Homeschooling with limited English

19 May, 2021
A child being studying with a parent.

While most parents in New Zealand scrambled to homeschool their children during the Covid-19 lockdowns, those who speak English as a second language found it particularly tough.

Research from the Care and Responsibility Under Lockdown (CARUL) study sheds light on the difficulty that migrant women from Indonesia had in preventing their children from slipping behind in their schooling.

AUT researcher Dr Nelly Martin-Anatias conducted in-depth interviews with eight of the respondents who were Muslim mothers and non-native speakers of English.

“Lockdown was hard for everyone, but these mums, for whom English is a second language, really stepped up last year,” Dr Martin-Anatias says.

“The homeschooling was not only physically and mentally challenging, but also linguistically demanding for these migrant mothers, particularly for the school lessons that require English skills.

“Math is not easy for many people – but imagine trying to teach it in a foreign language.”

Dr Martin-Anatias says that often it was these women’s husbands who passed the language proficiency requirements to move to New Zealand.

The husbands were usually the breadwinners in the family, and during lockdown worked from home. Although these husbands helped out more with the domestic work, the homeschooling fell to the mums.

“If a similar lockdown happens in the future, then migrant mothers really do need more support to homeschool their children.”

Dr Martin-Anatias says these migrant mothers were the central figures that kept their bubbles together during lockdown.

“They tended to assume the additional responsibilities quietly, due their beliefs of what it means to be a mother (Ibuism), acquired in Indonesia.”

“They idolised Jacinda Ardern, as a woman who was Prime Minister and a mother at the same time. Thus, while difficult and challenging as it was, these migrant mothers found mothering during lockdown relatable and a nobility.”

The research is part of the international Care and Responsibility Under Lockdown study, led in Aotearoa by AUT, and for which a team of researchers surveyed 3644 New Zealanders about their experiences of the country’s first Covid-19 lockdown.

It is headed by Associate Professor Nicholas Long at the London School of Economics and Political Science, in collaboration with academics from AUT, The University of Auckland, Victoria University, The University of Waikato, Kaitiaki Research and Evaluation, Australian National University and Monash University.

Prior research from the CARUL study, Negotiating risks and responsibilities during lockdown, was published in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand in January.

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