When COVID-19 started to take strength across the world, most of us in the USA were probably taking it as just another fatality or crisis happening overseas and it wouldn’t hit us home. Add on the mixed messages from both medical and government officials, and to a degree, most of us thought it was not going to hit us this hard.

At first for parents, the idea of working from home sounded kind of cool. For kids not having to go to school was going to be fun! For teachers? Well, they really had no idea how it would all unfold.

Forward to May 2020 and things have certainly changed. The cool and fun have worn out for some. While others have adapted to the new “normal” and others are now transitioning to the “new normal” throughout the state.

This has certainly been a one-of-a-kind situation for the world. A major life change. A change that no one saw coming let alone was prepared for. When life changes have a significant impact on our mental and physical health, we tend to take the necessary precautions to make sure the impact will be reduced. But this one, we did not get the chance! Such is life!

We literally went from dropping off our kids at school to having to monitor their online education or in some cases becoming the teacher with a curriculum we have no clue what it is about. Yes, I personally cannot  cannot tell you I remember what my 4th grade class was about! Let alone teach it or even assist! But, then again there we were, giving it a shot one day at a time.

And as we look at this experience, I would like you to take a moment to offer this advice: Give yourself a pat on your back. No it has not been easy. It has been challenging and why not even scary at times.  

Most of us have navigated the best we could, while others have expressed frustration and some have not let it be seen as a major change, let alone allowing it to make a major impact in their day-to-day lives. But here we are. While COVID-19 is still not off the map—in fact is in my opinion kicking into the next level, just in a different way now that we have more information before our eyes—we have all just gone through a major life change and we still stand!

To give you a better picture, here is a “diary “ I guess you could say of what the distance learning experience has been for some of those in the communities we live in. And while we are approaching what looks like it could be the “end” of the stay at home orders, I think it is important to remember how we all handled this and survived and remember how far we have come:

Alicia (Middle & High School)  – My boy is 11 my girl is 16. Unfortunately or fortunately I’ve been blessed with a lot of work since quarantine started (my company manufactures medical masks) sadly I haven’t been home much but my girl is the one that has been working with my boy on homework and online classes. They are doing a great job on keeping up with homework and turning in assignments. My boy goes to a Charter school and they are great. They go as far as doing zoom classes (not full day) to take attendance via chat. There are so many resources for them that I feel our kids are going to be okay and God willing this will pass soon and by the time they are able to go back to school they are going to appreciate every little thing.

Laura (Elementary School) – The timing is ironic because I am crying right now because it is so stressful to get him to do his work.  He doesn’t mind doing the online work but he hates writing.  Since he is younger his teacher wants him to work on his writing skills.  It makes sense but he hates it.  He will do it if I let him watch a video while he does it with no struggle but it takes him forever.  I tell him just to get it over and done with without any distractions and then he can watch a show.  He closes off and doesn’t want to do it.  He gets upset and then I get upset.  We have gotten somewhat used to staying at home and can entertain ourselves but doing that and doing school work is tough.  What the solution is I don’t know. 

The schools and teachers need the money that comes from having kids do distance learning and it does work for some kids.  For younger kids maybe if the teacher supervises but the parents can come up with their own education plan that works for their child. 

I talked to his teacher and she was willing to let him do half of his math and spelling online.  Before, everything was packets.  I need to talk to her again and figure out what will work for us.

We have to figure something out because we can’t deal with this level of stress for over a month.  I am a tutor, but the dynamic between a parent and child is very different from that of a tutor and client or teacher and student. Kids know how to push all their parents buttons.  

He is learning other things though that he doesn’t learn at school.  He has taken an interest in helping me cook.  He likes to peel his own carrots and chop them.  He helped me make his brothers cake and frosted it and decorated it almost completely on his own.  He also asked how to make pasta and I walked him through all of the steps and gave him hints like how to tell if the pasta is Al dente so he is definitely learning life skills.”

Katie (High School) I have a very low-key approach to distance learning.  I’m asking my kids to work on it, but I’m not hovering over them.  I have the added benefit that they are teenagers, fairly self-sufficient, and this will not impact the overall trajectory of their educational experience.  My daughter will go to the local Junior College after she graduates next year, so she just needs to get through these required classes.  I’m glad they have something to work on, but I’m not sure it’s having an educational impact.  I imagine that teachers will spend a great deal of time reteaching topics next year, more than in years past.  Just my humble Mom-opinion, not an expert of any kind. 

Dan (Elementary/Middle) One was homeschooled prior COVID19, now the other is working with her school to do things online.

Pam (High School Student) – “Thankfully my Hanna is very driven and goal oriented. Hanna sets up Zoom with her friends several times a week and they go over their lessons so far so good.”

Ms. J  “For me it has been a learning experience. We as teachers were not prepared and it has been difficult to get it all organized in such a short period of time. The district has been really good at giving us room to get creative and offering guidance and support. Some parents are very comfortable with the technology we are using but others not as much. We are all learning as we go. To some kids it is coming easy, for others you have to adjust. But in a way is  just like being in the the classroom you adapt!”

Jenny 2nd Grader “It’s okay. But I miss playing with my friends. I miss my teacher! It’s just hard not going outside. I wish we could go outside. I know I have to stay safe but it is hard. I just want to go back to school”

Tania (High School) It was easy at first, but I am having a hard time concentrating. I keep missing assignments and I hate online docs! I used to do my hair for the Zoom meetings; I now turn my video off. I am sure I am going to have to re-learn a lot of these things! I don’t know what’s the point to be doing this now

Nyah (2nd Grader): “It’s going okay. Is not that different. But I miss my friends. I miss recess! I think it’s easier to go to school because no one yells at you!”

Mr. O (Middle School): “I miss my students! It’s hard to teach some of these concepts online. I feel very bad that they get bored. In the classroom you kind of figure out how to wake them up, but hard to do over Zoom!”

Needless to say, the responses were honest and raw—full of emotions and feelings that I know many are experiencing across the world. And the truth is that there isn’t a right or wrong way to feel/respond to all of this. Everyone responds in different ways. And as you can see depending on the circumstances, the child’s age or the parent’s job, everyone figured out their own way to make it work.

There were some adjustments to the teaching styles, there was some creativity for sure and technology played a bigger role in our lives! I don’t know about you, but I am a Zoom expert now!

All and all, this piece goes to all of you parents and kids alike. Yes it has been hard. Yes you have missed out. Yes, we still do not know what the “new normal” will look like, but look at how far you have come! Look at how much creativity you have managed to generate! Look at how our teachers have stepped up and have continued to give our children an education the best that they can.

We can all agree this will for sure be one of the greatest lessons our children will ever have! Yes, it has been hard, but at the same time look at us! We are on the verge of making a comeback and if we have managed to make it through this thing called “distance learning” imagine the things we can do now that we know how strong and creative we are.

With that said, take this column for what I am hoping it is: a look at the rearview and all the things we have accomplished thus far. If we can make sure there is no interruption in our children’s education, I think we all know we are capable of taking the next step to transitioning back to the “new normal” we all can’t wait to get to.