Parents, students adapt to remote learning

April 19, 2021, 8:02 am
by Spencer Kemp 0 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Penny Jeannot of Moosomin during online story time with Mrs. McMullen, and Mrs. Fisher. Penny is one of hundreds of students who are participating in online learning this week.

Schools across Saskatchewan have moved to online learning for two weeks due to the spread of Covid-19 variants across the province.

For some parents, the change has been difficult with having to balance work on top of watching their kids while others have found it easier.

Father of two daughters, who are in Kindergarten and Grade 1, Tyler Thorn of Moosomin, says that for the first week of online classes, he had to take time off work to watch his daughters.

This week, however, his wife will be taking time off to watch the kids.

“I had to skip work this week in the mornings and my wife has to work at the hospital. So she’ll go to work and I stay at home with the girls through their school sessions in the morning, then I drop them off at daycare in the afternoon,” Thorn said.

“My wife took the week off so she’ll be able to get them set up for school. So we do have it covered for these two weeks, but after that, I’m not sure what we’re going to do.”

While the change in schedule was difficult, Thorn says he is fortunate that he can work from home with his job.

“I wouldn’t say it’s difficult for us, we’re fortunate that I can do a bit of work from home and if I am gone for a few hours in the morning the place will still run without me. We’re fortunate that way, but I know a lot of people are having a lot more difficulties than we do with their schedules.”

Thorn says that his daughters were excited to learn from home and adapted well to the changes.

“The kids quite enjoyed taking classes from home on day one. I don’t know how it will affect them long term if they will still be excited or not, but I think it’s kind of a unique situation and it’s something different for them. They got to see their friends and teachers on the computer, and I think the kids get used to it quicker than we do. It’s less of a change for them, but it’ll be a bit of a challenge for us beyond that I’m sure.”

But one thing Thorn notes as a positive to the change has been the ability to watch his daughters learn.

He says it is a unique opportunity to see how they interact with their teachers and classmates.

“On a positive note from a parent’s perspective, we get the chance to watch the kids learn. We don’t get to see them in class when they’re in front of their teachers or when they’re getting lessons. We don’t get to see them interact like that. It gives us a real opportunity to do that, which I found kind of neat to watch how they are paying attention and how they are learning. We get to watch them learn, and I think that is a positive thing.

“I also want to say that the teachers and principal we had team meetings with, I think they’re in a difficult spot but I think they’ve done a wonderful job of getting things scheduled and things prepared for a shift to online learning. Kudos to them.”

Like most students across Saskatchewan, Anika Thorn will be taking part in remote learning for two weeks.

Stay-at-home mom finds remote learning easy

Mother of three, April Sutter, says she is fortunate that is a stay-at-home mom and that she is able to keep an eye on her daughters, aged 13, 11, and six.

Sutter says that if this change to online learning came later during seeding season, then there would be scheduling issues.

“We haven’t had to change a lot. We would be one of the families that probably have had an easier time with it because I’m a stay-at-home mom aside from farming. So this time of year I am home to help them. We haven’t had to make a whole lot of sacrifices, but that might change in a couple of weeks when we’re seeding,” Sutter said.

Grady Sutter takes a moment to pose for the camera during his online class.

She says that her children had adapted well to the change to online learning, however, some are itching to get back to class.

“They’ve done well with it so far. I think it’s a mix though, some of my kids would rather be in school with their friends and some of them would be happy to be home more. So it really just depends on the kid within my own house, some are happy with it and some aren’t.

Sutter notes that one issue they have run into is rural internet, a common complaint that has been voiced across Saskatchewan since COVID-19 began impacting classes.

She says that in her house, which is located outside of town, their internet is not enough to support three devices streaming classes at the same time.

“Internet is probably our biggest struggle here, we just don’t have the speed of the internet to support three kids being on at the same time.”

Luke Sutter spends some time at the kitchen table to complete his home

While Sutter says she considered moving to homeschooling during the start of the pandemic, but now she is hoping her kids can return to class sooner rather than later.

“I want to get my kids back in class. I did actually consider homeschooling in the fall only because of the uncertainty, I didn’t want them in and out of school all the time but I think they need their friends.

“We’ve done great. Our kids have been in school full-time up until now so it’s been great. Hopefully, this is just two weeks and hopefully, it doesn’t become a problem. I don’t want it to hold out for any longer than that.”

Some parents have been fortunate through the shift to online learning following Easter break with independent students.

