By Patricia B. Mirasol
Three working parents share the schooling choices they made for their children and how they’ve been juggling their responsibilities.
When it comes to education, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution as they each chose different options: homeschooling, remote learning, and Saturday-only school.
(Edited for length and clarity.)
“Our daughter is in preschool. When the pandemic started, I had hesitations enrolling her.”
Entrepreneur, Love A’lia and Oh Baked Goodness
Mother to a five-year-old
Our daughter is five years old and in kindergarten. When the pandemic started, I had hesitations enrolling her. In the end, we opted to do both homeschooling and distance learning.
The beauty of homeschooling is the freedom to learn and take up the curriculum at our own pace at our own time. Sometimes, if she’s not in the mood to study, I let her play first and only do the lessons when she’s ready. I also enrolled her with the group tutorial of her previous school so she would still have the feel of having a teacher and classmates. Their routine includes a singing and dancing time, worksheet activities, and class recitation.
The challenge is the limitation of this type of learning: Learning is not all about books and academics. Kids also have to enrich their non-academic skills like social and emotional skills.
The transition wasn’t really smooth. We made a lot of adjustments. We redesigned her bedroom to her study room and my home office. I try to make it as school-like as possible.
Getting her to study was and is a big challenge. She resisted the idea that Mommy is also her teacher. She used to argue that Mommy is Mommy. She would even tell us that her school is just a few blocks away from our place. It took a while before she adjusted with our current set up.
Another challenge is the accessibility of the toys, the television, and other things that easily distract children. I try my best to limit my daughter’s screen time. For now, we try to keep our mobile phones away from her. Her iPad only has educational apps downloaded. Our TV’s remote control is hidden most of the time.
I’ve been managing my own small businesses, Love A’lia and Oh Baked Goodness, from home since before the pandemic. When COVID-19 started to spread, I had to cancel all bazaar and tradeshow plans. I work at night: making my products, working on invoices, researching, planning, and preparing deliverables.
I love that my workspace is my comfort zone. It enables me to work smoothly and effectively: no wasted time on travel and traffic. I’ve learned to be independent and resourceful since I only have myself and my husband to depend on. The most challenging part is staying organized as I work on numerous roles and tasks.
“I teach my daughter to be independent. She now knows how to use the printer and upload her school assignments with a phone.”
Chief marketing officer of Francorp Philippines
Father to a six-year-old
When the world shifted towards remote work, we did the usual adjustments to our home like upgrading our Internet subscription. We also set up our dining area to serve as our office and study area. When one of us has a call, she/he has to find another place in the house that’s quiet.
I am a company co-owner. There are 50 of us, and—at any given time—there are only around five people at the office. Our staff has a flexible schedule. I am very goal-oriented; what’s important is that deliverables are met.
Working from home has its advantages. One client meeting used to take up my entire day, for instance. These days, I could have four or five per day through Zoom. People have already accepted tools such as Zoom as a means to keep in touch. There’s also the time saved from the commute: getting to the office used to take around two hours.
The worst part is that there’s no mental transition mode from work to home. It’s tempting to continue working in the evenings, what with the office already set up at home. I did save a couple of hours from the commute, but I think I’m working more. I’m worried about the possibility of burnout even among our team.
The time saved from the commute is also the best part of studying from home. An 8 a.m. call time at my daughter’s school would have meant waking up at 5 a.m. in order to be able to leave at 6 a.m. Nowadays, she could wake up at 7:30 a.m. and still make it in time for their virtual morning prayer at 8 a.m.
The worst part is that there’s no socialization. The school tries to have virtual recesses but it’s not the same. It’s hard. I’m glad my daughter has a sister. I can only imagine those who don’t have siblings.
Her school helps by setting up meetings with those who are struggling with this transition. As parents, we realize how hard this transition is for the teachers too. They’re doing a good job.
What I learned from our experience so far is to allow for the cadence. My daughter has already found her school rhythm. In the past, I wanted her to finish all her schoolwork first before allowing her to play. Nowadays, she does her schoolwork in the morning, takes a lunch break and plays until maybe 2 p.m., then studies again from 2 p.m. to whenever she’s done. As long as you finish your schoolwork, then that’s what matters.
I teach my daughter to be independent. She now knows how to use the printer and upload her school assignments with a phone.
“We only have Saturday school for her. We were planning to switch her to a Monday-Friday, half-day schedule when the pandemic struck.”
Founder and chief brand experience director, Bluethumb
Mother to a three-and-a-half-year-old
We only have Saturday school for my daughter. When the pandemic struck, I knew I wanted to align my husband and helper with the Waldorf philosophy of education. I want my daughter to play with dirt and explore her environment. At Waldorf, they teach children how to do chores too but in a fun way.
