Home-schooling is hard and these unprecedented times have certainly called for some unprecedented parenting. Jessica Alba admitted in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres to using spy cameras to ensure her children behaved during their Homeschooling lessons, and Ryan Reynolds even launched a new larger bottle of his American Aviation Gin to aide parents through the academic year.
However, one young gentleman from Cheltenham saw the opportunity to provide a unique service that would relieve some of the stress of parents reliving the trauma of their school days.
Oscar Mallett, 14, noticed the pressures of the pandemic on his neighbour’s family, who have two young daughters, back in the first lockdown of March 2020. He then quickly found a way to be of assistance to them by offering to read the two young girls’ a bedtime story over a Zoom call, in the evenings.
After the first night, one of the parents messaged Oscar’s mother, Jane Mallett, expressing her gratitude. She explained her thanks to Oscar as she could finally attend her evening work meetings guilt-free, knowing that her daughters were listening to him.
“It was a brilliant idea and he kept it going for months! Each night at 7pm the girls would settle into bed ready for their bedtime story!”
The neighbour’s mother is quoted as saying,
“Oscar reads beautifully and carries out brilliant voice overs and impersonations, really setting the scene for the story.”
And the parents weren’t his only fans.
“The kids love listening to him, some of them get really transfixed in the books when he’s reading, which is just amazing to see.”
Jane told me, next to a blushing Oscar, when I spoke to them earlier this week.
“It’s a good project for Oscar as well,”
“He’s got a real entrepreneurial spirit now.”
This became clear when Oscar told me what his business plans were when the latest lockdown was imposed.
Enlisting his mum as his ‘Social media Manager,’ he started advertising his ‘Bedtime stories with Oscar’ service to families from all over Cheltenham.
Posting a video to The Cheltenham Notice Board on Facebook Oscar rhetorically asked, ‘Have you had enough of your kids by 7 pm?’ And continued to explain that for just £2 per family, per month, he would read a bedtime story to entertain young children via Zoom call from 7-7:30pm Mon-Thurs with half the proceeds going to the WaterAid Charity.
“We’d been talking about expanding things before, but the lockdown (imposed 05/01/21) made us do it.”
Oscar told me,
“We thought it was good timing with schools not going back and everyone feeling so bleurgh.”
It was good timing and 8 more families rushed to get in on the deal. Oscar now reads to 12 children from 9 different families but “we’re always looking for more people who could benefit from this.” He told me.
One parent explained some of those benefits saying;
“For 30 minutes every day, I have the chance to catch up on things around the house or just sit down with a magazine and cuppa in the next room!”
These small benefits appear to be extremely important when you look at data from the Office for National Statistics; finding between 3 April and 10 May 2020, of parents who were homeschooling, one in three women (34%) agreed that it was negatively affecting their well-being compared with one in five men (20%), while 43% of homeschooling parents agreed that it was negatively affecting the well-being of their children.
“Reading is so important for that age group.”
Dawn Pitchford, a Teaching assistant from Bath said,
“Our school targets to hear all the children in a class read 2/3 times a week but with big classes, we often have to rely on parents making sure that the kids get that essential reading time in, outside of school hours.”
But as Richard Conway, the founder of ChildCare.co.uk, told the BBC
“Younger children need a bit of entertainment, and if parents are working they can’t always give them the time they need,”
Meaning that initiatives like Oscar’s and the virtual nannying services Childcare.co.uk provide are really important for parents, who are struggling to juggle working from home whilst being committed to childcare, to reach out too.
But if you do get used to the half an hour’s freedom at the end of the day, Oscar has assured me that he’s going to continue his virtual bedtime reading even after schools go back. Although he does wish to warn customers that they may see a small rise in subscription fees when they do.
For details on how to sign up to Bedtime stories with Oscar, contact Jane Mallett on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jane.mallett.311