Catriona Stewart: Parents need more effort and homeschool help in this modern Scotland.


I think we overlook that current work habits were never meant to fit in with parenting. The presumption, that is, was that one parent would work while the other cared for the kids.

When women joined the workforce more and more, as two incomes were needed to sustain a family, and as less and less households had a stay-at-home parent, society did not bother to change and make it easier to do full-time work and full-time parenting.

Speak to a working parent and they are drained, rushed and in need of a break in general.

In the midst of this pandemic, talk to a working parent and they need a long bed rest.

Although the decision to close schools in January is the correct one given the increasing transmission rates and the fresh, more virulent strain of the virus, it is understandable to understand the desperation of parents determining the effects of a month – or more – without child care and school attendance.

It is no simple task to care for kids, homeschool them, and work. There is a distinction between, while they overlap, the first and second activities. It’s part of education to pay attention to the well-being of children and take a holistic approach to learning. Homeschooling takes the kids’ care into account.

Yet teaching your kids at home with little or no help is a very interesting viewpoint.

One of the advantages of the new decision to keep schools closed until February for most children is that it offers some flexibility for families and a chance to build a routine.

After summer break, though, there was an opportunity to pursue a blended learning strategy, but in the drive to get kids back to school full time, the opportunity was missed.

Lessons have been learned from the first lockdown about how to help disadvantaged children and provide students who do not have access to the Internet or even computers with alternative learning packages.

Had the government concentrated more on blended learning, parents would have a greater wealth of tools to use for their kids at home.

As it is, for parents who are home schooling – and sometimes at different ages and stages at the same time – there are very little tools and guidance.

Practical support from organizations in terms of jobs has been piecemeal and often entirely reliant on the employer. Some parents indicated that they were granted extra vacation days by their employers to help homeschooling or encouraged them to adjust their working hours or work schedules to accommodate child care.

Others have spoken of a total lack of workplace flexibility and of being tired and desperate to make up for their late-night hours.

The situation most adversely impacts women. Studies show that during the last full lockdown, women spent twice as much time on home education and treatment as men.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) found that women bear the brunt of childcare and parenting in all age groups. Those with primary-school-age children were more likely than fathers of children of the same age to give up work.

That’s not to say that fathers alone were not tired and overwhelmed either, but the majority of the responsibility falls on mothers and this time, too, they will.

People continue to say parents should not think too much about meeting the expectations of school and should concentrate more on well-being. That’s well-intentioned and real, but for parents anxious about their teen’s exam prospects and next steps, it will be cold comfort. For those whose preschoolers have lost their social skills and been isolated from their peers, it would be a relief.

For working parents, much more realistic help is needed this time. To provide breaks from work, financial support is required, for starters.

Giving parents a crash course training in pedagogy is neither feasible nor realistic. But there must be more than telling them that, in the short term, education is not as important as well-being.


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