We are just over a month into pandemic homeschooling/online learning, and I will tell you one fact: When I realized I’d be working from home, while my son and daughter learned from home, I had a small anxiety attack. I think a lot of parents have experienced this. And sure, I was nervous about trying to juggle it all. No doubt. But the real anxiety came as I thought about my 11-year-old daughter, Norah, who has ADHD, learning online. The thought of her sitting in front of a screen for several hours a day, and learning independently as I anxiously tried to keep her on task (while also trying not to get fired) sounded completely overwhelming.
To be real, the first couple weeks were bonkers. We had meltdowns over technology, assignments, missing textbooks, lost pencils… I could go on, but just realize I was on the struggle bus; I even wrote a Scary Mommy article about how teaching my daughter with ADHD how to learn online had been one of my biggest challenges as a parent.
But then, halfway through week two, we got into a groove. Using Zoom and Google classroom wasn’t a big deal anymore, and the days become more predictable. We set all sorts of alarms in my daughter’s phone so she wouldn’t log in late. We found her spot in the house where she felt the most comfortable studying. And after all this, something changed.
I no longer have to remind her to get on Zoom; she just does it. I don’t find her in an anxious fit anymore; rather, I find her online, in a blanket, paying attention. She stopped having anxiety attacks over assignments, and she stopped calling herself names like “stupid.”
Now let me explain something about my daughter. When she doesn’t get something right off, if she has to struggle to learn it (which is often), it’s almost like she is experiencing physical pain. We have discussed this with our family doctor, and naturally, he attributed it to her ADHD and how it might take her more effort to comprehend something. But with her home, away from her classmates, all of that frustration and anxiety has suddenly melted away, and I’m starting to wonder if so much of her troubles learning had as much to do with social anxiety as it did her ADHD.
I will also say this about my daughter: She is plenty bright. But just like me — and most everyone else — there are some subjects that she has a difficult time comprehending. Math and science are the worst. Along with that difficulty comprehending comes the immense pressure she puts on herself to be able to pick up concepts as quickly as her classmates. She becomes very self-conscious when she sees the people around her grasp division or percentages quickly, while she has to read the problem two or three times before getting started. I was the same way as a child, and the comparison I’d make between myself and the kids around me was just as damaging to my ability to learn as my learning disability.
But now, with Norah learning online, that comparison isn’t a factor. All those anxieties she builds up in her mind that tell her she’s not as smart as the rest of the class are gone. She can work alone, at her own pace. She can learn in a way that works best for her, without looking over at the kids in the next seat over and feeling like she’s not keeping up.
Honestly, I didn’t see this coming. Sure, having my kids learning from home while I work from home has been madness. I want to get my kids back in the classroom, and me back in the office, and the world back to normal as soon as possible. And I know for a fact that Norah misses her friends; she laments about it often. But I cannot help admitting that having her home, away from her classmates, has caused her to take all that social anxiety she has about learning and put it away for a time. She’s learning more easily and more comfortably than I have ever seen her learn in her lifetime, and I am grateful for that.
It’s nice to see her just sit and be comfortable with her own pace, and it’s been magical to not have to help her work through an anxiety attack because she’s struggling to comprehend something her classmates grasped with ease. So in this season of searching for anything positive I can find, this has been a silver lining. And my hope is, that once we do get back in the classroom, she will enter with more confidence. Because she knows now that she is able to learn just as well as her classmates — even if she does it a little differently.