The pre-COVID-19 routine had its stresses for families. Living in a time of pandemic has meant for some adapting to the changes of the home turning into both workspace and school. This has brought a different set of stressors. The Catholic News got the views of parents on staff and affiliated with CN about how they are coping with virtual learning.
So far so good
Simone, copyeditor, parent of a 16-year-old said, “Two weeks ahead of the start of the term, she regulated herself to her normal schedule after I had a quiet word with her. It was not the way I would have envisioned her crucial Form Four year to begin.”
Her daughter is enjoying e-learning; it is a mix of live classes and notes and homework. There were “one or two near misses” in the first week, when she did not see emails from school but she and her friends support each other online. “She has begun the term motivated which alleviated some of my anxiety. I am also pleased with the hard work the teachers and administration have put in,” Simone said. During the week day, they check in on each other and chat. Her daughter works from her bedroom.
A laptop had to be borrowed. “There is apparently a shortage in the country when the attempt to purchase one was made. There was no way given my work schedule and the increased number of classes this term that we could have shared one laptop.” Weekends are their time to truly reconnect, given Simone’s work schedule, and with her daughter spending more time completing assignments. “Sundays have become even more valuable to us now…it is a daily matter of ensuring she’s ok.” Meals are sometimes late; balancing everything can at times get overwhelming. Simone said she told a colleague, “A good cry in the shower is cathartic!”
Multi-tasking and late nights
Charmaine, accountant, parent of Faithe, 11 and Grace 7.
Standard Five pupil Faithe has online classes Monday to Wednesday 9 a.m. to noon with breaks and Thursdays and Friday’s assignments are sent in the morning to be returned at 3 p.m. Standard One pupil Grace has two online classes Tuesday and Thursday 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. for 30-40 minutes. Assignments are sent every day at 5 p.m. One of the challenges to the online learning has been loss of electricity and internet. One Thursday Faithe missed her 3 p.m. deadline due to a power outage, the completed work was sent at about 8 p.m.
Charmaine described how she worked around her children’s schedule. “I have to wake up Faithe early enough to be in class from 9 a.m. while she is there and using my system, I will have to use my mobile now I also have another system at home I can use but it is not as fast. I have to wait for her to finish 12 p.m. 12.30 p.m. before I could sit and do my work.” She however, also has to supervise Grace who also has school work to do. “As a parent, helping a 7-year-old, trying to do work on a phone and sometimes Faithe will ask me for help even though she is in class—something will happen with the laptop or she will have a query, the teacher will ask them something and she is not too sure about.” Lunch has to be prepared whereas if they were at school lunch would be done or they would utilise the “box lunch” from the School Feeding Programme.
After classes there is Faithe’s homework—videos to watch, research to do, projects to prepare—requiring use of the computer. Charmaine said, “Grace now still has to do her work so by the time evening comes sometimes I am not doing work until 9 p.m. 10 p.m. in the night”.
She works from office two days a week so her husband, who also works, monitors the virtual learning.
Time management critical
Kaelanne, writer/media relations officer, parent of six-year-old Amani said, “Work is being sent to Google Classroom daily. The school term officially began on Tuesday (September 15) with at least 3-4 assignments being posted for that week. The first day, Tuesday, five subject areas were given for school work.” Amani’s school work involves viewing YouTube videos, as a guide, then completing it using his textbooks and uploading on Google Classroom. Kaelanne said, “It is quite stressful juggling working from home, and juggling my son’s school work. It’s not practical to simply focus on my day- to- day work life and leave my son to complete his school work on his own. Because there are particular days in the week where I’m required to be fully accessible virtually, no school work is done those days. Therein lies another challenge, as the schoolwork piles up”.
Time management is critical. She has learned to have a productive day requires preparation for it on the night before. Kaelanne said, “By doing this I’m able to outline my work tasks, and their deadlines in order to know how much time I can facilitate to be present for my son’s school work”.
Gerard-Paul, CN freelance photographer, parent of Eli 10 years. Classes are held Monday to Friday held 9 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. with breaks. “It is kind of challenging but for me I don’t really mind that much because there isn’t much for me going on right now with this whole thing there isn’t any events and I used to rely on events”. Gerard-Paul prefers to have his son home during this time as a preventive measure. “I think children spread viruses quicker than adults, having him go to school I don’t think the Ministry of Education is prepared or capable of keeping our children safe”. He said to be at school social distancing and wearing a mask all day is unfair to children.
Gerard-Paul said he had no issues with e-learning since Eli’s betterment is the priority. Eli is using his laptop while he used a desktop. He checked in on him regularly. “As a parent you have to be on the ball, if you leave them idle for too long the temptation is there, they can go on to You Tube they may be tempted to play any video games that may be on the system or go online and find other things to distract them.” He said Eli was good at focusing on his classes.
A team effort
Kathryn, general manager, parent of two teens in secondary school and three boys in primary.
Two of her sons are in Standard One, one is in Standard Three (private primary) her girls are in Form Two and Form Four. “Socially my kids are close in age and so don’t feel isolated. Home schooling has given lovely relaxing mornings” because it has taken away the morning grind of traffic. “Face-to-face” classes are held 8 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. for her son in Standard One and until 1.15 p.m. for the Standard Three. “Each child had to have a device, made possible by family loaning and giving us, what we didn’t have”. She said the online classes for the primary school was excellent, “kids know just what to do, where to log in for class, homework etc. younger ones need help to submit”. The teens are independent and need less supervision for school. The younger children supervised with their homework, which can be submitted up to 9 p.m. the next day to accommodate working parents.
Kathryn said, “Balancing home stuff takes a team, everyone pitches in because we have no help except for my parents once a week. Meals are very simple; we don’t fuss about having a perfectly clean house! And my husband is an angel!”