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Photograph: Shutterstock

In homeschooling hell? An expert reveals how to make things as good as they can be

Time for a better work/life/school/playtime balance

Written by
Kate Lloyd

Welcome to our series where, each week, we get experts to find solutions to your lockdown problems. Send yours to and we’ll try to get you an answer. In this instalment: homeschooling. 

Paul from Kilburn says:

‘I'm struggling to juggle homeschooling my kids and my workload. Obviously I stand by teachers not wanting to go back into school until it’s safe for them to, but I’m really not coping. How do I make it easier for myself?’

Pepita Torbrand, psychologist and educational consultant at Coaching4Schools, says:

Home learning is incredibly challenging for families with kids and I think the key thing to remember is quality time. Schoolwork is important, but even more important is using our time when not working to enjoy positive communication, playfulness and laughter, instead of worrying about uncompleted homework.

If we want our kids to learn how to work independently, we need to treat them as independent young beings. Even if we silently worry about their work seeming to snail ahead or being of lower quality than usual, if we repeatedly voice our frustrations, we are getting the opposite effect of what we want. What we focus our attention to, will grow!

If you want to get the balance right, pick five top strengths your kids have – such as fairness, perseverance, honesty, leadership and creativity – and share these openly with them. Brainstorm collaboratively how they can use their strengths in their schoolwork. Get them involved instead of bored. Set them small, intrinsically motivating goals every day and let them make the decision as to how to achieve these goals. If we try to make decisions for them, we reduce their self-reliance.

Everything can be turned into play. Do your own work in short spurts, take frequent breaks and get your kids to teach you what they have just learnt. Use competitive “tick off” lists and remind them of their strengths and how proud you are of them. You will find that you have a far smoother process of getting your work done without repeated and tired arguments.

Create a boundary between fun time and homeschool time by getting them involved in the planning of their days. Schoolwork should ideally be done in hour-long slots followed by active breaks. (Your child might need breaks more frequently, depending on their age.) Agree on a time when school is finished for the day. As we are no longer travelling to and from school, a marked cut-off point is good to make this clear. Ring a loud bell at the start and end of the school day, if you have one. Take a break as well around this time, so schoolwork is not followed by passive screen time but with a spurt of quality time.

Many lessons are now online, and kids are encouraged to watch webinars and do online quizzes. The key thing here is to help our kids move away from the Xbox or Netflix after a day of online learning to do other activities, such as painting, cooking, reading or exercise. Most of all, don’t feel guilty, parents are doing a phenomenal job right now.’

Read more in this series:

Am I in a power struggle with my cat?

Why am I having such vivid dreams in lockdown?

Why do I have the attention span of a goldfish?

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