My oldest son is 5 years old. He’s enrolled in kindergarten, but has been forced into virtual learning for at least the first six weeks of the school year by coronavirus.
It. Has. Been. A. Struggle.
It’s no one’s fault — his teacher is wonderful, the school district has been great, we are fortunate to have decent internet access, and my son really wants to learn. But every day is a struggle for my poor wife, whose new part-time job has become attempting to keep an energetic kid in his seat in front of a camera for two and a half hours.
The rest of the day is spent trying to do some of the things he’s missing out on by not being in the classroom — playing with Play-Doh, cutting with scissors, using tweezers to pick up small objects. We don’t want his only fine motor skill to be swiping an iPad.
Oh, and there’s the 3-year-old to contend with, too.
It’s a lot. At 3 p.m. we do the handoff — I’m finished work, she’s off duty with the kids. But in a pandemic where you’re stuck at home, you never really have time to yourself. So by the time the kids go to bed, we are done. And then we get up to do it all the next day. And the next. It’s the worst version of Groundhog Day.
We constantly question if we’re doing the best we can by him. Should we pull him from kindergarten and teach him ourselves? Would enrolling him in a private kindergarten holding in-person classes be better for his long-term development (and is it even safe for everyone involved)? Could it actually be good for him to muscle through the tears and tantrums of iPad learning?
I’ll admit to not knowing the answers. One thing that did calm my nerves was Google, where I quickly found we’re far from alone in dealing with the struggles of a young virtual student. Frustrated parents are pushing school boards to reconsider hybrid plans because virtual learning isn’t working. Some families are un-enrolling their kids and opting to teach them themselves.
One thing I am sure of is kids are resilient. We’ll figure this out. Families and schools will figure this out. And at some point he will return to the classroom, even if it means wearing a mask.
Until then, we’re all are Kara McDowell’s little one.