The Last Straw Lockdown: Homeschooling In The Time Of COVID

For some professionals, Lockdown 3.0 has become the final straw.

I heard from many parents about the difficulties of balancing their work and home lives, so I decided to write a post on LinkedIn asking people for their insights. The response was phenomenal, as were the findings.

First, let’s look at some of the struggles that parents are experiencing.

Joe lost his job during lockdown, and although he craved the flexibility self-employment could bring (such as being able to take his kids to and from school), working for himself during Lockdown 3.0 meant he experienced none of the benefits that being your own boss can offer.

All at once, Joe had to cope with homeschooling, childcare, building a business, raising a puppy, and moving house. 

Joe’s older, more disciplined child coped well, but the younger sibling not so much. This is where the disparity between school provision and learning styles became evident.

With no consistency of curriculum between the schools, parents and children are having very different Lockdown 3.0 experiences. 

Growing Pains

One parent who contacted me has refused to do any homeschooling at all, saying that they know for sure they can’t work and homeschool, and that “even entering that battle is the final straw.”

For Molly, the main concern is her child’s mental health. “We are muddling through the best we can, but emotionally it’s a rollercoaster.”

Meanwhile, the ‘brag effect’ caused by chatting to peers and looking through social media has proved problematic too. Suzy, another one of the mums who reached out to me, said that:

“How much work has been done by others constantly chips away at my daughter’s self-confidence. No matter how much I tell her that what she hears may be embellished, or simply untruthful, it still has a hugely detrimental effect.” 

While Angie says, “Some children and adults believe they have to be a star performer, even during lockdown. It can reinforce the message of ‘I’m rubbish’ when comparisons are made.”

Social media is exacerbating this concern. Some parents will see a false image of angelic kids portrayed across social media platforms, which can harm their confidence if they’re struggling even to get their own children dressed on time.

There is also much disparity in the financial support people are receiving. While in some families both parents will be receiving furlough money, and will have all day free to homeschool their kids, in other families both parents will still be working while trying to deliver their children’s lessons.

It’s even worse for those who are self-employed, receive no government support, and are struggling to generate or deliver work due to the pressures of having children at home.

And with studies finding that an average of £40,000 per annum will be lost in a lifetime’s earnings for our children as a result of lockdown, there is much to fear for poorer families.

Mental Health Matters

The strain being experienced by some parents has become so severe that it has led to a substantial increase in the number of prescriptions being issued for anti-anxiety medication and antidepressants.

The effects of this increased stress on a parent’s wellbeing can be significant – recently one said to me, “I was completely broken last week, and my hair has started to fall out.”

Other parents are exhausted. One mother I spoke to reached crisis point, phoning her child’s school in tears. Lockdown 1.0 had been easier for her due to being placed on furlough, but this was not the case in Lockdown 3.0.

Her child, who in school would display good behaviour, had at home become, in her own words, “a horrible child, refusing to work if at all bored or challenged…it could take two hours just to get pen to paper.”

Meg is a single mum of a 9-year-old, who said that the first lockdown was, “The best thing that ever happened to me.” This was because Granny was teaching her son two hours a day, as she was part of their bubble. During this time, Granny could offer the child her undivided time and attention.

However, health concerns caused by the new variants of COVID-19 mean that Granny has had no physical contact with her family during Lockdown 3.0. This has substantially increased the feelings of loneliness for both Meg and her son. As a result, one set of parents began sleeping in the same room as the child due to concerns about suicidal ideation.

Much needs to be done to support the young people (of which there are many) whose mental health has been affected by the lockdowns, yet the feedback I’ve received from parents is that schools and healthcare agencies have been unable to provide the support needed.

Referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) have increased, as have appeals for help from charities, while higher numbers of agoraphobia cases have also been reported.

Finding The Positives

On the bright side, for Joe’s youngest child, moving school online resulted in them finding “an amazing new teacher who engages the whole class and combines schoolwork with fun and social interaction.” Joe followed that by saying:

“Yes, it’s hard when the kids need me during an important Zoom call, and when deadlines approach, but I feel that my problems shrink into insignificance in the grand scheme of things, and am grateful that I can work and operate from home.”

And although he was missing his friends, one young person told me he was getting more work done during Lockdown 3.0, as there were more distractions at school than at home. For this 11-year-old, grades went up in Lockdown 1.0, down in Lockdown 2.0 (which the schools remained open for), and are now rising again in Lockdown 3.0, as he is able to concentrate better, for longer, at home.

Another win is that for parents whose children are still in school, doing the school run in the morning is much easier due to the reduced traffic and lower pupil numbers. This means parents and their children can rise at their own pace, and not have to rush through getting dressed and eating breakfast.

Entrepreneurial skills have also emerged during the lockdowns – and not just for the parents. Amelia has created a business making and selling beautiful resin products, while one nine-year-old made £35 during Lockdown 1.0 from selling plants.

The son of one parent I spoke to has started his own business selling facemasks online, while also creating a website to sell second-hand computer parts.

“Yesterday I was clever and I wanted to change the world, today I am wise and I want to change myself.”

For many parents and their offspring, homeschooling in the time of COVID has proved extremely challenging. While some families have been able to cope, many others have struggled.

For those who may feel their children have not made as much progress during the lockdowns as they’d like, it is perhaps helpful to think of living through this time as a learning experience in itself.

Simply making it through the pandemic and emerging into the ‘new normal’ – whatever that will be – is sure to equip parents and children with a set of experiences and lessons which will serve them in good stead for the years to come.

Written By: Kate Guest


*All names have been changed, except for one name which is important to note.

**Go to @genie_ameliax on Instagram for handmade, bespoke resin crafts.

A huge thank you to everyone I spoke to for your insightful and transparent contributions to this article. I hope I have done you all justice.

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