As the coronavirus multiplies exponentially, so do the demands on parents’ schedules, as many schools across the country implement distance learning.
The previous week, when schools had closed but distance learning hadn’t yet begun, came with its own challenges. Moms posted their brightly colored homeschool schedules on Facebook, and we all reassured each other that we were doing just great.
My own schedule for our three children, ages 4, 7 and 10, included morning yoga, baking banana bread and listening to a science podcast. We pulled out a world atlas and started learning about countries in alphabetical order. My kids are now experts on Afghanistan.
It was tiring to invent a schedule for my kids while also doing my own work, but I did it and felt quite accomplished. They were happy, I was happy.
That week, a video of a mother of four in Israel went viral. The Jewish state had started quarantining earlier than the United States, and their schools had already implemented distance learning.
In the video, the mom begs teachers to take their foot off the gas and lower expectations. I cried laughing when she described her youngest child’s music teacher sending over a music score. “What am I supposed to do with this? What, do I have a band in the house? I can’t read music! Just one second, let me get my clarinet!”
Now, I’m just crying. It turns out distance learning is nothing like my cozy little homeschool program.
Now there is a constant barrage of links, passwords, Google classroom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom. It’s too much: We get messages from their music teachers, their art teachers, librarians, even their gym teachers. They take attendance strictly.
Parents with little kids in day care report that they are asked to check in for a half-hour Zoom session every day. If you have ever tried to make a toddler sit still for half an hour, you can imagine the good times that are had. Sure, they don’t have to do it, but who wants to be the parent who couldn’t produce a happy-looking child for the daily video check-in?
You can just sense the silent judgment if your child doesn’t show up. What, is your kid too busy watching YouTube to say hello and learn important toddler matters?
A friend described it as suddenly becoming an administrative assistant to the busiest, and tiniest, CEOs. We schedule their calls, make sure their work stays on track, get them to stop for lunch and even make that lunch. And, oh yeah, my husband and I have jobs, too.
By the way, it isn’t your imagination — Internet speeds are buckling under all this usage.
New Yorkers are known for being Type A. We’re ambitious strivers. We’re ass-kickers. We’ll get through this — both the pandemic and its educational side effects.
But we need the education system’s permission to loosen up with our children right now. This should be a time of baking banana bread and listening to mildly educational podcasts. This shouldn’t be a time of overscheduling and intense Latin lessons.
Everyone is doing the best they can and, for once, I’m not here to knock the city Department of Education. The schools have done a stellar job of setting up distance learning in a matter of days, at a variety of education levels.
Our teachers have produced entire online curricula, all while dealing with their own quarantined families. They deserve our thanks and respect.
But it’s too much, and right now, most official learning, especially for kids in grade school, should be optional. The kids will be fine. We may even discover that they got a lot out of this time spent hanging out with their parents.
For the sake of parental sanity, we need a method to opt out or slow down. Let’s acknowledge this atypical time by letting our kids take a different learning route. Their adult assistants need a respite.