Life at Home with Online Education

We asked real parents about their new home life and the sudden changes they and their children have faced since school campus closures. Every family has their own unique experiences with virtual school but all have their pros and cons.

Jennifer, from Pace, FL, and her two children (one in 3rd grade and one in 6th grade) have enjoyed the flexibility in their days. When the kids are in great moods, she finds them utilizing their time to expand their knowledge and find real growth. For example, her 3rd grader took it upon herself to research Rube Goldberg machines and build several ones herself. On the flip side, the lack of a consistent schedule has brought up challenges. Jennifer is a teacher herself, so she must balance her online teaching schedule with assisting her own children in their studies. In this situation, she expects her kids to be self-sufficient and stay on top of their work and assignments. She has also noticed some inconsistencies with the teachers. Her 3rd grader’s teacher has been organized and set high expectations of her students, regardless of not being in school physically. On the other hand, her 6th grader, who has several teachers, is dealing each teacher running their online classroom very differently, which can be confusing and more challenging to stay focused.
Every home situation varies. “I believe this way of learning is efficient for the privileged, frankly. If you have access to resources and parents who can help keep you on track, it can be a blessing. If you are hungry and you don’t have internet and your learning from a packet without any guidance…not so much”.

Alex, from Sunrise, FL, is at home with her VPK and 2nd grader. When everything first happened, she found herself a bit out of sorts. All in the same day, her kids were no longer going to school, her gym was closed down and her work had to lay off the majority of their employees. “It was a huge adjustment to return to this slow-paced life that I used live”. Alex used to be a stay at home when her kids were younger but that lifestyle was in her past until now. She found the first two weeks to be very emotional as the future was so unpredictable and her family had to adjust to their new routines. At about a month in, Alex is seeing a positive change. Her kids are showing less anxiety with both their mommy and daddy at home. Their days are more fluid and relaxed, with no rushing to get to the next obligation on time. “We are exactly where we need to be”.

Erin, who lives in Tampa, FL, is at home with her 1st and 4th grader. She and her family love being able to sleep in and spend time on their school work at their own pace. Challenges revolve around technology for her kids. Apps, such as Edsby, sometimes don’t work. Teachers use different apps so bouncing back and forth between them can be confusing. Some apps turn in work assignments automatically while others require logging in and marking work as “completed” manually.

Since the teachers have to be reliant on wording their lessons to be extremely clear and concise (versus explaining face to face and answering student questions in real time) their instructions sometimes contradict one another. When school gets confusing, her kids utilize FaceTime to call their peers and help each other out.

“I feel bad for the families that don’t have access to enough computers and have to share. Those that don’t have printers. I couldn’t imagine”. Erin is also very grateful that she isn’t working right now because she is guiding her kids in the online schooling for 6 hours a day! Erin has found support from a group text chat of other parents in her kid’s class. “We have really been there for each other and that has been a saving grace”. Some kids also do not want to learn from their parents. The separation between home and school has been removed and it can be a struggle to suddenly become teacher and not just mom.

Laura, in Pennsburg, PA is at home with 4 children! Her youngest two are not in school but she manages to balance a newborn, a toddler, a 5-year-old, a 7-year-old and a part time job teaching English to Chinese students. Wow! Her husband is home, too, now, but he works full-time as department head at a private school.

Laura says she loves having all of her children at home and learning online. Granted, she has been a teacher for 10+ years, she flourishes in the home school setting. A parent knows what their children need and how they learn best so Laura carefully chooses what teachable moments to focus on and creates a custom and personalized learning environment for each of her school aged daughters. The girls have a daily schedule and a mix of online and tangible assignments. All of their resources, lessons and materials are prepped and available at any time. Laura boosts about how wonderful their school and teachers are. “They are superheroes”, she says. If there was thing she could ask for, though, it would be more availability from their teachers. “Sometimes I think she’s working while I’m with one of the others, but really she’s stuck on the same problem for 20 minutes! And doesn’t say she needs help! It’s such a tough situation because I do want her to problem solve independently, it just cannot take that long”. In the classroom, this isn’t so bad because her daughter has direct communication with her teacher to answer questions and guide her. Laura’s pro tip? Use “Alexa” as a timer and reminder for each assignment.

