83ºF

Here’s what it’s really like to juggle teaching your child at home while working

Work at home mom blogs experience of teaching her child while getting work done during coronavirus pandemic

Stacy Shanks' daughter works on distance learning.
Stacy Shanks' daughter works on distance learning. (WKMG)

Hi everyone, my name is Stacy Shanks and I’m the News 6 social media producer. What does that mean? I take all of the news we have online and find creative ways to share it with you via social media.

This week, though, my job title gets a little longer.

I will now also be teaching my almost 8-year-old daughter, who is in second grade in Seminole County. I’m calling myself Professor Mommy. I don’t think she’s impressed.

Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher but, unfortunately, just before starting college, I had a teacher talk me out of it.

Now I get to live out my dream of teaching children -- well, just one child and only for a couple of weeks. But hey, we all have to start somewhere, might as well be my own kid.


Day 4 – Thursday, April 2

Parent excitement level: 5 out of 5

Child excitement level: 5 out of 5

Wow. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging but today’s distance learning went even better than yesterday.

I know it’s not been easy on people and there are many still struggling. I’m here for you, I promise. We’ve just found a routine that works for us and we’re rolling with it. That may all change in a blink of an eye, but for now, we’re on top of it.

My child again wanted to wake up early and get everything taken care of as quickly as she could. Yes, she likes school, but her real motivation is TV and screen time. No problem with that here in my household.

We got started right at 7 a.m. and knocked both English and Math out very quickly. The lessons were short and mirrored much of the previous days so it didn’t take long to navigate them and complete the teacher’s requirements.

The only thing left to do was finish off those math iReady minutes, which weren’t really due till Friday but she wanted them over and done with.

All that is left for Friday is to complete an English and math lesson and then take the English and math quiz. Then we will have completed our first of many weeks of at-home learning.

There could be more coming our way as teachers also adapt their plans for online learning. But I’ll cross those bridges when they come.


Day 3 – Wednesday, April 1

Parent excitement level: 4 out of 5

Child excitement level: 5 out of 5

Today went so smoothly I almost forgot to blog about it.

In fact, it went so well I almost feel as if I need to play my cards right and go out and buy a lottery ticket or something. But that would require leaving my house, and while gas stations are open, do I really risk getting potential coronavirus germs all while likely not winning the lottery? Not today.

Now that we’re three days in, I feel like we’re used to our teacher’s system. My child rocked through her coursework by the time it was noon.

We decided last night to get an early start today. I was told I should force her out of the bed by 7 a.m. So that’s what I did. It really helped to get a jump start before I sat down to work.

She took to the couch with her breakfast and got to work. The day-to-day assignments don’t really vary except for the topic being covered. We started with English, moved through math and got all of her science out of the way for the week. She studied extra hard for her quiz and nailed it.

Outside of those main areas, second graders don’t have too much more to cover. She’s supposed to log 46 minutes of English and math in iReady, and she’s completely done with one and almost there on the other one. The second half of the week is shaping up to be far better than the first.

Stacy Shanks created chart to help track her daughter's weekly distance-learning assignments.
Stacy Shanks created chart to help track her daughter's weekly distance-learning assignments. (WKMG)

I’m a visual person and needed to feel organized. To help me accomplish this, last night I created a chart. It’s no super creative Pinterest find but it’ll do. I just grabbed the nearest sheet of construction paper and a marker that actually had ink in it and put my chart-making skills to use.

I’m pretty proud of my work and my child has enjoyed checking things off the list.

The highlight of her day, besides finishing so early, had to have been the video chat with other second graders and her school principal around lunchtime. They are doing one session a week for each grade. I made sure to set that reminder on my phone so she wouldn’t miss it.

Stacy Shanks' daughter works on distance learning.
Stacy Shanks' daughter works on distance learning. (WKMG)

I’m so glad things have turned themselves around and become more manageable. I also think it helps that she’s only in second grade and the course load is far less than higher grades.

If you haven’t quite found your work-from-home and teach-your-child groove yet, know that it will come with time. I mean we’re in this for another month so there’s got to be a routine that fits your schedule. I encourage you to just keep trying different things until you find what sticks.

And if you need help or suggestions, or even just someone to vent too, send me an email. I’m here for you.


