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The City Journals

Cooped up and hanging tough: what two families are doing to keep kids learning

May 18, 2020 12:55PM ● By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones

Heather (back),Christian and Rebekah (front) focus on their schoolwork. (Kathryn Jones/City Journals)

By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones | [email protected]

Finding it difficult to keep your students engaged in learning at home?

With COVID-19 making the rounds, many students are feeling the pressure. Not only do they have schoolwork to do every day, but they also have to do it away from their friends. Socializing is limited to texting, online hangouts, phone conversations and email.

“I am talking to one of my friends through their school email,” said Fox Hills Elementary School student Rebekah Miller. “We usually talk about the game we are doing together.” 

When Rebekah has a question about schoolwork, she goes onto Google Classroom, but she said she misses the time she used to spend with her friends at school. 

“It’s kind of boring to stay home all of the time, but I have liked learning a lot of new games with my family,” she said.

Rebekah’s brother, Christian, is a freshman at Hunter High School and was quarantined for two weeks. 

“When I first heard, I thought, ‘No school, hooray!’ she said. “But as the days went by, I started to get bored and didn’t want to be with my family anymore.”

Christian said he is struggling not being with his friends, and although there haven’t been any moments yet where he’s thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ he said COVID-19 is “pretty scary.” He doesn’t think he would get very sick if he got the virus, but other people may die, and that worries him. He lives with his grandparents and is concerned that they might get it.

As for Telsie Graziano, mother of both a son and daughter in grades sixth and seventh, she said she’s OK with the home-based program the schools have going. 

“I used to homeschool, but at that time I wasn’t working like I am now,” she said. “My schedule is so difficult, so it’s hard to have a set schedule for my kids.”

Graziano is happy that her kids can do most of their home studies on their own—unless  it’s math, which she admits she doesn’t understand and has to get her husband to help with. 

“They can email the teacher as well,” she said. “I am juggling like crazy, and it’s difficult to keep the kid’s emotions connected to [the] school and my own emotions connected to work. We just don’t want to do anything. I was holding it together mostly, but I did have a breakdown [one day]. Then the kids had an excuse to have their moment.”

Fortunately, for this family, each morning is their opportunity, their time to “recharge.” Before Graziano heads off to work—she still juggles three jobs, her cleaning, delivery clients and counseling service—her family connects with God. Other connections throughout the days have included enjoying nature, going on “a lot of walks” and spending time playing games. 

“We’ve gotten our creative juices going as a family,” Graziano said. “I have even taught my kids how to make bread.”

Grandma has gotten involved, she said, text messaging the kids about “little projects she is involved with in her life.” Graziano also connects with her family on Zoom, an online meeting place for video conferencing.

Still, she said all they can do as a family now is to move ahead and do the best they can,. “It is hard to be cooped up, but we’ve definitely had more time together,” she said.

In the Miller household, it’s taken a set schedule to get everyone working as they should. Along with Rebekah and Christian is Heather, a senior who is currently living in the same household and attending Hunter High. Heather recently met with her cousins, grandparents and aunt, to get on the same page with this at-home schooling. They had a meeting to discuss ideas such as setting a schedule for school, personal time and family time.

“We had to do something,” said grandfather Douglas Jones.