As pandemic parenting wears on, we’re taking on new roles we never planned on.
I never considered myself to be especially knowledgeable in public health, yet I now find myself keeping track of who my children’s close contacts are, and explaining to my daughters the difference between quarantine and isolation as I make sure they have a clean face mask as well as a backup every day before school.
Milwaukee mom Mia Greer and her husband, Sergio, never planned to be — nor wanted to be — homeschooling parents, but that’s how they would describe themselves these days. Greer works first shift, her husband works third shift, and between their work schedules, they balance the virtual schooling of their first grader, fifth grader and eighth grader.
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The schedule is intense and exhausting.
“Our first grader (Mikai) is on the computer all day with a lunch break, and maybe another 30-minute, 45-minute break somewhere,” said Greer. “Because I’m at work during the day and my husband works in the evenings, he says he can help Mikai, and I don’t want to say ‘don’t do it,’ but it’s impacting my husband. It’s impacting everything.”
Greer appreciates that Mikai’s teachers record their lessons so she can work on school with her son when she gets home in the evening on those days when her husband is too tired during the day. Although his teachers prefer that Mikai be online during the school day, they’re flexible to allow for different families’ realities.
Greer also says virtual schooling this fall is better than last spring, when there were no live lessons, just daily assignments to hand in.
But the balancing act of helping three different kids with their schoolwork at home while also working full time jobs outside the house — all during a pandemic that’s stressful on its own — is taking its toll.
“It’s tough, and it’s a lot to put on parents, and some days I’m just sad about it, or my husband is sad about it,” said Greer. “But we’re there for each other because our main concern is that the kids get a good education. We don’t express our uncertainty to the kids.”
The situation is also complicated by the fact that Greer’s children are different ages and need different types of support.
Mikai needs the most attention from his parents, who not only sit with him as he does his online lessons, but also do the hands-on tasks necessary for teaching young children — such as teaching him to hold his paper and pencil correctly as he learns to write.
Greer said her 5th grade daughter, Sereaya, needs less focused attention and is enjoying virtual school — and socialization — so far since she gets the chance to show off her dog and room to her classmates during online classes.
Although Greer’s son, Kobe, can do most of his schoolwork on his own, she and her husband need to provide more emotional support to him since he’s sad to be missing out on a normal 8th grade year.
“He wants to be back at school with his friends,” said Greer. “And I want to keep him encouraged and enjoying school. And his school seems very organized, so if they were able to reopen safely, I would be open to testing it out.”
The thought of returning to in-person school brings its own set of worries and concerns though.
“I would hate to send them back just because I don’t like virtual, and then someone gets sick and now their lives are at risk,” said Greer.
For now, Greer’s family is making the best of the situation. She and her husband are providing emotional support for each other, and they’re giving the kids little rewards at the end of the week to acknowledge their hard work.
She said Mikai usually chooses a new Avengers toy, Sereaya goes on a Dollar Store shopping trip and Kobe just takes cash.
Greer is looking forward to the day when she and her husband can give up full time teaching to go back to being just full time parents with full time jobs.
And, as COVID-19 cases spike throughout Wisconsin, and the virus starts to show up in my children’s schools, I’m looking forward to the day I can stop using my newly acquired public health expertise.
Would you like to share how your family is dealing with school during the pandemic? Please contact me at [email protected].
More: Milwaukee mom: virtual school is better than expected, but teachers and parents have to work too hard.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: ‘I never planned on homeschooling my kids:’ Milwaukee parents balance virtual schooling with full time jobs