When the UK froze in late March, parents across the country were suddenly called upon to home-school their children.
The theory was simple – while Mum and Dad worked from home, little Janet and John would be following lessons online. Learning would take place around the kitchen table.
The reality brought mixed results. Some parents have been tearing their hair out dealing with cries of ‘what do I do now?’ before turning into quivering wrecks waiting for wine o’clock to come around.
Top marks: The attic of this house in Kingston, Surrey, has a schoolroom
Others have taken their new role more seriously, even setting aside a room for home-schooling.
Claire Clapp, 43, has built from scratch a purpose-built work room for her daughter, Emilia, seven.
‘Having that space to do school work in gives Emilia a sense of ownership and it stimulates her imagination,’ says Claire, a company director living in Tenterden, Kent. ‘It means she can leave her work about, without having to tidy things away.’
Claire had the home-schooling room built a few weeks before the virus scare was underway.
Previously a cold store with a tiled floor, she made it warmer by having the plaster removed and installing proper insulation.
Then she had brightly decorated shelves and cupboards put in, together with a Swedish gym with wall bars and hanging hoops, a slide and an indoor climbing frame.
Hard at work: Children studying at home
‘It’s good for her to have a ten-minute break on the equipment if she has spent a long time sitting down,’ says Claire, who recently sold the Grade II-listed six-bedroom house with Jackson Stops for £1,450,000.
According to the BBC, the number of children home-schooled in Britain rose by 40 per cent in the three years prior to 2018.
It is a fair bet that the trend will continue, with more parents having had the chance to sample home-schooling first- hand during the pandemic.
Some form of purpose-built property is going to be attractive to these people, especially those with several children.
Sodston Manor, near Narbeth in Pembrokeshire, is a listed Victorian manor house that has been used as a small independent day school since 2015. There are several classrooms downstairs.
The house has ornamental plasterwork on the ceilings and an impressive staircase leading up to the four bedrooms.
With 1.5 acres of grounds, Sodston Manor is for sale with Fine and Country for £600,000.
Some parents – notably those who favour the Montessori teaching methods – believe children should have a say in their own learning.
Montessori teaching advocates children learning through discovery.
A carefully designed work room is all important.
‘It should be a light, airy, appealing space, preferably with easy access to a garden,’ says Dr Helen Prochazka, a trustee of Montessori UK.
‘The chairs should be child-sized and mats are useful. Avoid clutter.’
Parents favouring this form of learning may be interested in a large, detached Victorian home for sale in Kingston upon Thames, which has a loft already converted into a Montessori school room, complete with mini-bookcases and child-sized tables and chairs.
The five-bedroom house, which featured in the John Lewis Christmas advertisements in 2014, is for sale with Savills for £2.8million.
Is using a special room for home-schooling worth the upheaval? ‘Most certainly,’ says Dr Prochazka.
‘Having their own space encourages children to organise themselves and that makes for a much calmer atmosphere throughout the family home.’