, and so we're providing free home learning resources, live YouTube lessons and advice for a range of subjects. Hopefully, you'll find something you can use to round out your home school timetable.

 

A third of parents say their attitude to teachers and teaching has changed since the lockdown began.

This question resulted in some fascinating feedback from parents. While parents already have an understanding—and appreciation—of the work teachers do, many changed their views since they started educating their children at home:

 

Trying to get children engaged to learn is very hard! 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!

 

Teachers have to put up with a lot from boisterous children - teaching two is enough but 30 children would be extremely challenging. Ability to remain calm and patient! Teaching is so tiring and mentally exhausting - amazed how they can keep focus for the whole day.

 

Although I work in nurseries and I'm qualified as a teaching assistant, I don't think I realised just how much work (and patience) goes into teaching.

 

One parent surveyed described their experience in a way that surprised (and delighted) us:

 

To be honest I'm beginning to appreciate what they have to deal with. It's also given me a boost, to the point I have been looking into becoming a teacher. I've been trying to get myself up to par with GCSE Maths, English and Science so I can get better results to look at teacher training.

 

How nice to hear! We wish you the very best of luck with preparing to get into teaching!


Whatever happens in the coming weeks and months of May, June and beyond, it's clear that it will be some time before schooling returns to anything like 'normal'. In the meantime, it's likely parents will continue to be responsible for a significant part of their children's education.

We hope that—as they did for us—the findings of this survey offer some reassurance that you're not alone in your experiences trying to teach your children, and that others are struggling, and coping, too.

We'll continue to help with planning, offers and advice for parents, as we've always done for home educators. We'll continue to support schools and teachers in whatever way we can too. Hopefully, we can help you make teaching your children or your pupils a little bit easier.

If you would like any help or advice regarding choosing or using PlanBee resources, please get in contact with our team of friendly teachers.


Oli RyanOli Ryan

@planbeeoli

Hi! I'm a former primary school teacher, now a writer and resource creator at PlanBee. I write about all things education, but I'm particularly interested in education technology, teacher and pupil wellbeing, and government education policy. Read more


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