How do you homeschool during a pandemic?

Our kindergartener, Emerie, right, and our preschooler, Nayvie, do homework amid school closures fueled by a pandemic.

It’s 5 p.m. on a Thursday, work is winding down and homeschool is in session.

If you can call it that.

My wife, Nicki, is in the kitchen helping our second grader with a worksheet, our kindergartener is crying because she’s tired and hungry and our preschooler is … we don’t currently know where our preschooler is.

We take what we can get. It’s typically a scramble to teach our kids something amid the stress of a growing pandemic, while balancing our jobs and lives and coping with our new quasi-quarantined reality.

Are we doing it right? Are they learning? We have our doubts, but we’re trying.

Fortunately, Nicki and I work from home and still have jobs. She’s part time, which helps, though her routine mom stuff still applies during the day. So evenings work best for us to play teacher.

It’s something I’m trained at, though my status as a former educator hasn’t helped as much as I’d hoped. I taught high school English for three years. Teaching high schoolers is different than teaching elementary schoolers, I’ve found. (My respect for elementary teachers has markedly increased during the pandemic.)

The COVID-19 crisis also hit during my last semester of graduate school. I’ve been navigating a remote-learning transition alongside our children.

Fortunately, we all have Nicki, who’s better at making time to teach the kids than I am. A recent opinion poll confirmed it. When asked who’s taught them more since school closed last month, three little fingers pointed resolutely to Mom.

Our second grader, Parlie, takes a reading test online.

Nicki says she has more time. I say she has more patience.

As I write this, she’s bouncing between our dining room computer and the kitchen table, helping one child take an online reading test and getting another squared away on a math worksheet.

She recently stressed one difficulty: computer accessibility. We have two at our house, one of which I’m on all day. The girls share Nicki’s after she punches out in the afternoon.

“Imagine doing this with six kids,” she said between online reading tests.

“Or without a computer or Internet,” I added.

I help where I can, often playing computer tech or reading tutor.

“Why is my computer so slow?” our second grader asked during a reading test.

Resetting the router helped.

“Daddy, how do you spell rhinoceros?” our kindergartener asked.

I got to rhino. Google helped with the rest.

I’m also a de facto science teacher around here, though Nicki questions the self-prescribed title. On Friday, the girls got a lesson on the wild animals of Yellowstone, via me and Disney+.

Meanwhile, we’re learning things about our own children. The sound of our kindergartener reading aloud from an early-reading book has taken new meaning. We both listen a little closer and give her more feedback.

On April 1, I woke the girls up early and told them school was back in session. I was surprised at their disappointment when I said it was all a joke. My second grader cried in her pillow for what seemed like five minutes. Nicki punched me in the arm.

They’re ready to be back in school, though that may not happen anytime soon. We’ll try to up our game.

How has your life changed during the pandemic? I’d love to hear from you at [email protected]

Devin Bodkin is a full-time reporter for Idaho Education News. He lives in Blackfoot and covers East Idaho news. He taught school in Blackfoot before turning to journalism.

The Bodkins, from left: Nayvie, Nicki, Parlie, Devin, Emerie.
Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow and the Idaho Press Club's 2019 print reporter of the year. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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