Parents get ‘incomplete’ grade on pandemic homeschooling

September 16, 2020

ANN ARBOR—The pandemic homeschooling report card for many parents isn’t good.

As schools nationwide suspended in-person education, many parents felt overwhelmed and stressed about teaching their child at home, according to a new University of Michigan report.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented parents with new challenges on how best to prepare and support their children for a different school experience. In the early days of the pandemic, nearly 80% of parents were educating their child at home.

“Social distancing and stay-at-home orders disconnected millions of children from in-person education and left little time for parents to prepare to support their children’s education at home,” said Shawna Lee, the study’s lead author, associate professor of social work and director of the Parenting in Context Research Lab.

Lee and colleagues examined parenting and factors related to the transition to online learning experienced early in the pandemic.

Launched in mid-April, about four weeks after the White House administered social distancing guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the survey included responses from 405 U.S. parents who had at least one child age 12 and under. About half of the parents had a child between the ages of 2 and 5.

Among the findings:

  • Half of parents felt overwhelmed by their responsibilities to educate their children at home and one in four felt they did not have the resources they needed for at-home education.
  • About 24% of parents indicated that their child was fearful or anxious and 30% of parents indicated their child was nervous, high strung or tense.
  • Two out of every five parents met the criteria for major depression and criteria for moderate or severe anxiety.
  • Nearly 60% of parents who utilized free or reduced-cost breakfast or lunch programs were no longer able to receive that resource. This problem suggests that many school-age children faced hunger as the pandemic continued.
  • Economic hardship was common among the parents surveyed—24% reported an employment status change (e.g., laid off, furloughed) due to COVID-19.

Overall, however, 55% felt prepared for the educational responsibilities. For them, 77% opted for online tools or social media to teach their kids and 71% received support from the school. Some respondents said they collaborated with other parents.

Lee collaborated on the report with doctoral student Kaitlin Ward and undergraduate student Olivia Chang.

Study: Parents’ perceptions of the shift to home-based education during the Covid-19 pandemic
Shawna Lee
Kaitlin Ward
Parenting in Context Research Lab

Jared Wadley, 734-834-7719, [email protected]

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