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Home Education in the Age of Coronavirus

Are parents in for another year of online learning?

When schools changed from traditional classrooms to online learning in March, parents were feeling the strain. They were worried about the effect it would have on their kids and on themselves.

Parents wondered how they could juggle their jobs with being a full-time educator for their children. They were also concerned about their kids’ lack of social interaction with their friends at school. They wondered what effects learning at home would have on their kid’s social development. Teachers were especially worried about how they could carry out their role as educators and also supervise their children’s online learning. It was a big adjustment for children, parents, and teachers alike.

Many parents ended their day in tears, as one mother wrote back in April in The Atlantic, in an article called Distance Learning Isn’t Working. The author quotes one mother whose frustration led her to plead in a video to teachers which went viral: “If we don’t die of corona, we’ll die of distance learning…”

In my practice, online learning brought up its share of children’s behavior issues. One 8-year-old boy named Justin began acting out at the beginning of online school and refused to complete his assignments. Finally, his mother asked me for an online session to discover why Justin was so upset.

As it turned out, Justin said he felt criticized by his mother when she was helping him with his lessons. “She expects more from me than my teacher does.” I started hearing similar complaints from children whose parents felt their kids would fall behind in school.

In April, parents were resigned to schools being closed for traditional education for a few months. As June approaches, however, many schools are having meetings with parents to discuss the next academic year.

Public schools in the Los Angeles suburb where I live are talking about kids attending school every other day, with classrooms limited to eight children in a socially distanced setting. One private school has already told parents that online learning would continue for the next academic year. One mother I know has already enrolled her son in that school instead of their local public school. “It’s a sacrifice,” she told me, “but the private school has lowered its tuition fee to a fraction of what it usually costs. And we will have peace of mind.”

Not all parents have the choice to move their child to a different school. But they can participate in the meetings that are going on, voicing their opinion as to whether they would prefer online learning or modified traditional classrooms. Parents are now having to weigh their fear of the threat of infection with the challenges of educating their child at home.

The idea that they would have to continue online learning for another year has dismayed some parents. Surprisingly, however, other parents are relieved. “I don’t want my daughter to bring home the coronavirus and infect our entire family,” one mother of a seventh-grader told me. “I worry about her social development but I worry more about her infecting our family, including my 80-year-old mother who lives with us.”

Some parents are actually changing their child’s school to one that has said it would continue online learning for the 2020-2021 school year. They feel it’s a safer choice, given that many epidemiologists have predicted that the coronavirus will become even more deadly in the fall of 2020 and winter of 2021. Parents who have read John M. Barry’s chronicle of the flu pandemic of 1918-1919, The Great Influenza, are concerned that the coronavirus will follow the same pattern of the flu pandemic of 100 years ago, which killed more people in the fall and winter than in the spring of 2018 when it began.

More from Marilyn Wedge Ph.D.
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