By Guest Blogger Julie Fritz

Can we be honest for a minute? E-learning is hard. It’s hard for parents, it’s hard for teachers, hard for counselors, and hard for students. Nothing about our children being in a virtual classroom for the first nine weeks of school is simple. But when you add to that the circumstance that no one in your home can stay home with or facilitate learning for your child, it gets even more challenging. 

In our house, both my husband and I must be at work during this pandemic physically. And we both work full time. During the spring, we had out of town grandparents move in to help us finish up kindergarten for our 5-year-old and watch him and his 3-year-old sister while we worked. While that was beyond generous, we decided to try an e-learning center for the fall. 

The stress began with the summer of unknowns. It felt like we waited forever for the governor to announce school reopening plans and then even longer for the district to decide. Once a decision was made, community partners struggled to quickly put together programs where parents like me could send their children. I was continually looking for enrollment info and pricing. We were finally able to secure a spot on Tuesday before school started. That’s right; I did not know what I would do with my child until less than one week before school started. 

So far, the e-learning center is a work in progress. We are learning what they can do, and they are learning what we need. There are many notes and phone calls between us, the e-learning center staff, and our son’s teacher. Some assignments need more attention than a 1:8 ratio can provide, and sometimes our 6-year-old has to navigate his virtual classroom on his own. Most days, we have homework after an already long day, and we all feel like we are just trying to survive till the weekend. 

There are some successes. I am beyond proud of how my son is learning to use a computer. I mean, who knew a first-grader could learn to submit typed and video responses on canvas the first week of school. 

In case you forget, which I sometimes do, this is all new to all of us. No one has ever had to do this in this way before right now. Our teachers are navigating new ways to interact with our children and keep them engaged while community partners are trying their best to provide care for those of us who need to be at work. They need our support to make this work, and we have to give them all some grace. We also have to provide ourselves with that grace too. 

I have a tremendous amount of guilt for not helping my child during the day and even more guilt for asking him to finish or redo assignments in the evening. The straight-A student in me wants to see his best work all the time. That sometimes results in tears and frustration for both of us. It also often results in my being less than patient and raising my voice when it’s not going smoothly. I have to continually remind myself, with the help of my husband at times, that my child doesn’t need additional stress. 

Our children are trying to deal with all of the things going on in the world just like we are. Unfortunately, they haven’t had a chance to develop the coping skills we have developed as adults. Most adults I know aren’t dealing very well, so it should be no surprise our children are struggling.  

Everyone keeps saying this will pass, but I think we are all struggling with when that will be and how we will get to that point without completely losing it. Is school important? Yes. Is it so important that we should neglect a child’s mental health to get it done? No. 

For now, in our house, we will continue to be grateful for a safe place to send our child during the day and try our best to grow academically. But we will also be mindful that everyone is learning how to do this new thing, and our best right now might not equal our best in previous times. And just as we must accept this new normal, we must adjust our expectations too. 

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