COVID19 Parenting

Day 53: School . . .

May 7, 2020

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I would like to note that “school at home” is not going perfectly.

One of my kids is probably going to need some extra help/tutoring over the summer.

One of my kids has been . . . less motivated to do assignments recently, particularly assignments that are not turned in.

One of my kids has taken to throwing outright tantrums when the assigned work is not to their liking (or current strengths).

One of my kids (okay, this one is pretty obvious) is constantly interrupting her older siblings and putting her 2 cents into class zoom meetings.

It is chaotic and while I can hear the commotion, I am usually not in it. Sometimes I am upstairs seeing tele patients. Sometimes I am upstairs in meetings or doing GME work. Today I am recording podcasts, which yes — I recognize, I could have scheduled later in the day, but I didn’t. I had been sort of operating under the assumption that our nanny/the kids could handle things but it’s becoming increasingly clear that they could all use some more help.

The online education is absolutely better than nothing and I commend the teachers for what they have been doing and how flexible they have been (I send them Erin Condren gift cards last week for teacher appreciation!). BUT sadly, it is not an ideal learning environment in many, many homes. Even ours! School at home is also going to increase socioeconomic disparities, with some interesting twists. The “ideal” scenario features:

  • A stay-at-home parent who is reasonably tech-savvy
  • One child, or at most 2 children
  • NO toddlers or babies (or I guess okay if there is a dedicated OTHER child care provider for them)

I am recognizing that I probably should be helping more with schoolwork on my more flexible days. The truth is that I am not excited about adding that to my schedule. But I should. I will. And maybe Josh can too. We have about a month left (last day = June 2).

I agree with so many of you who commented yesterday that the “What Will School Look Like” articles are driving them crazy (they are total clickbait, totally speculative, and very anxiety-provoking). BUT man — I deeply hope that school starts on schedule this fall. Rushed mornings and all. And I am so incredibly grateful for our teachers and the fact that school as a social construct exists.


  1. Nature Pic
  2. Name That Movie! (ha)
  3. South Floridians – to see in the sky tomorrow!
nature pic

PS: Emily Oster (economist, author and former BOBW guest!) has started a website. I like the non-panicky tone and data-driven angle. Check it out at COVID-19 EXPLAINED


  • Reply Michelle May 7, 2020 at 10:44 am

    I am “lucky” enough to be on unemployment right now (I’m an optometrist), while my husband is still working, so I am able to watch my kids without any other responsibilities.

    But at the same time, I am the one responsible for watching my toddler while homeschooling my kindergartener. And I would love it, if my toddler (2.5) was able to play independently, but yeah… that’s not happening. I feel bad for everyone homeschooling right now with younger kids also in the house. It really feels like my kindergartener is going to be at a disadvantage compared to all those without younger siblings (which seems to be all of his friends, they are all only children for some reason??).

  • Reply gwinne May 7, 2020 at 10:55 am

    I’d be interested in hearing you say more about what your kids are actually expected to do for homeschooling.

    I’ve basically given up on ours, as it either involves (a) a packet of work that is not particularly challenging for my kid or (b) a series of youtube videos and responses recorded online. It’s busy work. It’s not meeting my son’s educational needs, and I have to fight him to do it. He even resents their class zoom meetings.

    The value of homeschooling as I see it is actually gearing education to the needs of the child. I never imagined myself homeschooling–I’m a working parent!–but if I have to, it should at least be MY WAY.

    I might rant some on my own blog later. We’re having a particularly bad day in this regard.

    • Reply Abby May 8, 2020 at 11:13 am

      My experience sounds 100% the same as yours!

  • Reply Noemi May 7, 2020 at 11:25 am

    I’ve been wondering how you were maintaining the positive attitude while your kids were distance learning (even with child care – you have three kids and one is a toddler so just one extra adult didn’t seem like enough to keep all the home schooling stress at bay). But this explains it a little better. Being able to not engage much, or at all, in the distance learning aspect of this nightmare really would make the whole thing more manageable.

