The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Homeschooling—the new normal

Sophia Estabrook, left, 5-year-old kindergartener, with her mom Terra Estabrook working on school work at their home in Sacramento, California Sunday, March 15, 2020. (Paul Estabrook family photo)

On the afternoon of March 13, City College students and faculty got the news that Los Rios Community College District was suspending face-to-face classes and would go fully online due to the COVID-19 quarantine. 

I’m a sophomore, and spring 2020 is my last semester at City College. This news was disheartening for me. As the returning photo editor of the Express news site, I was looking forward to spending my last semester with the friends I have made on the Express and with the faculty I look up to.

My daughter, Joaquina, is in first grade and loves to go to school. Joaquina received the news that her district, San Juan Unified, would close March 16. Joaquina is a kid who gets sad on holiday breaks because she misses her friends. How do you explain to a 6-year-old that her mother doesn’t know when either of them will be able to go back to school?

There was not a lot of information that first week. Joaquina is in a dual immersion school, all in Spanish with only 30 minutes of English a day. I am not a Spanish speaker, so how am I supposed to keep my daughter up to speed to be at grade level next year?

Paul Estabrook, City College department chair for photography, and his wife had a smoother transition for their 5- and 8-year-old daughters who are in a private school.

“They sent everyone home on a Friday, and by the following Wednesday they started instruction,” said Estabrook. “We get an email every morning with a brand new link to Seesaw and an overview description of the day.”

It took another week after the closure before I received guidance on what I should be working on with Joaquina. This seemed to be common among the public schools with some parents like Tamara Knox learning about closures through news outlets.

“We just found out in The Bee that the Sac City School District just got some money so they can start purchasing the Chromebooks,” Knox said. “I was reading [that] the goal is to go online on the 13th of April.”

Knox, an instructional assistant at City College, has a 14-year-old son, Shamar, who is a freshman in high school. In the meantime, they reached out to his teachers to get a syllabus to figure out what Shamar should be focusing on while at home. 

“When the school closed, I was never told we were going online,” Shamar said. “I had to start doing my own work because they were saying we might have to repeat this semester. And I wasn’t for repeating a semester my freshman year.”

For some parents, curriculum is not the main focus. They’re more concerned about the emotional state of their children. Jordan McGowan, wide receiver coach at City College, is focusing on the social and emotional well being of his children, who are first and fifth graders.

“Ultimately, we knew school was going to come back in some type of form, but we didn’t want to overwhelm them, especially with everything going on,” McGowen said. “We need not rush to worry so much about content or rush to worry about standards. First [we should] be concerned with our students as human beings.”

All schools are trying to adjust with this unexpected situation. Some, like the school Estabrook’s children attend, are collecting work from students. So far it seems that the public schools are not making work mandatory or grading it. This is the case with Melissa Sanchez Robinson, tutor and student at City College, and her fourth grade daughter.

“They are giving us packets of work that you are doing on your own time,” Robinson said. “They are not going to collect them.”

I am in the same situation as Robinson. Joaquina has suggested work to do each day. If I want to take a photo of the work and send it in, I can, but it will not be graded.

For parents, trying to find that balance of doing school work with children at home while at the same time having to work from home has been a challenge. Robinson and Estabrook find it especially difficult when they have classes and meetings scheduled via video chat platforms like Zoom at the same time. This can be very stressful for everyone at home.

“It’s a challenge. The kids are not happy with it whatsoever,” said Estabrook. “We’ve noticed increased frustration with being at home.”

For me, it has been hard to get any of my school work done while Joaquina is awake. She wants all my attention because I am usually on the run, and now she gets me all to herself. Like other parents, I’ve noticed increased frustration when I am helping my daughter with her work. 

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“A parent being a teacher to the kids—they look up to teachers differently than parents,” Estabrook said. “Even though we say the teacher wants [them] to do this [work], they are not excited about it.”

However, parents like me are finding that being at home has not been all bad. We are able to spend more time with our children, and some parents have seen positive effects because of it. Some have seen improvements in their children’s school work.

“I’ve had a lot easier time working with my third grader in math because she gets a lot more one-on-one time, as opposed to [in] a classroom of 20 kids,” said Estabrook.

Some parents have even seen an improvement in their children’s happiness.

“I had an epiphany that [Shamar] is happier now than when he was in school,” said Knox, “because he is actually doing the things he likes to do and is still learning.”

The San Juan, Natomas Unified, Twin Rivers Unified and Sacramento City Unified School districts will be closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. The Los Rios district has announced remote operations throughout the summer term. So we have a long stretch of homeschooling while working or finishing our college degrees.

The worry that seems to resonate with the parents is about their children’s social development and well-being. When my daughter has her one hour scheduled class, the first portion is taken up with all the kids saying “hi” to each other.

“The social aspect worries me the most because they are definitely not getting as much,” said Estabrook. “We’ve even created playdates now through Zoom.”

Freshman Shamar Knox agreed. 

“Homeschooling is a lot harder because I don’t get to see my friends,” Shamar said.

With everyone staying home to stay safe, even Joaquina’s piano and taekwondo lessons have moved to FaceTime or online to Zoom. 

I was nervous at first that Joaquina would not be able to learn piano with FaceTime, but she continually amazes me. Now I stand over Joaquina’s shoulder and angle my cell phone at the keys while she plays or the music sheets for her teacher to see. Joaquina has adapted better than expected to this new routine and is continuing to progress in her piano playing.

Her taekwondo is another story. Before the quarantine I was able to sit and watch the class. Now with the class on Zoom, she is not able to get hands-on correction to her form, and she has trouble seeing the instructor’s moves she needs to follow. Almost like clockwork, every class she runs to me crying.

“Mommy, I don’t know what to do,” Joaquina says, distraught with tears running down her face.

The only way I can get her to calm her down is by helping her. Then I have to watch the steps and go over them with her afterward. After seeing me help her, the instructor wants me to take up taekwondo—as if my plate was not already full. Feeling my joints pop as I kick, I decide that Joaquina will be the only black belt in the family.

As much as I may miss the sit back-and-watch days, I can see how much my daughter enjoys it when I help her with taekwondo.

 “[When you help me] it makes me smarter and stronger,” Joaquina says boldly as she flexes her muscles.

Seeing the smile on her face makes all the joint popping worth it.

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  • AnonymousApr 9, 2020 at 10:52 pm

    Amazing dot com

  • V

    VeronicaApr 9, 2020 at 10:22 am

    Excellent description of todays students normal…