In this segment of Stories from the Couch, our employees share the challenges—and joys—of their new roles as homeschool teachers.
We pivoted quickly to help many clients become remote organizations virtually overnight. But because our culture embraces bringing our whole selves to work, we know that they face many other challenges—such as their new roles as homeschool teachers.
These stories vulnerably illustrate exactly how much we “get it.” As our president, Larry English wrote, “The ability to be vulnerable is critical to building relationships and culture.”
We hope that by sharing our experiences homeschooling all age groups, we can help build personal connections with ourselves, our kids, and our clients.
SHORT STORIES ON HOW WE NAVIGATE SCHOOL-LIFE-WORK BALANCE
Turn a ‘No-Win’ into a ‘Win-Win’
Parenting tweens and teens in the time of COVID-19 often feels like a no-win situation, with no easy choices and lots of big emotions. While I am thankful that I do not have to worry about working from home with a toddler underfoot, parenting middle and high schoolers presents its own set of challenges.
For instance, how much screen time is healthy? When half their day is online schooling, that is already a lot of time in front of devices. But for teens, cellphones and online gaming provide much-needed social outlets, since they cannot see their friends in person. Our screen-time limits certainly look a lot different than they did pre-quarantine.
Extra-curriculars pose another challenge. Sports and clubs are starting up again, each with its own approach to limiting coronavirus spread. As parents, we have a new responsibility beyond driving the carpool — deciphering each activities’ mask-wearing and social-distancing policies and then making sure our teens are compliant.
With older children, I may not have to think about childcare, but I do have to worry about my teens’ physical and emotional health. Their lives have been disrupted as much as their parents’, and they have the added loss of important social connections.
While no one would have ever wanted a pandemic, I hope that this experience will provide a learning opportunity, helping them grow into empathetic, resilient adults.
—Carmen Fontana, Modern Software Delivery Practice Lead, Chagrin Falls, OH
Meet Kids Where They Are, but Don’t Lose Yourself
I have a daughter going into third grade and another daughter entering kindergarten this fall. Our district just announced that the school year won’t start until September, with both traditional and online options.
Our older daughter has struggled the most. She emphatically said she wanted to go back to school. She really struggled with online school and needs real-life interaction to learn.
Recently, she went to a horse camp. (It followed social-distancing guidelines.) Her attitude and overall demeanor were outstanding. I asked her what changed, and she said she just “felt better.” For me, that was a wakeup call.
We still don’t have plans for how transportation will be handled, what will happen when someone contracts COVID in the school, or what our plans would be if the schools shut down again. That’s a concern because the lack of consistency will cause significant strain on our children and our family.
The biggest thing I’m struggling with, besides just worrying over my family’s health, is my youngest’s first day of kindergarten. She loves school, and I don’t want her first day to be tainted. However, kids are resilient, and I know she’ll do great.
Along with managing these kinds of worries, how many moments have been taken away from parents because of COVID? We need to save moments for ourselves too. It’s frustrating, but we have to work together and follow the guidelines to get through this. Leaning on each other (from a distance!) is the only way to do it. Hello, virtual happy hours!
—Traci Whetzel, National Salesforce Partner Lead, Wadsworth, OH
Be Open to Options and Fresh Perspectives
Abruptly shifting from a full-time schoolhouse learning model to full-time virtual learning last school year was a tough transition, not only for me but for my elementary-aged boys.
For the upcoming school year, our school district announced that the first day of school has not only been moved to a week later, but schools are starting the year with 100% virtual learning. We no longer have a choice of classroom instruction.
Because of their ages, if I left my kids to manage their schoolwork, they would end up with the highest score on the Roblox gaming platform. They are great kids, but kids, nonetheless.
A local sports program is providing parents with the option of dropping off their children during school hours to support them with virtual schooling and socially distant sports play. This is a nice opportunity that will allow me to continue working as usual and give my boys a structured setting with virtual learning and some much-needed fun time. We are considering the ALM Sports Virtual Learning Option until they go back to the classroom.
Times are different, and it is all about adapting. But we cannot wait for the boys to go back to brick-and-mortar school days. I will never complain about carpool lane traffic or tons of homework again!
—Yaquelyn Sanchez, Operations/Recruiting Manager, Miami Lakes, FL
Live Globally, Home-School Locally
When I returned from a family trip to India in January after celebrating “New Year 2020” with extended family, I could have never imagined how different 2020 was going to turn out to be.
My 4-year-old daughter was super excited to meet her daycare friends again after not seeing them for nearly a month. Then, COVID-19 happened. My family (wife, daughter, and I) had to quickly adapt to staying within the confines of our two-bedroom condo for the near future.
