Whether this past week was enjoyable or a living nightmare, at-home learning has been a huge adjustment for parents and their students.
Some parents are in social distance survival mode, juggling full-time jobs with multiple children who are never not hungry. In the midst of a global pandemic that’s causing toilet paper and milk shortages as well as a constant fear of financial and occupational insecurity, expecting parents to also take on a teaching role for their own kids is a big request.
Jessica Bruyer, of McDonald, has a 127-acre farm to manage, with 12 cattle, six new calves, 15 pregnant ewes, 14 turkeys, 20 ducks and 25 chickens, she said in a Facebook comment. She said the farm has “more customers than ever” since the grocery stores are often emptied out.
She also has a sixth-grader and a kindergartner, she said in the comment, who are now doing schoolwork at home.
“The sixth-grader is mostly self-sufficient, thank God, but the kindergartner has been given a full school day’s time worth of work each day,” Bruyer said in the social media post. “It is literally impossible. If I had the time to home-school, I’d already be doing it. This is insane. I know I am not the only person who absolutely cannot do this. I hear you, I feel you, what are we supposed to do?”
Like many other parents, Kristi Oram, of North Strabane, said after a week of having her kindergartner and second-grader home from school, she’s still trying to “find our new normal.” Even with teaching experience, Oram said teaching her own children in their home is entirely different, especially with a toddler, two pets and all the added stress that accompanies the COVID-19 pandemic.
She struggled to get her second-grader to complete the work Canon-McMillan sent home with him. She tried virtual museums, online resources and other activities to continue learning at home for her students, while fielding questions like will they see their friends again and when can they go back to school.
School woes were just the beginning of Oram’s stress. She soon had reason to worry about her husband’s job security and whether she’d have essential supplies and groceries as the stores were clearing out.
“Uncertainty and anxiousness have taken over any attempt to plan a day of online school,” she said. “All I know right now is I have no answers. I cannot even make a promise of favorite foods right now.”
When she received word that Canon-McMillan would not have online learning in place for another week, she cried.
“Reality set in at that moment,” she said. “I have no idea what we will be doing this week.”
Even with online learning in place, Oram is worried her children’s education will suffer. She said she’s trying to maintain some level of “normal” in the chaos.
“I am now in a position where I feel like I am setting my kids up for failure during the most important years of their education,” she said. “I feel like we are a ship with a small hole and taking on water.”
Some parents are taking a different approach to at-home learning, by teaching life skills, physical education and using any online programming available for academic material.
Jessie Simpson, of Canton Township, has tried to maintain a schedule with her children, Jenna, 7, and Jace, 9, who attend Trinity North Elementary. This past week they’ve done multiplication relays, planted a fairy garden, completed science projects, drew pictures to hang in the windows for their neighbors and completed Lego challenges. They also watch live Facebook programs from the Cincinnati Zoo.
“It’s an adjustment for them being home, but they love it,” Simpson said. “They love getting the one-on-one education. It helps to have technology.”
Kate Banaszak, of Canonsburg, said her children, John, 10, and Mia, 8, have been working on trick shots every day, as they both play lacrosse and hockey. All of their tournaments and practices have been canceled.
She said they spend some time on academic learning and read every day, but they’ve also gotten creative with setting up workouts in the garage.
“It’s really been affecting my daughter for the social aspect,” Banaszak said. “She loves her teacher and she loves her school. She just really misses it.”
Kathy Vash, of West Pike Run Township, said her three children, who attend California district schools, learned how to make pierogis at home this past week. Her children, Grace, 13, Jacob, 11, and Emma, 9, will be starting up distance learning online soon.
“I imagine that will be somewhat self-paced,” Vash said.
She said she’s taking a “back-to-basics” approach to teaching her children at home.
“All of my kids do well in school, so I’m not really concerned that they’ll get behind,” she said. “People I think panic a little bit about what the kids are learning, but there’s so much technology now. There are things they can learn every day.”
Dorthy Curry has a third-grader, Naomi, at John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Washington, which started online distance learning Monday. Curry said in addition to the online school work and activities, they’re also doing some reading, online music lessons and gardening.
“They prepared for this last week and set up for this,” Curry said about the school. “They put together a rotating schedule for the kids to keep them interested in what they’re doing and to keep them from getting overwhelmed.”