Picture of Senior Lecturer in Education and Religion Maggie Webster.
Senior Lecturer in Education and Religion Maggie Webster

With many parents now faced with juggling home schooling and home working during the COVID-19 lockdown, an Edge Hill University academic talks about both the challenges and opportunities ahead to help mums and dads try and strike that balance.

Maggie Webster, Senior Lecturer in Education and Religion, is a single parent to her nine-year-old daughter and is feeling the pressure to be both productive with her work while supporting her child’s education.

She is not only continuing to teach online to her many students while working from home but schooling her daughter too following classroom closures.

“What is fascinating to see are the parents who are sharing ideas such as indoor and outdoor scavenger hunts, the 30-day Lego challenge, lists of useful and educational websites, ideas that support mental health and messages of solidarity, hence creating a sense of ‘we are all in it together’ attitude,” said Maggie.

“There is no one way to work from home and home school. Everyone is doing it differently because not everyone has the same home life.  Many parents are starting and ending the day with the same morning and bedtime routines but whatever happens in the middle is possibly made up on the day.

“Although lack of structure may be good for child-centred learning it isn’t always helpful for home working when deadlines are needed to be met. Therefore some structure is essential not only for a sense of wellbeing but also so that parents can get what they need to be done.”

Maggie is encouraging others to make full use of the many online tools out there to meet with colleagues and share ideas and says that now is a good opportunity to teach children to use them.

“Children are missing their friends, so it’s good to see that some parents are teaching them how to use Zoom, Skype and FaceTime to keep in touch with their classmates. Giving a focus to this work is great for learning too,” said Maggie.

“Other social platforms such as Flipgrid, imovie, Padlet, Quizlet, Kahoot can be useful for a home worker and they are amazing for children because the child creates and then shares the content with friends who then are able to respond too. These platforms encourage interactions that are exponential and embrace the YouTube culture that many of our kids are familiar with – but within a safe e-environment. Combining such ideas with a schedule that includes the structured learning that school suggests, some free choice and online activities will mean parents and children manage their time more productively.”

Maggie remains positive and is encouraging others to see this as an “amazing opportunity to stop and appreciate who we are and what we have”.

“There may be no other time or opportunity to snuggle our kids, put them to bed every night, have breakfast together, bake, giggle and appreciate their amazing capabilities,” she said. “Work will always be there, but our kids won’t. So we need to remember that being as productive as we were before Covid-19 is not always possible but being more present for our kids is.”

The University’s Faculty of Education have created an online learning hub with plenty of resources for parents who are home schooling to access. Visit www.edgehill.ac.uk/educationpartnership/linkstolearning/.