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“Nearly a quarter of parents will continue homeschooling – freeing up more than two million school places by September 2020.”
This was the topline of a study that found its way into my inbox earlier this week, claiming 23% of British parents want to carry on teaching their kids at home – even when lockdown ends.
Their reasons? 78% of the more than 2000 surveyed said they liked being in control of what their child learns, more than half (51%) said they felt homeschooling reduced bullying, while nine in 10 parents (91%) said they enjoyed spending more time with their child.
My reaction – and that of my fellow parent pals – was unequivocal. You have got to be kidding.
As I write this article, one of my children is tugging on my leg to ask me to help him put on his Iron Man costume. He’s been wearing it every day, since the start of lockdown, and I sometimes wonder if he’ll ever wear anything else.
Meanwhile, my eldest, who’s eight, wants to build a ‘Lego circus’ around my feet. Literally. “Your toes can be the audience,” she says. “Now, don’t move - NOT EVEN IF YOU NEED TO GO TO THE TOILET.”
I’ll grant them some leeway – after all, it is the Easter holidays. The pressure to sit down with the two of them and take them patiently through the half-dozen daily tasks their teachers set them during term-time is off, for now. They are being very sweet and having fun – but it’s all but impossible to get any work done. Impossible.
It’s not all bad, of course – I relate heavily to the sentiment of the parents who say that homeschooling allows them to enjoy spending more time with their kids. The weather helps, too. And watching my children’s imaginations grow as they’re confined to the four walls of our house is fascinating.
But the thought of voluntarily carrying on... with this? You’re pulling my leg, too, right?
When I asked some fellow parents whether they fancied taking on a permanent role as their child’s teacher, some openly started laughing.
“Absolutely no effing way,” one mum told me. “Son has already told me he can’t wait to go back to school because he misses his friends, and ‘You’re a terrible teacher, Mummy’.”
“No chance in sweet hell,” a pal said simply. And another explains: “I can’t bear this shit anymore. I’ve got clients on video calls and kids wandering in to say I’m stuck on question 3 or I’ve written ‘ear’, can I go on the Switch now.”
One mum asked her four-year-old to clear his breakfast bowl, and posted a picture of the results – a message on the family whiteboard which read: “No mums in the house!”
“Reckon we’ve nailed this homeschooling malarkey,” she said. “If we can manage half an hour of something vaguely educational a day then I count that a win. Although he sometimes likes reading and playing number games, now we’re just trying to make things fun, bake, colour, garden, and hold off on TV till the afternoon. At the end of the day, he’s still tiny and I do think we need to recognise that too much pressure is bad for all of us at the moment.”
And this wasn’t the only whiteboard mishap – Csilla Mikolay posted this shot of gibberish she gamely titled: “Homeschooling”.
Meanwhile, a dad trying to work from home and teach his kids said: “Our home schooling is slowly disintegrating into ‘let’s at least talk about the film we watched this afternoon.’ No way I can keep up replicating what the school expects until September (our school’s already closed until then).
“I’ve just decided to put zero pressure on them, make sure they do ‘enough’ and focus on us all staying sane. Egyptian history and sodding digraphs can wait.”
And another mum said: “My daughter has wanted to be homeschooled for years. She has Asperger’s and finds it very stressful. Since lockdown she’s decided she’d hate to be homeschooled!”
Preach. Bring on September...