This required not only a physical adjustment but also a mental one, as I shifted to balance working with clients and keeping our daughter busy. My wife and I have learned many new things much faster than we normally would have, such as how to cook tiramisu cakes and avocado tortillas while our daughter quickly learned to draw, play games and connect with friends digitally.
Juggling between work and home has now been woven into the daily fabric of life. Shushing our daughter between never-ending client meetings is our new norm as we learn to manage our new social, emotional and economic boundaries, not just as a family but as a society.
Having said that, my wife and I can’t wait to have a vaccine out soon so my little one can go out freely and meet her school friends, instead of sitting behind the laptop and waiting for our guidance.
—Nishant Awasthi, Senior Manager, Regional Lead, Business Consulting Services, Chicago, IL
Roll with Your Parenting Mini-Failures
“Are you done with work yet, Dad?” our oldest, age 5, asks me. It’s 8:05 AM. It’s going to be a long day.
Working from home with young children—our other child is 3—is both rewarding and challenging. Over the last few months, I’ve gained a stronger appreciation for teachers, schools and daycares. I have also realized I took for granted the ability to focus uninterrupted for hours at a time. The constant context-switching from parent to employee is a major challenge.
Finding your productivity groove, only to be interrupted to help one of the kids, can be frustrating and exhausting. It’s not all bad, though. In fact, I’ve immensely enjoyed watching my kids go from adversaries to allies. I love seeing their imaginative play and hearing their belly laughs. However, I also feel pangs of guilt. With both my wife and I working during the day, we often rely on the kids to entertain themselves. And too often, I hear myself saying, “Maybe,” or, “In a minute,” or, “Let’s see”—a delay tactic so I can refocus on work.
As a parent, it’s hard not to focus on these daily parenting mini-failures, but this is a unique time. I am grateful for a job that lets me be creative and flexible with my scheduling. Our kids don’t have to fend for themselves, and we are largely healthy and happy at home. We feel optimistic that we can weather this storm. After all, it’s only temporary.
—Colin Skopinski, Senior Architect, Wadsworth, OH
Walk Away from Perfect Schedule Expectations
Homeschooling our 9-year-old daughter, Avery, has been topsy-turvy, to say the least, and we improvise almost daily.
When things initially shut down, we created a Pinterest-worthy schedule and had an optimistic outlook. That quickly crumbled about two weeks later, as we acclimated to a “new normal” of chaos and the reality of juggling client-facing project deadlines while sketching geometric perimeters with a distracted child, scanning completed worksheets for the teacher, and rescuing the escaped hamster during a team call.
After a couple of months, we decided to take the pressure off ourselves and adopt a looser schedule (i.e., only lunch is planned). If she watches TV all day, for three days straight, she’ll survive. If she plays Minecraft with a friend for five hours, hooray for the social engagement! The hustle of trying to meet the optimistic expectations we had set for ourselves wasn’t worth the strain it created in our day-to-day lives.
Accepting our limitations and our situation’s imperfections has allowed us to remediate emotional breakdowns easier. And we put more weight into meaningful moments—leveraging a combination of outdoor activities, music classes on Outschool.com, reading challenges, and board games that include math.
Ultimately, we know that there are far more things for us to be grateful for. The magic also lies in knowing we’re all facing similar challenges, and we can get through it together.
—Sabrina Landers, Graphic Designer, National Marketing, Poulsbo, WA
Keep Learning, Even When You’re All Learned Out
Okay, you got me 2020. I get it. Uncle!
At first, my husband and I stayed ridiculously upbeat. We organized homework. Prepared schedules. Took daily hikes. Baked cookies.
Then, going back to school was postponed another month. And then it was postponed the rest of the school year. Crap.
Balancing work and homeschooling became brutal. On too many days, meetings began at 7:30 am and didn’t end until after 6 pm or later. Our kids were literally left to their own devices.
Here are some lessons learned — so far.
- Kids are far better at this. They accept and adapt better than any adult I know. I am awed by their strength and resiliency.
- Getting outside, whatever the weather, is vital to our mental and physical well-being.
- Teachers have a gift that many of us never fully appreciated until we were put in their shoes, if only for a short while.
- It’s possible (and surprisingly easy) to order wine over the phone, flash your license in the car window, and yell, “Put it in the trunk!” #noshame
- We are social beings who need interaction with friends and family to thrive. I miss hugging my mom.
I’m still learning, but each day I’m thankful to be healthy, to love and be loved by a family that accepts and appreciates my shortcomings, and for the Centric team that is rising to the challenge. Thank you, to all of them.
—Kindra Helm, Senior Manager, Westlake, OH