At Wave 4, parents were asked to describe what they liked best about home schooling and what they liked the least or found most challenging, and at Wave 8, parents were asked what they thought the long-term positive and negative impacts of home schooling had been on their children and on themselves. At Wave 4, out of 172 respondents, 17 participants (10%) reported that there was nothing positive about home schooling, 16 (9%) reported nothing negative, and 6 participants (4%) fell into both categories. Nine participants (5%) reported that they were not directly involved in their child’s home schooling, due to working outside of the home, not having time, or family separation. Most respondents (91%) provided a brief description of at least one positive and/or negative aspect of home schooling.

Out of 56 respondents at Wave 8, 18 (32%) thought there were no positive long-term impacts, 16 (29%) thought there were no negative impacts, 5 (9%) fell into both categories, and 5 were unsure (9%). One parent elaborated that home schooling had hopefully had no long-term effects because their children had received high quality schoolwork from their school, but time would tell. Another reported that the long-term negative effects were minimal, as their children were quite young. Most parents (82%) provided a short description of at least one negative and/or positive aspect of home schooling. Some specifically commented on the long-term impacts they had observed, others instead reflected on their positive and negative experiences during the home schooling period. These reflections may indicate which benefits and challenges remained important or memorable for parents several months after home schooling had finished.

Six major themes were developed from the data and fell into two categories with three themes in each: the impacts of home schooling on parents, and the perceived impacts of home schooling on children. Impacts on parents included connecting with children, managing the work-life-school balance, and the challenge of home schooling when parents are not teachers. The perceived impacts on children included: the quieter, safer learning of home, and the negatives of managing schoolwork load and social isolation.

Positive impacts on parents

Connecting with children

Many parents were able to spend more time with their children and reported that this was the best thing about home schooling, both in the short- and long-term. Some parents reported using this extra time to bond, interact, and connect with their children and felt family relationships were closer. Home schooling also allowed parents to see and better understand what their children were learning at school, and how they were learning it. Participants appreciated learning more about their children’s academic progress, strengths, and weaknesses, and some enjoyed watching their children work and seeing how much they could achieve.

I like that I can keep in touch with their learning and of course spend more time with them.

It has been nice to see my daughter undertaking different activities

Some parents also liked being actively involved in their children’s learning. Parents were able to provide one-on-one support, teach using their own methods, and help their children develop key skills such as literacy. Home schooling was also an opportunity for parents to learn new skills (e.g., using virtual platforms), refresh their own learning, and see education from different perspectives. Some parents also better understood their children’s needs and progress at school.

Refreshes my memory about what I was taught. I like seeing my kids grasp and understand a concept.

Being a part of my son’s learning, especially at an important stage where he’s learning to read and write. Greater appreciation for how smart he actually is.

In the long term, some parents felt that they now had a closer relationship with their children, and one parent thought that home schooling would be memorable for their children in a positive way: “I think they will remember the outdoor activities we did routinely together during covid.”

Positive impacts on children

Quieter, safer learning

The home environment was also reported to have positive impacts on learning. Some parents felt that their home was quieter, more relaxed and had less distractions than the classroom. Additionally, two parents noted that home schooling protected their children from experiencing bullying and peer pressure. Children could complete their work faster or at their own pace, and had less time away from school due to illness. Home schooling also created opportunities for broader learning, including using new technology. In the long term, two parents noted that their children had maintained their learning progress, and another two observed that their children had learned how to be more self-sufficient and structure their workload.

more time with them, one-on-one teaching; participating in their learning journey; quieter, less distractions; quicker; gives opportunities for broader learning

Some parents also felt safer keeping their children at home. The main benefit of home schooling for these parents was preventing their children from potential exposure to harm from COVID-19: “I know they are safe at home.”

Challenges for parents

Work-life-school balance

Managing and structuring time when balancing work, schooling and home duties was a salient issue for parents. Participants reported struggling to balance work and household duties with the new demands of home schooling. Home schooling was described as time consuming, stressful, and “so much effort and work,” and participants reported feeling time poor. It was difficult “finding enough hours in a day to fit everything in” and to create and maintain a structured routine. Home schooling was particularly disruptive for parents who also needed to work from home. Supervising and assisting children interrupted parents’ own work and forced one participant to work from home despite needing to be onsite to best fulfil their role. Caring for multiple children attending different schools created additional challenges, as different schools had different requirements and expectations, and children had different needs for care.

It is stressful when I have to leave my own work. I sometimes take breaks and go for a walk

3 different schools, 3 different ages, 3 different ways of doing things and expectations, and still trying to run a household and care for a disabled child

Home schooling may have also increased appreciation of face-to-face teaching:

Kids have realised the importance of both daily routines and teachers

However, there were some differing or mixed experiences of work-life-school balance. Some participants found they had more time in their day and their mornings were more relaxed. Home schooling removed the need to travel to school, prepare school lunches and get children ready for school. One parent felt less tired and another reported their child was able to get more sleep because they did not need to spend time travelling to school.

Less tiredness. More time in the day, as there is no getting ready or travel time.

Parents are not teachers

Difficulties keeping children focused and engaged with their schoolwork, and “Getting the kids to actually do the work” were frequently reported to be the most disliked or challenging aspects of home schooling. Many parents had trouble motivating children and getting them to listen to instruction, and some felt that their child was too dependent on parental support when completing schoolwork. This may have been a particular challenge in the home environment due to distractions competing for children’s attention (e.g., video games, YouTube, playing outside) and work responsibilities competing for parents’ attention.

