More than 50 per cent of parents wouldn't cope if schools closed again

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

Fiona Pogson was not a fan of homeschooling her children during the coronavirus shutdown, describing the experience as a "juggle" which left her feeling like she was "not getting anything done well".

And the mother-of-two is not alone. In fact, according to a survey conducted by community babysitting and tutoring job platform, Juggle Street, 51 per cent of families would not cope if schools were to close again.

"The parents most impacted during this period were the mums who were doing more homeschooling than their partners," Juggle Street CEO David James tells Essential Kids of the findings, adding that they were more likely to feel isolated.

Fiona Pogson says remote learning was "a juggle". Photo: Supplied
Fiona Pogson says remote learning was "a juggle". Photo: Supplied 

The survey also revealed that while 35 per cent of families "thrived" during this time, 17 per cent did not cope at all. "Parents who thrived were mostly from higher-income households who faced less financial stress," says James. "They were also more likely to feel that their school was doing 'a great job."

In contrast, those who struggled, felt their children's school did a "terrible or not very good job" managing online learning and were more likely to feel that their child had been disadvantaged or had fallen behind.

Those who found the period more difficult, were more likely to have primary-school aged kids - and boys.  "Young boys are not designed for homeschooling," James, who has a nine-year-old son, laughs. "Of those that didn't cope, 23 per cent had boys."

Parents who struggled were also more likely to be a furloughed employee and to have been impacted financially by COVID-19. According to James, whether you were a QANTAS pilot or a barista, the financial stress was felt to the same degree.

Thrivers had kids in high school, were older and tended to find home-schooling a positive experience. They were also more likely to feel their school had done a good/great job with online learning and that their kids hadn't been disadvantaged during the closure.

While Ms Pogson says the education portal her son and daughter used was "good", the children still needed help navigating it and completing their tasks. This, naturally, made completing her own work requirements difficult. 

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"Every time I set the kids up with their work I'd try to log on to my own and within minutes someone would need help, or announce it was now time for fruit break or recess," she remembers.

"In my head I thought I'd be able to balance teaching and working  but in reality I felt neither was getting done well. Combine a work deadline with cooped up kids and a few sibling arguments and the results were not pretty. 

"After a couple of rather unprofessional zoom calls I had to resort to Netflix to entertain the kids to give me time to complete my work." 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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If, like Ms Pogson, your kids upped their screen-time as you tried to juggle work then you're in good company.

The survey showed that kids spent more "recreation" time on screens in seven out of ten families. And the more kids you have, the more the screen time increased. "We all fell foul of that," admits James. 

But while many parents enjoyed the slower pace and no early Saturday morning ballet or soccer drop-offs, survey participants admitted their kids were doing less physical activity during lockdown, too.

"As parents we all had to accept the school closures and 'get on with it', for the good of our children and to play our part in flattening the curve," James says. "And there was nothing we could do when our children's sports and extracurricular activities were suspended. But parents could and did make a difference by getting involved in their neighbourhood.When that neighbourhood support was missing, our survey showed the sense of loneliness and isolation increased to over half of parents."

According to James, more than one third of parents were lonely or felt isolated during the lockdown period. This feeling of isolation was higher if their children were all under five, if they had home schooled by themselves without any help from their partner and if they relied one extracurricular activities such as sport, dance, music lessons.

Find out more about Juggle Street here.