Can parents replace their children’s teachers? Not by a long chalk.

Can parents replace their children’s teachers? Not by a long chalk.

Teaching is not easy at the best of times, so to be handed the responsibility of educating children having received no training or experience is daunting.

But that is exactly what faced millions of parents when schools were suddenly closed due to the Coronavirus crisis.

Their charges – of whatever age – needed to continue learning and remain on the educational path laid out by their schools.

And so home learning, which until this crisis affected around 60,000 children, is now a reality for all the country’s students – more than 10 million of them.

Their real teachers are doing all they can to provide materials, support, homework and guidance, but parents and carers are the ones who must oversee the educating.

There are a few tips and tricks that might assist those new to the profession – and also a few potential pitfalls.

As they say in the military, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ – and that is relevant to teaching.

Ideally, you would plan by term, by week and by lesson and the more detailed the timetable and lesson plans, the better.

In these circumstances, devising a weekly or daily timetable will prove helpful if the school has not already created one.

A balance is required between those tasks children can do by themselves and those that require support from parents.

Obviously, the younger the child the more support he or she will need. And those with certain special educational needs will also require more support.

Breaking down lessons into three parts is sensible; introduction, main lesson content and a conclusion that sums up what has been learned.

Parents might feel they know their child better than a teacher – but the chances are that the teacher will know far more about their child’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to certain subjects.

Identifying these weaknesses and building a strategy to strengthen them is difficult – especially as children of a certain age will be far less willing to listen to parents than they might a teacher. Teenagers might very well see it as interference.

Topics should be broken down into manageable segments but how this is done depends on the ability of the child, so parents will have to work out what works best.

Parents will also have to learn what teaching strategies work best for their children – they might not be the same as the ones employed by their children’s teachers.

A further difficulty faced by parents is their level of expertise and knowledge. Most secondary school teachers only teach their own subject, so for parents to cover a whole syllabus is clearly unfeasible.

There are other practical difficulties, such as the availability of computers and other devices. This can be exacerbated in a household with a number of children. So it is useful to divide the time when each child has access to the equipment.

I would urge parents, who are all doing their best, that their children’s schools and their teachers are willing to help them.

They are already setting and marking work and they should be contactable to answer questions and give advice; they are as keen as the parents for their students to keep learning and not fall behind.

The longer lockdown lasts, the more likely that children’s mental health will be affected.

As soon as it is safe, schools must be re-opened. Homeschooling will leave many students behind in their work, however hard their parents have worked.

‘Variety is the spice of life’ and repetition and boredom are the biggest danger to a child’s mental stability so try and vary the activities and keep to a structured timetable every day and this will help.