When COVID-19 swept across the United States in March, many parents took on the additional role of teaching their children remotely. As elementary schools closed down for the remainder of the year, parents had to make the difficult choice to help their children complete school online or completely homeschool them.
For mother Onyi Azih, creator of Sincerely Onyi and psychiatric physician assistant, the best decision was to begin homeschooling her children. “I chose to homeschool my sons because I strongly believe in children of color in America, and it is important to create a strong and confident foundation,” said Onyi. “Our family is very big on education, but I also understand the impact that an environment away from home can bring. And then add the pandemic, I felt that eight hours in front of the computer was not how a four-year-old should learn. We use every moment as a teaching moment along with goals tailored for each child in a learning format that works for them.”
It was never easy for mothers to balance all the aspects of their lives, especially with young children. The sudden changes that came with the coronavirus pandemic made it difficult for families to transition their lives. With in-person education on hold, parents everywhere had to find ways to balance work, school, and their own mental health.
“Luckily, my children are in preschool and kindergarten, so we commit to 90 minutes of school work a day,” Onyi said. “Outside of that, I work on my blog’s content and seeing patients virtually. It’s not easy at all. If I put more attention on one of the three, the other aspects of my life would likely suffer.”
Although remote schooling is still taught by teachers, it is the parent’s job to have the proper technology and set up the video calls on time everyday. For mothers who have a bigger family, it seems almost impossible to balance the online classes, homework, and other activities throughout the day. For Mary Katherine Backstorm (MK), a full-time author and mother of six-year-old Ben and four-year-old Holland, the best option was to assist in remotely teaching her children when COVID-19 began.
“I am married to Ian, an emergency medicine physician,” said MK. “That is notable these days because he is in the dead center of pandemic frontlines. I have had a hard time trying to find the balance between pushing my children to finish their work and making sure they understand that I am here for them if they get overstressed. Another issue I have run into is that things are just taught differently than they were when I was a kid. I thought I knew math, but no. I do not.”
Students may initially find it difficult to transition to remote learning or homeschooling, but over time, they may become comfortable with the idea. Learning from home at a young age allows families to incorporate real-world activities into their school curriculum. Instead of focusing solely on math and English, parents at home can do an educational nature walk, a hands-on science experiment in the backyard, art, and music lessons.
“My children really enjoy having increased one-on-one time with their parents, Onyi said. “My husband does about 75% of the homeschooling or monitoring as they work through their workbooks or interact outside the classroom. Both of my sons were previously in school for about a year. I had struggled with understanding where they were educationally along with concerns brought up by their teachers. It wasn’t until I pulled my kids out that I could see them thrive in subjects they had previously struggled in. The foundation is truly up to me to build them into strong, confident Black men.”
Simply learning in different environments may keep children more engaged and allow them to connect educational ideas outside of the classroom. Parents are taking these circumstances to see what type of learning style works best for their family so that their kids still learn but also enjoy the time they have at home.
“My children are thoroughly loving the family time,” said MK. “I have tried to take advantage of the fact that we live in a beach community and use the beauty of nature as much as possible. Science is finding shells and discussing fossilization. Reading can happen under an umbrella. These are the things I’ll miss when we return to school.”
Many mothers have found it hard to separate their parenting, teaching, and work life since the pandemic began. Instead of being in the office during the day and then picking up the kids from school, parents now complete every activity from the comfort of their homes. Currently, only 32% of parents with school-aged children are satisfied with their children’s education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Try your best to make learning fun during this stressful time for your child,” Onyi encourages parents. “I want to tell most parents that are doing virtual school through the school district to pull their primary-aged children out for the semester or the year and at least try homeschooling. There are several virtual class options that can be taught at their pace. You would also be able to better understand where they are struggling and focus your attention on that. I won’t say it’s the ideal situation for everyone, but if you are capable of doing it, it may bring on less stress for you.”
It is important that mothers take the time to practice self-care and appreciate the hard work they are putting in during these difficult times. When feeling overwhelmed or stressed with the crazy environment that COVID-19 created, mothers should remember that they aren’t alone in their parenting challenges.
“Coronavirus has been heavy on life,” said MK. “I have had to ask for grace in a lot of work situations, but the beauty of this pandemic is that we are all in it together. Do what’s best for your kids. Trust your instincts, stick to your gut, and leave margin for the craziness that will inevitably occur. I have learned I am not as patient as I hoped I would be, but I am also a damn good mother.”
Photograph by m_takahashi