Working from home, learning from home: Behind Closed Doors

Philippa Thompson
01 May, 2020 : 15:17
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Whilst in this enforced period of lockdown some parents are finding themselves thrown suddenly into new ways of working at home. However it is not as easy as it sounds to some. Whilst working, there is an additional role which is causing some consternation. The newly established role of the 'full time home educator'. This blog shares the experience of one parent who finds herself in this position and how she is trying to learn from the experience to support others

Being in my sixth week of home working and fifth week of home schooling in the midst of Covid-19, has led me to consider how my approach to parenting may have changed. Have I learnt anything other than to control my urge to reach for the wine mid-afternoon? As a lecturer and researcher, teaching Early Childhood Studies at Sheffield Hallam University, my home working has involved supporting and teaching undergraduate students using online platforms for the first time. Alongside this is the all too familiar story of a self-employed partner losing all his work and my teenage son now in 'home school' for the final term of Year 10.

Being a parent of a child in Early Childhood from conception to 8 years is both complex and challenging. Being a parent of a teenager in a confined space has many similarities. Seeing the many resources that have been made available for parents of young children I feel partly excited (from a professional perspective) at the play opportunities suggested. However, I also feel saddened hearing the parental stories of overzealous, well-meaning schools trying to provide a whole curriculum and expecting children to sit in front of computers at certain times even being asked for photographic evidence. This further pressure and guilt is arduous for parents who undoubtedly have a range of other priorities such as 'will we get any food', 'can we pay the rent/mortgage this month' or maybe trying to live in a multi-generational crowded household.

These common experienced difficulties have encouraged me to return to my current and previous research for which well-being and parenting have all been central. Friends in lockdown, parenting a range of ages from 12 months to undergrads have asked for suggestions and this has posed an ethical dilemma. Whilst supporting research students to consider best practice in early childhood (0-8yrs) I have re familiarised myself with the idea of 'schooled notions of literacy' meaning that literacy is often taught in school without an understanding of what is happening at home. When working as a Community Teacher (in a previous life) I discovered literature suggesting that 'family literacy' practices were based on the needs of the school rather than the needs of the family.

What should we learn from this time? 

On reflection of the way we are currently living in lockdown, should this be a time when settings and schools could be learning from home practices? It could provide the potential for us to move away from the very middle class perspective of literacy in the home and aim to recognise the full contribution that families make to their child/ren's learning and development irrespective of age. Examples that immediately spring to mind are the 'Joe Wicks' style exercise in the morning every day or the family daily walks or bike rides. Parents know that wherever they live their children need daily exercise to increase well-being. However this is something that has been squeezed and reduced in schools in England due to the heavy emphasis on more formal approaches to literacy and numeracy.

My advice to friends and colleagues

So my advice to friends and colleagues who have asked is firstly, be kind to yourself. Do not set unrealistic expectations about the day or you are very likely to be disappointed and the guilt returns.

Enjoy the company of your child as much as you can and be led by them not the school. If a routine works for you and your child then build it together. If you all enjoy spontaneity then despite what some may want you to believe, just see what the day brings.

If your school or setting requests evidence then let them know what you have done together. Share your family's home interests with teachers and practitioners as many will be interested and learn from the lead of your child. 

The way your child/ren like to learn is a crucial aspect of many global curriculums so letting them make meaning of this experience through play is crucial. The Xbox has become a way that my son finds his own space and collaborates with friends. He laughs and shouts during this time and they also discuss school work unbelievably! Tik Tok dances have become a shared delight too as we learn about my son's specialist knowledge and those of his friends.

When we finally return to a semblance of our lives before, it will not be the children that need to catch up but rather the policy and curriculum.

Our blog is a place for a range of opinions and debate on parents and their role in their schools and their children’s education. Whilst we think this debate is really important, we don’t always agree with the views being expressed.


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Philippa Thompson
Philippa Thompson is a Senior Lecturer and Placement Academic Lead for BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. 



"My professional career has been varied and involved teaching in a wide range of educational settings starting in 1989. I have worked in educational fields in England, Australia and Hong Kong. I am lucky to have had a varied teaching career involving nursery, infant and primary schools; Family Centres; Children's Centres; Sure Start Centres; International Schools/Kindergartens and Outdoor Education. As a Community Teacher, I supported parents alongside early childhood settings and childminders. I joined Sheffield Hallam University as a Senior Lecturer in 2006 and am currently an Executive Board member of both the Early Childhood Studies Degree Network (ECSDN) and the Early Years Academy. My current doctoral research is designed to hear the voices of parents of children with anaphylaxis in early childhood settings reflecting my own personal experience. Published research spans a range of subject areas but all are underpinned by an interest in young children and parental well-being."

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