… I’m not a teacher and [it] has been hard to motivate kids.

When I turn my back he is watching youtube or playing games instead of doing his work.

Additionally, parents worried about their own ability to understand and teach the content set by schools. Teaching methods have changed since parents attended school and this made it difficult for some parents to help children with their schoolwork. For example, several parents had trouble helping children with maths problems: “… especially because they do it slightly differently than when I got taught”. Parents reported difficulty understanding their children’s schoolwork or interpreting what work needed to be completed. Parents also shared concerns about not knowing the answers to their children’s questions, answering questions incorrectly, and not being able to help their children.

The constant questions… worried that I would give them the wrong answers.

Difficulty understanding the school work and not being able to help.

Given these challenges, home schooling materials that were structured, flexible and had user friendly instructions were appreciated.

Additionally, some parents reported that their home environment was not well set-up for remote learning. Problems with internet access and speed, a lack of knowledge about relevant technology, and a small living space all added difficulty to the home schooling experience.

Not physically set up in our smaller home for interruption free learning

Parents were also concerned that children had less opportunities to interact with their teachers. Teachers were seen as less accessible, and less able to answer students’ questions and provide individual-level guidance in the online format. Teachers may also have been struggling with technology, as one parent felt the most challenging thing about home schooling was: “teachers/school not understanding the technology they’ve been forced to use”.

While there were many challenges identified, a small number of parents also expressed appreciation for teachers. These parents liked seeing their children’s teachers in action and observed: “How much the teachers genuinely love the kids”.

Negative impacts on children

Managing schoolwork load

Many parents felt learning online at home was not the same as learning face-to-face in the classroom. Learning from home was described as not as effective as learning at school, and parents commonly felt that their child would be learning more, or completing more work, in the classroom. Two parents thought there was less variety for children, and two were concerned about the increased amount of screen time that home schooling required. Some parents reported that their children were set too much work by their school or struggled to complete all the set tasks. Others found that their children completed their work quickly and were then left with nothing to do until the next set of tasks arrived.

We are getting the basics of English, Maths and Science done but even though my daughter is working hard she is not getting to some of the other suggestions or tasks set. I know this is fine but I know that she would be getting through more in actual school.

While they get their work done, our children are quite bright and so get through their work quickly and are often at a loss of what to do next

In the long term, some parents noted that their children had fallen behind the expected standards at school or had poorer grades.

Child has fallen behind the expected standard and has experienced behavioural problems and is still stressed

Social isolation

Parents also observed that their children were missing out on opportunities for direct peer-to-peer interaction, both in educational (e.g., class discussions) and social contexts. The lack of social interaction appeared to be particularly challenging, and children were described as lonely, isolated, stuck at home, and missing their friends. In the long-term, the most commonly reported negative impact of home schooling was the lack of social interaction for children, particularly the isolation of children from their peers, friends and teachers. This topic was raised more frequently at Wave 8 than during the home schooling period (Wave 4: 15/172; Wave 8: 22/56), suggesting that while it was not an issue that parents commonly disliked or found challenging in the moment, they did believe it had an important impact on their children. Long-term, parents noted new behavioural issues, including anti-social behaviour, difficulty focusing, increased stress and difficulty getting children back to school.

It’s not as effective, there is no collaboration, the lack of social interaction is depressing for my kids

Our child misses the interaction with her friends very much.

What would parents do differently?

At Wave 7, parents were asked what they would do differently if they needed to home school their children again. Out of 127 respondents, 54 (43%) reported that they would not do anything differently, and 17 (13%) were unsure. Some of these participants elaborated that they felt the home schooling experience went well, was enjoyable, or that there was nothing more they could have done under the circumstances. This suggests that while participants found aspects of home schooling challenging in the moment, many felt there was nothing they would or could have done differently. However, one of the unsure participants specified that they found home schooling quite difficult to manage.

The remaining 56 participants (44%) identified at least one thing they would do differently. Three categories were developed from this data, representing key strategies for improvement: manage time, seek support, and be prepared. Each of these strategies addressed one or more of the challenges described by parents at Wave 4.

Manage time

Most participant comments were related to time and time management. Some participants would make more time for home schooling in their day, potentially by starting schoolwork earlier in the day, working from home, asking for different work shifts, or reducing work hours.

Take time off or reduce hours

Participants also suggested that they would structure their time better, for example, by organising a routine or following a school timetable. A small number suggested they would be stricter when home schooling. In contrast, there were a small number of participants who indicated that next time they home schooled, they would stress less, be more patient and not try to do everything.

Make sure they had set tasks to take up the whole day.

Seek support

Some participants suggested they would seek more external support for home schooling duties, such as hiring a tutor or asking for more help from family members. Parents would also be more proactive when interacting with their children’s school; taking the initiative when contacting teachers, asking for more schoolwork, clarifying the information provided by the school, and providing suggestions for how to improve the remote learning experience. One parent suggested they would seek more social support for their child, making sure they “have the contact details of more of their school friends so they can communicate socially more.”

Be prepared

A smaller number of comments were related to being more prepared for home schooling in the future. Some of these parents reported that they would acquire updated technology (e.g., a better computer), manage their physical space at home better, or access more online learning resources:

That’s hard to say, it would be nice to just home school and not work, so maybe [would] have used more online resources which were very helpful when I found them

Others would try to prepare themselves to be more effective teachers by making sure they understood the content of their children’s schoolwork and current learning approaches.

Do more prep work so I understood what they were learning

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