It can be daunting helping your child navigate. This also applies to the work-life balance by ensuring that your children are engaged and learn.
Lisa Cantrell, director of marketing in Douglasville, Georgia, says math is the biggest challenge her nine and twelve year olds face – and them.
“I just set the expectation with them that I will teach them the way I know, and they have to translate it the way they were taught in school,” she says. “You still get mad when I don’t understand what you’re trying to explain to me.”
The blissfully uninitiated Common Core math methods require children to group numbers together to solve arithmetic problems, rather than the vertical “carry the one”
“Our second grade son learned ‘grouping’ math and my husband had to learn it. He said it was not intuitive,” says Monique Owens of Mableton, Georgia. “I refused to do the math part of anything.”
Some parents, like Brian Federico, an Atlanta director of product management, took this problem into their own hands.
“I taught my algebra in fourth grade to solve some problems because the other way was a learning pain,” he says.
Others rely on outside help to get them through.
“I don’t know the answer to 99% of the questions my six-year-old asks me,” said Suzanne Cala, Atlanta business operations director. “Thank god for YouTube, Alexa and Google.”
“YouTube was my best friend,” agrees Tracy Glanton of Mableton, Georgia, whose son finished fifth grade last year by studying online from home.
Casey Blackwood, mother of two, who also lives in Mableton, points out that math class isn’t the only time parents need to dust off their school knowledge.
“I also know that parents with children in distance learning programs sweat their Spanish skills in high school,” she says.
When mom or dad become tech support
The real issue isn’t the only thing parents need to pay more attention to now that part of their home has been converted into full-fledged classrooms.
On the one hand, there are the technical difficulties of online learning: with complicated course software, internet problems and errors with audiovisual equipment, parents play technical support before the first class of the day begins.
“They will do everything for your child, and that includes tracking eight thousand Zoom passwords,” says Amy Persinger, a nurse from Bethesda, Maryland. While speaking with CNN, she had to take a break to help her fourth grade son sign up for one of his classes.
In schools that use online meeting software, children may need to make a different video call for each class. If they fail to log in or fail to start due to connection issues, it can cause disruption – and sometimes tears.
Persinger says she learned from past mistakes and now keeps the most common credentials – classroom, main grades – on a laminated sheet in case one of her three children struggles while she or her husband is busy.
And – surprise! – It is not exactly easy to keep children occupied with a computer screen for several hours a day.
“The biggest challenge was keeping my nine-year-old at work,” said Sareh Baca, an Atlanta-based portfolio manager. “I set her up and then jump to a meeting. About 75% of the times I come back to check on her, she watches YouTube or plays video games. I had to ask her older sister for help, but this do not do it.” It doesn’t always end well and she has her own job to do. “
Parents will have to juggle even more than usual in 2020
When distance learning child is difficult, the job becomes even more complex as you add more children and equally dispersed adult work situations.
Persinger, the nurse, recently returned to work part-time. This means that she and her husband have to balance both work schedules and the schedules of their three children, who all attend different schools and each have a different combination of distance and face-to-face teaching.
How does she hold everything together? Aside from the laminated passwords and the amount of organization, it’s important to stay as levelheaded as possible.
“Of course, try to get some exercise, sleep, and eat well,” she says. “And you just have to take it day after day. Because if you look too far into the future, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.”
For Persinger’s family, this also means getting all the positive aspects out of an objectively challenging – and sometimes impossible – situation.
“I think some parents get insight into how their children are learning and where their shortcomings and strengths lie,” she says. “And the children had to learn a lot about resilience and flexibility.”
But even the best prepared parents have bad days. Your kid has just started a confusing new math unit, the internet is off again, and the bills are piling up – while you’ve been trapped in your house-slash, school-slash, and school-slash quarantine for months.
When it all gets too much, many parenting support groups suggest an off-label remedy: a glass of wine and a good shout.