Stacy Shanks' daughter finds different areas of the house to complete her school work each day.
Stacy Shanks' daughter finds different areas of the house to complete her school work each day. (WKMG)

Day 2 – Tuesday, March 31

Parent excitement level: 2 out of 5

Child excitement level: 4.5 out of 5

Phrase of the day: Wait one second

I started today’s at-home learning very afraid after the mess that was yesterday. I mean today could only get better after day one’s fiasco of doing all the wrong assignments.

I’m proud to report it has been a huge improvement. Thank goodness, because I’m not sure my sanity could’ve taken much more.

I was mentally spent yesterday night. And to top it off, Florida announced an extension of distance learning through the end of April. That certainly didn’t help when things seemed so grim on day one.

But today was a new day. I made sure to wake up early to get in an hour of my virtual, at-home workout and get out for some fresh air with a one-mile run. I think that helped the new and positive mindset today.

We started our distance learning much later today. My child wanted to wake up early again but when I tried to wake her, she wasn’t having it. That was ok, I needed to focus on work.

During my lunch break, she was itching to get started on schoolwork. Yesterday I proclaimed that I would only do my work and help with schooling separately. You see how long that lasted? Whoops. I mean how can you turn down a child who is wanting to learn.

I must say our teacher’s lesson plans are all laid out very well in a Google Classroom. It’s pretty easy to navigate from lessons to videos and assignment instructions. There are places to have private conversations per assignment to also help keep things organized.

Second grade daily assignments laid out in google classroom.
Second grade daily assignments laid out in google classroom. (WKMG)

I quickly learned what the phrase of the day would be: wait one second.

Every time she had a question, I, of course, was in the middle of something I just couldn’t immediately put down. So, every few minutes I continually repeated myself: “wait one second.”

I was happy to answer her questions and steer her in the right direction as I am a bit of a control freak and want to make sure she’s doing things correctly and in the manner I would like them. But again, this is why I really should try and carve out individual time to work on schoolwork with her. She’s probably not getting the best of my attention but we’re learning. And with that comes mom guilt.

Other mom guilt sinks in when you see social media posts of parents doing fun extracurricular learning with their child or finding ways for them to get out and exercise as they would in recess or P.E. In my household, there hasn’t been time for that, and I honestly don’t know how to fit that fun stuff in.

There’s also Facebook posts from the school talking about fun dress-up days, showing school spirit and how school administrators will be conducting online lunch sessions with every grade each Wednesday. I love their enthusiasm and all the effort they are putting into making this time as great as it can be for the kids. It’s honestly what makes them a great school. But… ughhh.

When you’re tasked with working at home and you have a job that demands all of your attention from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the emails pile up the minute you step away, it’s hard to juggle those fun things or even remember they are taking place. I’m hopefully not the only one that feels this way. I should probably set a calendar reminder now so tomorrow she can take part. There’s no way I’ll remember without one.

So, onto a lighter subject. My workspace at home has been from a large comfy chair, where I’ve set up a portable desk and monitors to help my own workflow. Due to this, my child has found the dog bed next to the chair as her workspace, so she can be close to me for those million questions she’s going to ask. It’s also pretty cute when one of the dogs decides to cuddle up and join her for some school fun.

Stacy Shanks' daughter takes part in distance learning
Stacy Shanks' daughter takes part in distance learning (WKMG)

While she is still off doing some school assignments, I will call day two a success. She completed the assignments for the day and is working on her science requirement for the week. I don’t feel nearly as worn out as I did yesterday either.

To all the parents out there struggling with this new scenario, I send my love and positivity. Know you aren’t alone in how you feel. This is hard and it may take some time to get used to. It’s hard on the students to learn a new normal and learn individually, parents to adapt to juggling one more thing and on teachers who are having to redo all their lesson plans and find ways to stimulate our children when they can’t see them.

Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go well. Tomorrow will hopefully always be better than the day before.


Stacy Shanks' daughter participates in at-home learning during coronavirus outbreak.
Stacy Shanks' daughter participates in at-home learning during coronavirus outbreak. (WKMG)

Day 1, Part 2 - Monday, March 30

Parent excitement level: 2 out of 5

Child excitement level: 4.5 out of 5

Want the good news or the bad news? Most people like to start with the positive so here goes.

The Seminole County school website was back up and running this morning. The teachers and district did a good job of keeping us informed about the outage. I think that’s the only positive I can name right now.