    I have a 4th grader and a Kindergartener at home right now. I am also a teacher. I spend my day trying to get my own work done while I sit with my K to ensure every thing gets done. It is really only a small amount of work but he absolutely does not want to do any of it and the day is just one extended power struggle. I’m lucky that I don’t have to worry about him needing to catch up in a lot of areas (he went to TK last year so he’s where he needs to be for first grade next year), but I also want to make sure he maintains his skills and learns something new during this time. He really needs to practice writing and (not surprisingly) that is what he hates the most. It turns out anger management might be a more important focus for us and I’m going to start implementing some growth mindset curriculum with him next week.

    My 4th grader can manage her workload pretty well but when I check in with her I get the same obstinate attitude and she does need reminders and check ins. It’s so hard to manage them both all day while also doing my own work. I’m up past midnight most nights trying to finish my own stuff because they require so much of my attention during the day. They also require all my positivity, and then some.

    I know those articles are click bate and speculative but I have to say, as a teacher in a public school, I very much doubt we will be returning normally in the fall. There is just no way to do it, at least not safely. Maybe by then we will have thrown “safely” out the window as an impossible prospect (as seems to be the attitude in a lot of states already), but if “safely” is still the goal (and I believe unions will fight for that goal, even if states and districts are less concerned) we can’t possibly start normally in the fall. There I just no way.

    • Reply Noemi May 7, 2020 at 12:10 pm

      I didn’t mean for that first paragraph to sound harsh or judgey. I was trying to post a comment before I got up to start the day and I didn’t reread for tone before I pushed the button. I’m sure you are participating plenty, I just meant that being able to step outside of it on a regular basis probably helps keep the stress level down. The distance learning aspect is so stressful, at least for me. But I’m also a teacher and I have a hard time letting it go, like a lot of smarter parents are doing. They are right that expectations from school are low and that a lot is optional. I struggle to find the balance of empowering my kids to choose what feels meaningful to them and to show them that, when possible, we expect them to do the work that is assigned. Maybe when they are older helping them determine those boundaries will feel more organic, but right now I assume that when they don’t want to do something it’s because they just don’t want to do it and teaching them that they actually can manage to do it helps them develop resilience or grit? Or maybe I am just a rule follower. That is probably it. I’m kind of rambling now and the class zooms are soon so I’ll stop. Thank you for reading my comments with an open mind.

    • Reply Gillian May 7, 2020 at 4:20 pm

      @Naomi As a physician, I think you hit the nail on the head with “safely” going out the window. I am pretty sure that there will not be a 100% safe option ever. Everything has a cost. For the vast majority of children and teachers COVID-19 infection is not life-threatening. Many more children die from the flu annually but we don’t shut down school every flu season. Because CV is new we are very focused on only the risk of CV. We have to, as a society, figure out how to weigh the risk of CV with the cost of not sending children to school. Then we need to figure out how to best protect those most at risk of getting severely ill with CV including the teachers and administrators out there. No answer is going to be perfect, but we can’t all stay home forever. We have to remember the goal of staying home was to ease the burden of CV on the healthcare system, not to get rid of CV. Getting rid of CV is not an attainable goal in the near future.

  • Reply Amanda May 7, 2020 at 11:38 am

    3) South Florida — I know! Very exciting! I may be able to see them twice – east and west Boca!

  • Reply CNM May 7, 2020 at 11:46 am

    I have a 2nd grader and a 1 year old. I am lucky enough to have childcare for the 1 year old during the week, although that still means that either my spouse or I have to assist the 2nd grader in getting his schoolwork done. Luckily, he tends to enjoy doing his schoolwork so that is not a struggle; but he does need help getting to the websites and with some of the technical aspects. It is also lucky that, while my spouse and I are working from home, we are not so tied to our phones/computer that we can’t step out and provide help to our son when needed.

