Some parents say they're not homeschooling during the coronavirus pandemic because it's too stressful

Some parents say they're not homeschooling during the coronavirus pandemic because it's too stressful
  • Around 30 million children in the US have been affected by school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • The decision to close schools to help slow the transmission of COVID-19 has forced many parents to develop homeschool programs.
  • But many parents, including a career teacher, say they aren't homeschooling their children because they have so many other obligations and they don't want to stress their children out any further.
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When Christine Tyler, a middle school teacher in Seattle, Washington, learned earlier this month that her children's schools were closing due to the coronavirus, she decided right away that she wouldn't homeschool her two teenagers.

Their teachers aren't providing remote learning classes, and developing a homeschool program just felt like too much of a burden, even to Tyler, who has 20 years of teaching experience and has won multiple education awards. 

"It's such an uncertain time right now. Our kids are going through this change," said Tyler, who teaches computer science at Johns Hopkins University's online program for gifted children. "To add the stress of becoming a homeschool teacher – that was not something I was willing to take on."

Nearly 30 million US students have been impacted by school closures due to the coronavirus. Some schools are offering remote learning opportunities, but many aren't, or haven't yet organized them. For children who are in preschool or daycare, online learning is limited to as little as 30 minutes a day, if anything at all.

Due to nationwide school closures, parents have been tasked with educating their children

For many children, that means there's a significant chunk of unscheduled time. As a result, parents, many of whom are working remotely, have frontline jobs, or don't have their partners or caregivers at home, have been tasked with becoming instructors and activity directors. 

Some parents have taken on this new role on with gusto, sharing color-coded homeschool schedules and lesson plans on social media.

But others like Tyler are abstaining from teaching their children, saying they don't have the time with everything else going on. Many also feel that it's unrealistic to suddenly expect a parent to become an educator without any preparation.

"We all need to just get through the day at this point," said Tova Stulman, a mother of two who works full time as a nonprofit writer and has decided not to homeschool. "Being on top of their schedules and trying to do my work remotely – something's gotta give."

Realistically, it would "take years" to develop an effective homeschool, Tyler said. She noted that she even she doesn't have the background to educate her seventh and tenth graders. 

"I am not the person for the job," Tyler said. 

Many parents are balancing working remotely, managing the home, and taking care of their children.
KT images/Getty Images

Parents who aren't homeschooling say they don't want to subject their children to any added stress

Some parents who Insider spoke to said that they're aware that their children may fall behind academically, but they're more concerned with the consequences of pushing their children too hard right now. 

"I feel like fighting with him, bribing him, or punishing him to get him to do schoolwork just isn't worth it," Andrea Pinkus, a mother of four, said of her third grader who has ADHD and struggles to focus even under typical circumstances. "I don't see any benefits to doing so, and I think it could do a lot of damage to our family's mental health."  

Pinkus, who lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is a stay-at-home-mom and her husband is a physician at a hospital who is working long hours. Her children's schools closed on March 16 and haven't provided remote learning opportunities yet.

The mom of four said she's consumed daily with watching the kids, doing laundry, cooking, and taking care of anything else that comes up. 

Christine Tyler, a career teacher, is allowing her children to decide how to spend their days

Instead of doing worksheets and devising complicated science experiments, Tyler, Pinkus, and other parents are encouraging their children to learn in a less conventional way.

"It's a time to think about what they are interested in learning and doing," Tyler said of her approach. "The best learning happens when you just give kids some time to go outside and build a fort."

Tyler's two children are keeping busy by playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends on Zoom and learning Japanese — on their own. They take walks, garden, and analyze the stock market.

Her children's instructors aren't teaching remotely, but they email thought-provoking questions, which Tyler's children have been responding to. 

Others said that it is the responsibility of schools – not parents – to catch children up.
Boston Globe / Contributor

Pinkus' children, who range in age from 2 to 9, have also found meaningful ways to spend their time outside of structured learning. 

The family computer is set up so the children only have access to educational websites, math games, and science videos. 

"They're allowed to use that computer as much as they want," Pinkus said, "and some days they do it all day long."

They also do art projects, read, and bake. Pinkus makes sure her children get outside every day for an hour. "They all learn just by living, playing, reading," Pinkus said.

Stulman allows her children to choose their activities, which include puzzles and games, and the New Jersey mom said she's doing her best to limit their exposure to screens. 

Teachers have encouraged parents to skip homeschooling if it's too overwhelming

Many teachers have acknowledged that it isn't realistic to expect all parents to homeschool under these conditions. 

Pinkus said her daughter's first grade teacher sent out a message telling parents to "skip" homeschool and "focus on family," if the process is causing stress. 

Many parents are heeding that message, and understand that once school resumes, teachers will take into consideration that every student has had a varying education experience during this time.

"Schools are going to open their arms and embrace your children when they go back," Tyler said. "I can guarantee every teacher is just really missing that time with your children."

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