Laura’s 7-year-old daughter has struggled previously with time management, regardless of being at school or education at home. They are working on completing and turning in assignments on time. Laura and her children also encounter challenges when it comes to finding a quiet space for learning. They have a full house! Dad is home online teaching, Laura is helping two kids in school, while attending to a nursing baby and a clingy exuberant toddler. Even though her plate is overflowing, Laura remains positive and takes gratitude in the fact that her entire family is together during this time. The self-quarantine means not having to worry about driving the kids to extracurriculars and such and primarily focusing on one another, their home and their special family bond.

Alexis in Land O’Lakes, FL is at home with five of her school aged children. Just this year, all 5 of her kids started at the same private school, which they have all been very pleased with. Since the campus has closed about a month ago, she has found herself suddenly being a teacher to a 4th grader, 6th grader, 8th grader and two high schoolers in their sophomore and junior years. Alexis has found a lot of pros in their new virtual education experience thus far. First off, she gets to experience her kids as students, something that parents usually only hear about in teacher conferences or through awards and school recognitions. This has given her the opportunity to see where each child needs her support most, as well as acknowledge their strengths. Alexis is also really loving spending so much more time at home with her children. Their quality time together has been something that she feels they were missing out on before. All 5 kids are very active between school, sports, recitals, practices and visiting friends. In fact, they have been gone from home 10-12 hours of the day. Now that they are home full-time, “I have learned so much about my children and how to interact better with them. We have grown as family, and hopefully, have instilled some lasting lessons and memories”.

Though life together has been very sweet, there are also some cons to their new lifestyle. For example, the kids miss the social aspect of going to school five days a week. The ability to ask a teacher a question after class, to laugh with their friends in the hallway and to be recognized for their independent hard work, no longer exists in the virtual classroom. Alexis has also realized the scope of advanced level of lessons her children are learning. Most of the things they are learning are beyond her current scope of knowledge, making her feel a bit inadequate. And for the subjects she can help with, usually her kids don’t take her advise as well. Learning from a parent versus a teacher is night and day. “Teachers and students have a unique bond and through this crisis, I acknowledge that more than ever”.

Alexis is very satisfied with the private school and how they have handled transitioning the students to virtual education. The school is very organized and sends parents updates and asks for feedback so they can improve their procedures. The teachers interact with their students on a daily basis and have provided as many resources they can. Overall, Alexis and her family are loving the extra family bonding time and thriving in their situation.

Even celebrity moms are feeling the pressure of being teachers now. Jennifer Lopez, did a virtual interview with Ellen DeGeneres. She said “Have you seen the math that they make the kids do now? It’s a new math!”. Kim Kardashian, at home with her 4 kids, recently posted on Instagram in an attempt to make a make-up tutorial video but is interrupted multiple times by her 6-year-old, North. “I’m hiding in the guest room, you guys, I’m hiding in the guest room because my kids will not leave me alone” says Kim. And as she becomes a bit more exasperated when her daughter won’t leave her space, she says “North, can I please just do my little tutorial? It’s all I wanna do, is one little fun thing for myself!”. Ahhhh, Kim, welcome to the real world of parenting and accept the fact that you may never get to pee in the bathroom alone (or do your makeup) ever again. At least not for a long time. Maybe other parents out there can find some comfort knowing that even some of the biggest celebrities are struggling a little bit, too, right now.

I am personally a bit relieved that my daughter is only 2 ½, so we do not have to fret about school assignments being turned in one time online. Instead, we are home making pancakes together in the morning, exploring nature by going on scavenger hunts, making snakes from pipe cleaners & Cheerios, learning how to count to 10 and getting a lot more extra snuggles in.

We would love to hear from you and your personal experiences, thoughts and feelings on the sudden transition from classroom to living room for your children’s’ education.