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The lessons learned through Covid-19 school disruptions have amplified calls to envision education in ways that respond to unpredictable crises and finally redress educational inequities that have been further complicated by the pandemic (Pinar, 2020). This blog is based on our contribution to the imagining of such an education with the findings of our collective biography of ‘household curriculum’ in Ontario, Canada conducted during the early days of the pandemic (see Zhang et al., 2023). Building on a sociomaterial orientation to curriculum-making as a relational effect (see for example Heydon et al., 2015), the term household curriculum refers to the in-the-moment enactments of teaching, learning and knowledge production occurring in kinship households. Our study was concerned with documenting and analysing the production, constituents and opportunities of these curricula across seven diverse parent-co-researcher households.

The parent-co-researchers were education professors, graduate students and/or school/community educators who were also parents to children aged 2–15 years. The households varied in composition, culture and language, socioeconomic status, and school choice. Parent-co-researchers documented and shared with each other what they saw as their household curricula through images, videos and written vignettes. The concepts of ‘striated’ and ‘smooth’ spaces (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987) helped the study attend to how and what constituents assembled to enable or constrain knowing, doing and becoming. Structured activities within a specific timeframe and in accordance with predetermined curricular expectations are characteristic of striated spaces. Here, learners’ movements are predetermined by normative and hierarchical structures such as timetables, schedules, classificatory placements and tracking practices. Smooth spaces, however, are dynamic spaces that invite the unexpected through learners’ exploration and collective knowledge production.


The study found two distinct phases over the time of data collection: the lockdown in spring and summer 2020 (Phase I) followed by school re-openings (virtual and/or in person) in autumn 2020 (Phase II).

Phase I household curricula:

  • were full of smooth spaces, produced out of normal time and structures
  • were no longer bound by measurable outcomes which enabled ‘liberational learning’ (Maber, 2018, p. 572) despite government lockdown policies to limit physical movements
  • blurred the boundaries between formal and informal learning and parents’ engagements with work/study/childcare
  • traversed day and night, real and virtual; and produced novel opportunities for surprisingly expansive, embodied learning opportunities that included diverse languages, subject matter, media, materials and knowledge not normally accessible in formal schooling.

In Phase II:

  • the smoother spaces of Phase I were striated by school re-opening which forced the households to re-engage with institutional demands for norms, discipline, standardisation and evaluation, whether children returned to in-person learning or not
  • families began to experience technologies as limiting with competition for devices and bandwidth
  • digital devices were also now experienced as implicated in the management and monitoring of school curricula and achievement
  • some parents reported that teachers were under pressure to teach narrowly scoped and sequential skills-based lessons and prepare learners for standardised or high-stakes assessment resulting in a focus on children sitting on chairs in confined spaces and forgoing interests and discovery.

‘Our findings align with emerging international literature that disrupts the dominant narratives of learning loss during the pandemic and focuses instead on the lessons of respecting households’ resilliant creativity and the importance of loosening school curricula.’


Striated and smooth spaces were never absolute in either phase but rather in ‘constant co-existence and dialogue’ (Maber, 2018, p. 567). In Phase I, ironically the lockdown moved learning out of normal bounds, enabling smoother spaces where household curricula were characterised by innovation, novelty and new engagements. The reimposition of institutional schooling in Phase II created increased striated spaces with predetermined learning outcomes which superseded household curricula and limited engagements, unregulated movement and experimentation. These findings align with emerging international literature that disrupts the dominant narratives of learning loss during the pandemic and focuses instead on the lessons of respecting households’ resilliant creativity and the importance of loosening school curricula.

This blog post is based on the article ‘Household curricula during the COVID-19 pandemic: A collective biography’ by Zheng Zhang and colleagues published in the Curriculum Journal.


Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press.

Heydon, R., Moffatt, L., & Iannacci, L. (2015). ‘Every day he has a dream to tell’: Classroom literacy curriculum in a full-day kindergarten. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 47(2), 171–202.

Maber, E. J. T. (2018). Undoing exclusions/expanding inclusion: Conceptualizing spaces for gendered learning and citizenship constructions in Myanmar’s transition. Curriculum Inquiry, 48(5), 560–579. 

Pinar, W. (2020). Call for submissions: Special issues of prospects on curricular responsiveness to crisis. Springer.

Zhang, Z., Heydon, R., Chen, L., Floyd, L. A., Ghannoum, H., Ibdah, S., Massouti, A., Shen, J., & Swesi, H. (2023). Household curricula during the COVID-19 pandemic: A collective biography. Curriculum Journal. Advance online publication.

More content by Zheng Zhang, Rachel Heydon and Emma Cooper