The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken a way of life we previously took for granted – going to work, celebrating weddings, seeing friends and wandering aimlessly down fully-stocked supermarket aisles.

However, one of the biggest changes for many parents is that kids are being urged to stay home  unless it is absolutely essential they go to school. Overnight, parents have had to become teachers, along with everything else they are attempting to squeeze into already overfilled schedules.

Where a few weeks ago home schooling was a vague and unfamiliar concept, it’s now become the norm. Parents are scrambling to find a new routine where kids are at home while continuing their education.

As a parent, former school teacher and professional educator who now runs The Ethics Centre’s education programs from my lounge room – with two young kids and a husband in the same room –  I’m struggling to do the same.


The juggle of schooling at home

What’s happening here is not home schooling, it’s crisis schooling. Parents who home school have made a conscious decision to educate their child at home. Those parents have spent time organising their resources and routines, deliberating over how to ensure an optimal learning environment for their child, specific to their own needs. Home school parents often have networks of other parents who have also chosen this option, and together, they collaborate and socialise their children.

Crisis schooling is different. With very little notice or choice, suddenly kids are home. Crisis schooling has opened a range of dilemmas which parents are now facing, including:

  • “How do I prioritise between helping my child learn and continuing to do my job?”
  • “I’ve always tried to teach my kids health and fitness and limit screen time, but giving my child a device is now the only way I get a break.”
  • “My wife and I are both working full time while the kids are at home, which one of us must sacrifice our work time to learn with the children?”


So how do we navigate these new challenges? 

As we often teach in workshops at The Ethics Centre, there are no ready-made answers to ethical challenges. Instead, we have to respond to the circumstances and relationships at play – which will be different for each of us – and try to balance these with our personal ethics; our purpose, values and principles.

It may help to keep in mind some advice from Greek philosopher, Socrates, who maintained that in order for education to occur a person must accept what they do not know. Parents don’t know how to be teachers, except for those who are trained to be so. Let’s not pretend to ourselves or our kids that we’re fully equipped to do this. We’re not.

As parents, we can use the resources that teachers have readily made available. We can admit to our children that there are some things that we don’t know how to do, and that we need to figure it out together.


What we can control

What parents do know is how to love and care for their children. Parents understand their children better than anyone else in the world and can provide them with the love and support they need. During this incredibly uncertain and anxious time, that really is their most important need. Rather than being overly concerned with how much they are learning, whether or not they’re reading enough, practicing fractions or working on their fine motor skills, let’s focus on our children’s mental wellbeing.

The world is a stressful place right now and anxiety is contagious. Children need to feel supported and comforted. Home is supposed to be a safe space for children, regardless of what is happening outside in the world, and this applies today, more than ever.

So, let’s throw out the rule book on schooling. Let’s remember we are in crisis and although we have moved rapidly to this point, we do not have to adjust with the same speed to a new home-based education system. Do what feels right for your family, even if that means throwing out the schedule. Try not to compare what you are doing to others posting about their experience on social media. What works for one family, might not work for yours.

Human beings are incredibly resilient, children especially so. We’ll all adapt. One day soon, normal life will resume – with a much greater appreciation for the things we took for granted before. What our kids will remember is the extra time they got to spend with their parents; the extra cuddles, the extra stories.

Right now, let’s all take a deep breath and cherish the closeness that comes with distancing.

You can contact The Ethics Centre about any of the issues discussed in this article. We offer free counselling for individuals via Ethi-callprofessional fee-for-service consulting, leadership and development services; and as a non-profit charity we rely heavily on donations to continue our work, which can be made via our websiteThank you.