Oh, snap. Some parents have had it. They are outright refusing to engage in distance learning with their children. Who can blame them/us? We’re all trying to keep all the balls in the air, including working, keeping up with our homes, making food (so much food), and learning-in-place. Many of us have thought that something has got to give before we completely lose our shit.
For some parents, it’s a necessity. They can either keep working or they can help school their children. Since the vast majority of us can’t give up our employment (ahem, income), we have a choice: Do we try to be both employee and teacher, or do we slack off — or completely give up — on the teacher part? There really aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all, and some parents have unapologetically dropped e-learning altogether.
In an ideal world, our kids could go through their work on their own, completing tasks, staying organized, and actually learning something. However, the reality is that our kids, no matter their age, are going to need some adult guidance, including explanations and reminders. Furthermore, kids with special needs are requiring more of their parents than ever before. There’s a lot of hand-holding, with no special education teacher, speech therapist, or reading specialist swooping in to save us.
I hadn’t considered that outright shunning distance learning was even an option until I saw Sarah Parcak’s viral tweet. Parcak has an impressive resume. She’s a professor, an Egyptologist, and mom of a first grader. She posted on Twitter that she wrote an e-mail to her son’s “lovely, kind, caring” teacher that her son was “done with the 1st grade.” She added, “We cannot cope with this insanity. Survival and protecting his well being come first.”
When I initially learned that some parents were ditching school completely, my type A, anxiety-ridden self was taken aback. I’m a rule follower, a former educator, and a mom of four. As much as I would love to work while my kids happily frolic in the sunshine, instead of starting my work day at 5 p.m. each evening, I feel that academics do matter and kids need structure. However, that comes with a tremendous cost. I’m among the many stressed out parents who are stopping what I’m doing every five minutes to assist a child with their e-learning. It’s annoying, it’s time-consuming, and it’s certainly mind-boggling. But I can’t bring myself to throw in the towel.
However, I totally understand why some parents are in the no-just-no zone. Every single morning, I get multiple e-mails regarding assignment changes, Zoom meetings, upcoming tests, and missing work. I can’t figure out how to organize all of the incoming, ever-changing information. The other day, we had four—yes, four—Zoom meetings going on at one time. Even though my oldest two kids, both tweens, are fairly self-sufficient, two of my children have special needs that require more of my time and energy (and patience).
I’ve been tempted, many times, to just give up. I mean, what would really happen if we just decided to chill out until August when school (hopefully) resumes? What if we put away the textbooks, laptops, pencils, and papers? Would my kids fall behind, or is it true that kids are resilient and would bounce back just fine? Are we prioritizing academics over mental health, and what will be the fallout of this choice?
Katie Waite is a ninth-grade teacher and mom of a kindergartner. Waite decided that her son would not be participating in distance learning. Waite told Scary Mommy that part of her choice is out of necessity. Her teaching responsibilities come first. She’s aware of the concepts her child needs to learn and is choosing to teach him in a format that doesn’t involve, in her words, “unnecessary technology for his age.” She can also work with her son when it fits into her schedule instead of when his school dictates.
Harmony Hobbs shared with Scary Mommy that after just a day-and-a-half of distance-learning, she put a stop to it. As a mom of three children with special needs and a spouse who is considered an essential worker, “I felt like I had to choose between emotional health or powering through, and I chose emotional health.”
Megan Kinch, a single mom of one daughter, has a unique perspective. Her undergrad and graduate work was in social anthropology, specifically on pandemics and social response to trauma. Her background, as well as her experience watching her first grader become increasingly frustrated with distance learning, led her to compose an e-mail to her daughter’s teacher. “Just writing to let you know that while I appreciate the hard work you are doing to try and get this going, my child will not be participating,” she wrote.
We’ve opted to keep up with distance learning, within reason and with firm boundaries in place. If a Zoom meeting doesn’t work for our schedule, we don’t participate. If it’s a sunny day, we’re going outside instead of staying inside and hovering over Chromebooks and math worksheets. We have plenty of “recess,” snack and meal breaks, chores, and FaceTime sessions with family and friends. There have been entire days when I’ve declared that school is most definitely not in session, because we just can’t handle it. Teachers have been saints and heroes in all of this, as they always are, and have offered empathy, flexibility, and affirmation.
If you’re on-the-fence about what to do about e-learning, you have options. Have a frank conversation with your child’s teacher about what’s essential—what your child must learn in order to continue progressing academically—and what’s not. Listen to advice from experienced homeschoolers. Get input from your child about what’s working and what’s not, and then modify the routine to meet their needs—and yours. Distance learning doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. There can be a happy (and flawed) medium.
Remember, you know your children best, and your employment and health matter, too. It is OK to take breaks, to adjust expectations, and to reach out for help. This global pandemic is like nothing any of us—parents, teachers, and students—have ever experienced. If anything, we are learning to be more in tune with our needs and re-prioritize for the greater good of our families.
This article was originally published on