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Like many moms, I assumed the role of classroom teacher when my kids’ school shut down in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Suddenly, I found myself navigating (and Googling) Common Core math and reading strategies while trying to get my kids to complete the piles of worksheets their teachers had frantically sent home. A few weeks in, it became clear to me that teaching was not my calling. But I had to pull it together despite this because it would be almost a full year before both of my kids returned to regular in-person instruction. On the days when patience was short on both our ends, I tried to remind myself that this wouldn’t last forever and that any learning loss they suffered with me as their teacher would eventually even itself out.
Tips for overcoming the challenges of being a mom and a teacher during lockdown
As Karen Aronian, Ed.D., a parenting and education expert points out, parents are inherently teachers. The difference is that if your children are school age, someone else was taking the burden off you for several hours a day Monday through Friday. “Public schools shared the teaching with us, which is a partnership that really came back into the spotlight here,” she says. “Now women have their chin right above the water as they shoulder home, work, and school life.”
Emily Dimakopoulos, a stay-at-home mom of two in Roslyn, New York, recounts one particularly rough day when she tried to get her then-kindergartener to do her schoolwork. “She looked at me and replied, ‘This isn’t school and you’re not my teacher,’” she says. “At a certain point, we just gave up because we felt like we were doing our daughter more harm than good.”
Even women who have teaching degrees and classroom experience found educating their own kids overwhelming. “I have frequently said that I have a better chance of keeping my 20 first grade students under control while on a field trip to the zoo than my own two daughters at home,” recounts Christie Cambio, a mom and former teacher in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. “Distance learning has proven my theory correct.”
Christie ultimately decided this year to homeschool one of her daughters, who has special needs. While she was excited to share her true passion for teaching with her child, ultimately being both her mom and her teacher proved unsustainable. “I look forward to her return to school next year and going back to bedtime stories instead of reading instruction,” she says.
Heather Kidde, a mom of two in Tuxedo Park, New York, doesn’t have a background in education, but she also decided to homeschool her daughter for the first semester of fourth grade this year, after her school district began the year remotely.
“If she was going to be home, I wanted to have more flexibility and say in her education,” says Heather of her decision to homeschool, despite the fact that she was also working full-time as a portfolio manager. “I found curriculum materials that resonated with me and set in place some additional support. She read on FaceTime with my mom and had some tutoring for writing and math.”
No person should be the entire teacher, so think about who can help you.
Dr. Karen Aronian
Parenting & Education Expert
Outsourcing is key, says Karen. “No person should be the entire teacher, so think about who can help you. Is Uncle Shawn good at math? Does your neighbor next door who was a teacher want to help?” she says. Karen also recommends free services such as tutor.com, which provides tutoring through local libraries, and teacher2neighbor.com, a service she started to help connect kids who need academic support with volunteer teachers nearby. “We’ll go forward as a hybrid of outsourcing and insourcing because we know we can,” says Karen.
As our remote learning experience drew to a close, I found myself feeling a bit sad about this. As challenging as it’s been, I enjoyed the weeks when just my son and I were home, given that we have less time to spend together as he grows. “I’ll miss you, buddy,” I said to him as we ate lunch on his last remote Friday. “I’ll miss you too,” he replied. “But you need your time, Mom.” He’s right about this. But I hope that we can take the positive aspects from this year — the extra family time, the absence of overscheduling, and yes, even some of the teaching — and incorporate them into our return to “real life.” But I’ll leave Common Core math to his actual teacher.