Family & Education

How parents are coping in the lockdown classroom at home

It can be hard to settle into a rhythm when school routine has gone


School life has a compelling rhythm; a cycle of daily, weekly and annual structures and events designed to support emotional, social and academic development.

For our children in lockdown this routine has been removed.  While school staff are the guardians and drivers of the routine, parents in lockdown have been propelled into this role, with or without other adult support, while working outside or at home, meeting the needs of siblings of different ages and delivering home learning provided by teachers adjusting to new and strange ways of working.

Recreating school at home is not realistic. “We’re finding the children are often very resistant,” admitted one primary teacher, “so we’re advising parents about scheduling breaks agreed with the child, we’re providing activities that the children should and could do and introducing new routines gradually.”

Lockdown is “a bit of a horrible situation”, said the parent of nursery and primary aged children, “so we make it fun. It’s not so much routine as structure — we have an idea of things we want to get done in the day. We have a theme for the week, a show day, a film day, science on a Monday.”

The challenge of routine is greater for the parents of secondary students. While schools have provided model timetables and advised on work space and environment, “teenagers hate routine,” said one mother, “so we’re tackling it one routine at a time; come for a walk once a day. It’s not realistic to get up at normal school time, but it is realistic to expect that the child will have some food before starting an online lesson.”

The greatest challenge is arguably for GCSE students in year 11. Described by one student as “like training for a marathon you’re not going to run”, for many Jewish students there is the added disappointment of a cancelled Israel tour. “Have those very delicate conversations,” advised his teacher mother. “Look at what they are being asked to do and ask ‘is there anything I can do to help with…?’”

 One head has suggested that university entry panels will be looking for evidence of how these students managed themselves in this period. 

Josh Glancy spoke movingly in the last’s week JC about reintroducing Shabbat candle-lighting into his lockdown routine. The cycle of the Jewish year is contributing to routine for our children. Primary schools are learning how to accommodate events like Kabbalat Shabbat on Zoom and schools are marking the festivals with creative home learning.

“We’ve given them suggested recipes for Yom Ha’atzmaut,” said one primary teacher “and created an Israel birthday cake challenge.” “Shabbat helps,” explained a parent. “On weekdays we’re all dressed before 9, but it’s pyjamas on Shabbat.”

Susy Stone is former headteacher of Akiva School and on the board of Pajes

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