The bad news is I’m emotionally spent after only a few hours because we discovered my child did 96 minutes of ELA iReady lessons, none of which counted toward her Monday assignment. We were doing the wrong ones.

I’m not going to blame anyone; I’m just going to let the anger and frustration go and move on as our correct assignments now show online and they can be completed.

Thankfully my child took the news much better than I did. Her response was, “I feel silly for doing the wrong thing.“

My response can’t be printed, we’ll just leave it at that.

We’re all learning here. It’s not an easy transition for the teachers, parents or students. And with that I know things can only get better.

I’ve learned to just slow down, not rush to get assignments done while our teacher is online and to not try and juggle work at the same time my child is completing her assignments. I’m great at multitasking, but in this scenario no one wins. My work suffers and my attention and patience with her does as well.

As my daughter sits down to wrap up her real English assignments for the day, she responded with this when asked how she thought today had gone, “I’d rather be at school with my friends and my teacher, but it’s been great.”

And that’s why I love her so much.

I’m going to wrap up today’s blog, get back to my other work tasks and pray tomorrow goes more smoothly.

If you found my patience, could you please send it back this way? I think I’m going to need it tomorrow since it didn’t show up today.

Stacy Shanks' daughter participates in at-home learning during coronavirus outbreak.
Stacy Shanks' daughter participates in at-home learning during coronavirus outbreak. (WKMG)

Day 1, Part 1 – Monday, March 30

Parent excitement level: 5 out of 5

Child excitement level: 5 out of 5

On Sunday night, my child was very eager to get started with distance learning and wanted to do so as early as possible on Monday. She asked that I wake her up early. She loves school but I think most of her motivation came from wanting to get her lessons for the day done with early so she could return to watching TV and doing her crafts.

We learned from her teacher over the weekend that she would have one English and math lesson each day, along with three science lessons a week and 46 minutes of iReady in English and Math to complete by the end of the week. Seems very doable.

At her request, I got her up early so we could get started. Little did we know the lesson plans weren’t going to be live online for another hour. That’s ok, as she got started logging her iReady minutes for the week.

While she excitedly worked on her iReady assignments, it was my turn to get to work sorting through emails, conversing online with coworkers and completing assignments.

What I quickly learned is there’s going to be a lot of interruptions until she gets through her lesson plans for the day. Questions galore.

Breakfast on the couch while completing iReady minutes for the week.
Breakfast on the couch while completing iReady minutes for the week. (WKMG)

Patience is going to be key as we navigate through these new waters of at home learning while juggling all the other tasks we have as at-home worker and parents.

Once her daily assignments were live online, we got to work. It was all neatly organized and laid out in a google classroom. However, I felt I needed more detailed instruction. My child’s teacher did respond pretty quickly when I asked for further explanation.

There’s a lot of clicking on different links, logins to juggle, accounts to create and a lot of parent involvement as we got started. I imagine that will lessen as the days go on, but it’s all hands on deck on day 1.

All of this is going on while I’m also trying to keep my work email inbox at bay. The minute I return to my own work, there seems to be 50 new emails. Then I’m going back and forth between writing online stories for you all to read and posting our news to our social media accounts. (Shameless plug No 1. Follow News 6 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram if you haven’t already.)

The biggest hiccup so far has been that the Seminole County Public Schools website, which has crashed. It worked fine at 8 a.m., but as more students logged on this morning, it stopped working.

Stacy Shanks' daughter moved her work space to the dog bed so she could be closer to her mother when questions arose.
Stacy Shanks' daughter moved her work space to the dog bed so she could be closer to her mother when questions arose. (WKMG)

My child had finished her math assignment for the day and was ready to finish her reading assignment when the website stopped working. With me needing to accomplish my own work, I sent her off watch TV until lunchtime when we’ll resume at-home learning and get her assignments wrapped up for the day.

What have a learned so far in such a short amount of time?

I cannot juggle my own work while she’s trying to finish hers. We will have to carve out hours of time and work on them separately. She deserves my undivided attention and help and it’s far too hard to do that while logging my own work hours from home.

Again, I needed to remind myself to be patient with the process and with my child as we are all new to this. I’m a person who needs structure and organization and while we don’t have it on day 1, it will come with time. I just need to breathe deep and stay calm.

Stay tuned for Day 1, Part 2 after lunch when we give this online learning a second try for the day.


About the Author: