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Academics in Pandemics | Carrie Oliver | #LetsResetNormal


United Kingdom

My daughter is not a teacher; she runs her own business in finance. Now she is expected to home tutor an autistic six-year-old whilst entertaining her two year old. Her husband, who is also working from home and is happy to share teaching responsibility, is a key worker supporting a large IT network and hasn’t been off the phone for a minute since his company’s employees started connecting remotely.

It is frightening and daunting to be responsible for this little person’s education. Not many parents have this primary role but there can be huge benefits for parent, child and their relationship as a family.

Routine is key. Young minds thrive on routine and boundaries. Of course, they like to break them but then there is fun (and learning) to be had in deciding on rewards and sanctions. Great negotiating skills required by all.

But the positives don’t stop there. Suddenly this new parent-child relationship is turned on its head and new respect develops by both parties as control is gained over the situation. The child will receive the continuity of attention that is vital for his/her emotional development. Many childhood behaviours that are less than desirable are born from inattention. Not deliberate but just as a by-product of the rush that constitutes modern life. There is more considered time to get ready in the morning, time to build in breakfast when desired not dictated, time to talk and time to recognise our children’s strengths and weaknesses. 

This virus has caused massive anxiety not just to adults but to our children. They may be themselves less vulnerable but they will be consumed by fear for parents or grandparents. Even the little ones who don’t directly understand why their world is upside down will absorb the general fear around them. However, they are wrapped in their familiar environment with the ones that love them the most and so we are right there to heal their disquiet as we calmly follow a new routine.

Then there is the learning itself. Maybe you feel ‘under-knowledged’. The role doesn’t require it. It’s about facilitation and developing the softer skills of learning, the learner attributes. These are so vitally important for learner success and so difficult to measure in the school environment. How much encouragement does your child need to persevere at a task? Can they organise themselves? Can they find the right equipment to do the job? Do they learn better by watching or doing? What a privilege it is that you can directly support what they find more challenging and you get to watch their skills evolve. As parents, we don’t often get the chance to see our children’s academic profile in action.

The big plus that my daughter has experienced is being able to spike through a real element of ‘fun’ and the children themselves can be fully involved in the planning stage. She didn’t know that her child enjoyed cooking until the Maths challenge set by the school. He even ate the food which is not always a given.

Parents begin to see the relevance of their children’s learning and integrate it without the artificial barriers of school vs home life. The children see their parents working from home and they start to develop an understanding of why we work. It can be a win-win.

I am not glossing over the squabbles and frustrations of being cooped up in small buildings. These are real. Discipline and allocated time slots interspersed with free negotiated rest and play zones can make you see your children in a whole different and vital light. Remember, quality time spent with your child is as vital as any educational experience. Embrace and enjoy this unique opportunity.

For further information

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Academics in Pandemics | Carrie Oliver | #LetsResetNormal

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