    In online discussions with my son’s teachers and school principal, it is evident to me that they expect much MUCH less than what is assigned. (Son is in public elementary school.) One teacher said that she only needs one assignment done a week so she has *something* to grade, even though there are daily assignments posted. The school principal emphasized how flexible they would be this year and to concentrate on the family’s emotional health rather than school work. Once I heard that, a lot of stress was lifted. GONE were the daily unproductive classroom zoom meetings (son didn’t particularly like them anyway and often felt like an interruption). GONE were the struggles to get him to type out his responses (if work is really needed, he writes it in a notebook and I take a photo and send it).

    The only things that are done daily are online math (via Khan or Dreambox) and some form of writing. The 2nd grader voluntarily reads on his own so I don’t need to harp on him about that. I will sometimes have other assignments ready should time and interest permit.

    Anyway, I guess that what I am trying to say is that my expectations with what had to be done were way up here but the reality that the school was expecting was much lower and many things that seemed required were actually optional. Everyone is just trying to get through it. Kids can catch up academically.

    • Reply CNM May 7, 2020 at 11:53 am

      I’m replying to myself because I thought of something from my own childhood. A few times as I kid, I missed long stretches of school (like two weeks) because I was out of the country. This is pre-internet days. I recall that I was required to catch up those weeks when I returned. You’d think it’d be impossible to catch up while also staying on top of incoming schoolwork too. But the reality is that it usually only took a few days of extra homework! A lot of time at school is spent doing things other than hard core academics (which is good! not complaining!) so I anticipate that many kids will be able to make up whatever learning they missed when schools open back up.

  • Reply Samantha May 7, 2020 at 11:47 am

    It’s reassuring to hear other families are finding school assignments challenging. My grade 1 child can do the work but absolutely does not want to. The battles are epic. In the meantime, my pre-k child is getting no attention and the whole household is full of tension. We did better before the teacher started assigning work, when we could practice school skills in our own way. I’m worried there will be no school in the fall if the ‘second wave’ occurs, but also don’t want to jeopardize anyone’s health by sending the kids back too soon.

  • Reply Jocelyn May 7, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    We are in your best case scenario… I don’t work and I have 2 kids, one in grade 1 and one in JK (4 yrs old). And we still have tantrums and tears from adults and kids. They both need pretty much constant attention to get started on every assignment. My 6 yr old is getting better at completing and submitting assignments independently but I still need to keep an eye on him to make sure he’s not rushing through just to get it done. Some assignments he needs complete hand holding with.

    Their school has identified which assignments will be assessed and which are optional or enrichment. I feel a decent amount of pressure to at least get the assessed assignments done. But if we’re struggling with something I’m getting better at taking a break and coming back to it.

    Our school year goes right to the end of June so we’re in this for a while longer. I’m hoping we can make it to the end of the year and then never have to school at home again!

  • Reply Marcia (OrganisingQueen) May 7, 2020 at 1:24 pm

    I’m reading the comments and thinking about something a friend of mine was discussing with me yesterday.

    We realise that the teachers don’t all expect everything to be done…but that will not fly with an obliger and an upholder. My friend has two little obligers (she’s a questioner) and she said as much as she tells them they just need to do what they can and leave the rest, THEY can’t let go. I shared the 4T with her and told her it’s not going to help; the kids still feel like they need to please the teacher so they’re going to stress until it’s done.

    In my home I have a rebel (sounds like a lot of the kids in the comments too) who flat out refuses to do some of the work. He loves Maths so he’s very happy to do that every day but as for the rest, he does exactly what he wants and feels no guilt about anything. It’s so freeing for me to see, and also somewhat scary 🙂

    I also have a questioner and she understands why they need to keep their skills current, but she is fighting us on all the nonsense (busy) work too. I am so tempted to say “oh just leave it all” (I am an upholder who tips to questioner) but know I have to at least appear to be behind the programme 🙂

    Good luck to all of us parents, especially those of us who never imagined in our wildest dreams we’d be “homeschooling”.