Will Sutter is set up and ready for remote learning.

Jensen thankful that her daughter is independent and self-motivated

Michelle Jensen, whose daughter is in Grade 8, says that she is lucky her daughter is able take care of herself for the most part.

She says that she understands the struggles that other parents might be facing.

“I’m very fortunate because I only have one child that’s a student, so she’s very self-motivated. So for me, I have it very easy and I’m really thankful that I am in the position that I am in right now and that I don’t have younger kids because I feel that it would be extremely hard to try and work,” Jensen said.

“For a lot of parents it’s a dual-income household, so to do this at-home schooling on top of trying to find childcare now for younger kids is stressful. But for me, it’s fairly easy.”

Jensen says she is able to go to work while her daughter remains at home to do her classes, something Jensen says she would not have been able to do if this happened years earlier.

“If this was six or seven years ago I would have been panicking as well. But right now I’m just lucky that this has hit at the right time for me.”

But it’s not just the parents who have to pull their weight and adapt to the changes of online learning. Jensen says she is thankful that her daughter is self-motivated, as it makes it easier for her to be independent.

“We have a computer, we have internet so we’re good there. My daughter is very self-motivated, she’s a smart kid and she doesn’t struggle in her subjects, so for her, she just goes in and does the work and that’s that. I just need to make sure as I’m leaving for work that she’s up for school and her computer is working,” said Jensen.

“We have a computer, we have internet so we’re good there. My daughter is very self-motivated, she’s a smart kid and she doesn’t struggle in her subjects, so for her, she just goes in and does the work and that’s that. I just need to make sure as I’m leaving for work that she’s up for school and her computer is working.”

Maryfield mother concerned about at-home learning impacting work

The shift to online learning has been a difficult one for some parents who both work full time.

Daphne Brady, a mother of two girls ages 10 and 14 that attend MacLeod Elementary in Moosomin, has noted difficulty organizing childcare for the two weeks of online learning.

“We needed childcare and we had to go and buy another laptop because we have two kids. We had previously anticipated this happening so we did have this second one purchased already, thankfully, because there was not a lot of notice this time. My husband is at home working, so that helps, but we are trying to calve and he is trying to get ready for seeding so we definitely do not have a lot of extra time to be working with the kids at school. We have made the time, but we did not have the time,” said Brady.

She says that both she and her husband have had to rely on family members to help watch their daughters when they are busy.

“My husband is able to help, but I may have to take days off work if this extends into seeding because he will have to be in the field. We have had to rely on grandma and grandpa, but now with the new regulations saying that we have to stay in our own bubble, I’m not exactly sure how we’re going to shuffle this around because we can’t have grandmas and grandpas come into the house to help.

“If this extends longer than the two weeks, we are seriously considering having to hire a nanny because we can’t have grandma and grandpa or aunts and uncles to step up and help out with schooling for four to five hours a day.”

While her 14-year-old child has adapted well to the move to online learning, Brady says it has been difficult for her younger 10-year-old.

“My 14-year-old is fine because you set her up with her laptop and she logs in and she does everything, we check on her to make sure she’s not messing around and she’s actually doing her work. But our other daughter has special needs. So it’s something that requires a bit of extra time. Her teacher is amazing and is going above and beyond to make sure she has help. For example, she came on the other day after a class to help out a couple of the students in her class that she saw were struggling on the topic. She’s awesome, but I got home at lunchtime the other day and my husband was trying to help my daughter understand what they were taught that morning. It’s just a lot of extra time and effort because they can’t one-on-one with the kids.”

While Brady notes the change was easier than the shift to online learning last year, she says that there was little notice given for the change.

“There were a lot of issues last time we were doing online learning. We did not have good internet out here in the country and we were trying to survive on one old computer and a laptop so we were struggling with that. We tried a lot of different things, we were struggling with childcare because I was at work and it happened at a time my husband was trying to get into the field.

“This time was easier, we were somewhat anticipating it however we didn’t get a lot of extra notice. We were given that week of Easter to try and wrap our head around how we were going to manage things. We set up a couple of desk areas for the kids to do their schoolwork, which probably helped a bit. But it’s still a struggle to try and go with the flow.”

Brady says that before the school year started, she and her husband considered moving to home schooling but ultimately decided against it.

“Both of our kids are very social kids and with them staying at home with both of us trying to work and farm just is not really an option. We would love to be able to home school but it’s just not an option for us.”