Covid home-schooling: Parents' 'nightmare' juggling work and teaching

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image copyrightClare Ferguson-Walker
image captionClare Ferguson-Walker says she has struggled with home-schooling her two children

As kitchen tables are turned back into classrooms across Wales, parents admit they are struggling with the return to home-schooling.

For Clare Ferguson-Walker from Tavernspite, Pembrokeshire, the experience has been a "nightmare".

She said trying to educate her two children alongside work has resulted in her relying on universal credit.

Getting to grips with home-schooling in the first lockdown was "a shock to the system".

"My heart goes out to teachers, I can't imagine what it was like for them putting together all these packages," she said.

"My son is 12 and loves gaming so he's quite tech-savvy. When I have managed to pin him down he's been 'go away, dinosaur mother, I know how to do it!'

"I'm not au fait with these subjects I haven't done for years. It's different to how I learned at school."

As a single parent, Clare said she had found it difficult to juggle home-schooling with her work.

"At first, in the summer, we were doing Joe Wicks exercises every day then some work. Then it fell into chaos. I tried really hard at the beginning to be organised.

"I'm an artist and sculptor - that work ended and my income has dried up so I'm on universal credit.

"It's incredibly tough financially. Life has revolved around looking after the kids," she said.

'Like being a caged animal'

By the end of the year, she said the pressure had all become too much.

"The thought of going through that again in the winter months - without sunny days in the garden - the stress really got to me.

"I was finding myself going repeatedly from the kettle to the fridge and back again in this weird loop, thinking what do I do now?

"It was like being a caged animal, like one of those bears that starts to pace in a cage. The kids had gone feral by then.

"I think it's been horrendous for young people and families - we can't even rely on grandparents. Mental health struggles are at an all-time high," she said.

"The one positive is I've got to know my kids a hell of a lot more and there have been times that have been lovely.

"I think they've learned more sat around the kitchen table when we've been talking about what's going on, they've learned about rational thinking, the importance of science and not jumping to conclusions.

Documentaries, games, reading

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image captionJayne Palmer advises not sitting down at a desk

Jayne Palmer from Cardiff, who home-educated both her sons, said there was too much pressure on parents to replicate traditional classroom learning.

"This is not an ideal circumstance for home-education families either because they are not used to being locked indoors.

"I think there's far too much emphasis in continuing the set curriculum. Right now it's a complete waste of time. There's pressure to compete in a system parents weren't even involved in.

It is far more important to "create and interest in learning," she said.

"There's been a tendency of families to rush to buy desks and chairs and pens. What we find is the best way forward is not to sit down and teach your children - watch documentaries with them, play online games with historical content, practise reading to them, do some cooking, Lego or gardening."

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