  • Reply Sarah May 7, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    It is so reassuring to read about other struggles with homeschooling. It has been challenging for us even though I’m close to the ideal situation (two kids, both parents home and working somewhat flexible part-time schedules). My kindergartener is extremely resistant to working on any of his weaker areas and only wants to spend time on his strong subjects. It means extreme unpleasantness trying to get him to write a single sentence, but also is really hard when he wants to keep reading a book longer than required. He can only read with parental attention. Reading with him would be great under most circumstances, but means completely ignoring his younger brother if one parent needs to get something done. I can see how it must be so much harder for families with less parental time and/or more kids. Even with a lot of advantages we are really having a hard time.

    To end on a positive note, we did have a very helpful email exchange with his teacher to ask about alternate assignments in his weaker areas that might be more engaging. She had some great ideas for linking the areas he likes with the ones he does not. For anybody struggling in a particular area, reaching out to the teacher for options might be helpful.

  • Reply Omdg May 7, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    Thank you for the Emily Oster link! I want school to start this fall because otherwise my daughter won’t have a way to meet new friends. Not that she gets to see anyone but us currently, but still.

  • Reply Dana May 7, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    I think the teachers are much more open to families doing as much learning activities as they want and no more. They are being told to post a certain amount of lessons and materials, but also being told that even minimal engagement from the student is ok and not to penalize people who can’t do it for any reason. My first grade son is not a very cooperative student when he isn’t interested so I developed our own way to focus on the skills he really needs to work on (writing) and told the teacher we wouldn’t be doing all the school assignments because we were doing our own thing. She was totally fine with it. I think teachers are more accommodating than most parents think. I do wish our school didn’t go until almost the end of June, that’s a long time to keep this up.

  • Reply Irene May 7, 2020 at 9:03 pm

    This is an area I’m very lucky- my daughter doesn’t *have* to participate in any remote learning because of her age. We have been trying to accommodate everything that has any social skills component because that’s what I think she misses and also needs to develop. We decided not to do the Zooms where the kids are all muted and the teacher is (mostly inaudibly) reading a book and got mild push back from her teacher but I really don’t care. It’s interesting to me how extremely much she hates to be muted. She’s happy to do things when she’s an active participant. Like a previous commenter- if I was interested in homeschooling my child I would do it VERY differently. We are doing a lot of reading and plenty of simple math and I think that’s fine. I should probably have her write more – oh well. I put my2 year old in front of an iPad any time there is remote learning with a teacher going on so it kind of has to be worth it! He also cannot resist the screen his big sister is looking at!

    I might feel differently if my kids were getting graded on their remote learning but I am much more concerned about our emotional health than anything else. It seems like kids here are not really getting graded in any meaningful way? I strongly suspect this is hard on all families (extra help or not) so I assume kids will catch up together when they can.

  • Reply Shelly May 7, 2020 at 10:08 pm

    My son who is 10 just today had lots of tears over a division worksheet. I felt guilty as I have been so busy with work since we have been at home that I don’t spend very much time helping him. Both him and my 7 year old have been mostly working on activities by themselves. My daughter is about 40 activities behind. I’ve talked to both their teachers and explained the situation and try to be somewhat relaxed about it. What is frustrating is at our last parent teacher meetings, both kids were already mostly at grade level and so I really should be more relaxed but I feel the pressure to try to not have them “fall behind”.

    I do want them to get more in a habit of being able to focus on learning and in the next week or so my schedule will slow down enough for me, that I can help me. TBH, I’m not really looking forward to that part of our time together. I appreciate teachers! Part of it also is that my kids respond different to a teacher than me for learning and it’s also the structure of the environment as well.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the blog as it’s helpful knowing I’m not the only one struggling with this.

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