In the past, I would leave for work during the day and regularly check on our home’s CCTV while at the office. Sometimes, my daughter would sing a few songs to the CCTV. I felt that it wasn’t enough that I only came home to dinner. I only got to play with her in the morning. My office building is near my home, but I was not able to go home for lunch.
To improve our work-from-home setup, we had a backup system installed to our already strong Internet connection. My husband has his workstation in the living area. My daughter has a little table where she does her thing. I get the master’s bedroom and work using a breakfast bed table. I also invested in a ring light because we do webinars at Bluethumb.
At the beginning of the lockdown, I was really strict with myself. I only went out of the room at lunchtime. I felt that I needed to be a good role model for my people. Later on in the fourth month, my husband asked, “What if it doesn’t work out? What if the business flops and you didn’t even get to have a relationship with your child?” I became more forgiving after that. I realized that my employees also have non-work errands they need to do. Some have senior citizen parents to take care of.
The pandemic gave me a chance to get it straight about what we need from each other.
Our daughter’s teacher advised us to give our children the 2–3 minutes they need whenever they come up to us sharing a new discovery. You can’t keep saying you’re busy. Occasionally, my daughter would do thoughtful gestures like give me a herbal blanket when I’m cold. These are what you miss out on if you’re not present.
The nice part about the pandemic is that you see your family more often. You get to share certain responsibilities. I get to eat meals with the family and enjoy doing chores. Before, minamadali mo [you rush through them] because you need to get out the door. I now get to cook, paint, bake, do all the hobbies I always wished I could have.
I feel that, for a lot of people, the situation immobilized them; they were stuck in worry and anxiety. At Bluethumb, we personally did a version of the clarity consulting we offer to our clients. Really ask yourself what it is you want to do. You won’t get clarity if you look at others. You have to look within.
SIDEBAR | Tips for parents in the same boat
- Recognizing the present and possible challenges your family might encounter gives you the opportunity to plan things ahead.
- Accepting that distractions and interruptions will occur when there is no separation between work and home and school means less stress and struggle over things.
- Keep a realistic schedule that works with your family’s rhythm. It is important to recognize your own family rhythm. Identify what works best for your family.
- Be involved with your child’s learning. Spend time and get to know your kids better. Provide them activities that’s appropriate to their growth and development stage. Most of important of all, have fun learning together. That strengthens your bond as a family.
- Divide the work. If you have a partner, determine between yourselves the best way to divide the important tasks that need to be done. At home, my wife helps out with our three-year-old, and I help out with our six-year-old.
- Promote independence. I taught my daughter the basics of using a laptop, a printer, and a phone to help her meet her learn-from-home requirements. I let her use an old phone to upload her assignments.
- Don’t be a helicopter parent. Allow your kids to make mistakes. They learn through their mistakes. It’s only too easy to hover beside your child when she’s doing her exam. I don’t check my kid’s work. I let her upload her work as is. Besides, the teacher says that if she gets everything correct, then they’ll assume that she understood everything.
- Figure out what matters to you, so you can figure out what to practice with your child – Teach them things based on what you find joy or interest in. In our case, we want our daughter to be helpful, so we involve her in doing chores. We also expose her to trees and animals so she respects and cares for the planet. Everyday life, the real world, and the people you meet are your best teachers.
- Bond with your children. Bake with them. Cook with them. Get to know them. If you see teaching your child as a chore, then you miss out on that bonding. What’s important about the pandemic is that you’re learning about each other and yourself. I’m learning a lot from my daughter just by observing her.
- Be mindful of your attitude. If you think math is boring, figure out how you can make it fun for your children. If you act like you find the topic boring, then matra-transfer sa kids mo [your kids will adopt that attitude too].
SIDEBAR | AN EXPERT WEIGHS IN
Faridah Kristi C. Wetherick, child and family psychotherapist and director of SLU-Sunflower Child and Youth Wellness Center, reminds parents to take care of themselves.
“There is so much focus on how our children cope with learning at home and sometimes, we do forget the wind that propels them forward,” she said, offering the following advice:
- Be consistent whether in providing praise or affirmation for a job well done, or in disciplining when children misbehave or when teens break agreements or house rules. Having a good balance between being too lax and too strict is like dancing to a tune and adjusting to the beat of the music without losing balance or one’s cool.
- Take parent breaks. Pause for a few moments. Nurture your OWN interests or hobbies. This is not about being selfish; it is about self-care in order to rejuvenate or regain strength to be effective in one’s parenting. Mental stress can take toll on one’s physical health as well, which will only jeopardize one’s effectiveness as a child’s companion in the journey of parenting.
- Listen and listen well to what our children are saying with their words or actions. Be calm, be reassuring, and be emotionally present. Parenting alongside one’s spouse or partner or with other family members is encouraged. Having a strong support system eases the challenges of parenting and can be a source of positivity. Reach out to friends or co-workers. Knowing that one is not alone in the challenge of pandemic parenting can be very reassuring.