Imagine your boss telling you, “Your co-worker is on indefinite leave, so you’ll have to take over his tasks on top of your own—and by the way, if you mess up, people might judge you.”
That’s exactly how I felt when I thought about how I (a tired, stressed working mom) would take on the challenge of helping my kids through distance learning. And I wasn’t alone: my Facebook feed and PTA chat groups exploded with posts from other parents. “How can I teach my kids? I forgot my Math and Science already!” “Homeschooling na ba ‘to? Naku, mag-aaway lang kami.”
But after talking to teachers and getting the facts about what “parental support” really means, I realize that distance learning isn’t as scary or stressful as it sounds. Even busy working moms like myself can be an active and positive presence—and after a few weeks of following their tips, I think I’ve found a good way to balance work, family, housekeeping and distance learning.
Distance learning does not mean hovering next to your child and actually doing more of his homework. In fact, JASMS principal Diana Guttierez says this is counterproductive. “Children can get stressed or pressured if you watch them too closely or sit in their online classes. And if you do their activities, teachers will not be able to accurately gauge what your child understands and what help he needs.”
So when your child’s “in school” – even if it’s a table a few meters away from you – respect those boundaries, back off, and let him learn independently. And if you’re a working mom, don’t feel guilty about not being there for him, because you’re not supposed to be there anyway.
Check their work through Google classrooms
Many schools will use Google classrooms or other online platforms. Ask for your child’s logins so you can check on the assignments—not to do their work for them, but to monitor your child’s progress. Don’t overreact to mistakes or argue with the teacher for a higher score, though! Instead, treat it as a chance to know where your child is struggling and what you need to focus on.
Maximize the benefits of online consultation
Most schools will have synchronous learning (where they’re online) and asynchronous learning (where they work independently, but the teacher is available for questions and consultation). So in a way, distance learning is actually really helpful because now the students get one-on-one time with their teachers. I don’t have to relearn Algebra to help my daughter with her Math homework—I just have to show her how to use that consultation time well.
Encourage your child to ask the teacher for help when he’s struggling with a topic. I taught my daughter to encircle the problems where she’s stuck or write down questions about a lecture, then consult with the teacher the next day. It also teaches my daughter to take charge of her own learning process, and be confident about asking questions.
Make review sessions as pleasant as possible… for both of you
The most important thing to do before reviewing your child or asking about homework is to calm down and be happy. Your child will pick up the stress in your voice, especially if the first question out of your mouth is, “Have you done your homework?”
It’s not fun to nag, and it’s not fun to be nagged. In most cases, says psychologist Tanya Lim, it’s counter-productive: your child won’t tell you if he’s confused by a topic because he’s afraid you’ll get angry. “Take care of yourself first. If you’re tired, rest. If you’re stressed, relax. It’s like the airline emergency instruction to grab a face mask before helping other passengers. You have to put yourself in a positive place by doing Me Time before Study Time.”
Following her instruction, I actually relax about 30 minutes before any review session (watch a show, take a long bath, do a sheet mask). And it worked! When I feel happy, my voice and body language are automatically more encouraging and positive—and my daughter is visibly more relaxed and open to talking about school, too.
I’ll ask about what happened in class, what she enjoyed or any kwento about her friends or classmates, before diving into the homework. And instead of asking, “Did you do your homework?” or “Why is your score this low?” I will ask, “Where do you need help?” It’s less stressful for both of us.
Use Google calendar or a time management app
Instead of micromanaging your child, teach him how to manage his own time. If your child uses Google classrooms, then teach him to use Google calendar. He can add his schedule and tag you, so you both get reminded about upcoming tests or projects. Just set mini-deadlines so you don’t end up cramming the night before.
Or, you can download really cute time management apps that let your child add stickers or use different kinds of fonts. There are also sticky note widgets, study timers, and tons of other tools that can help them take charge of their time in the way they like.
Start a parents’ chat group
Team up with your co-parents. Share study guides and resources; talk about the projects and homework, or just give moral support! While most schools will have a group chat for all parents in a year level or section, I also have a smaller group with parents of my kids’ close friends. It’s like having a study buddy!
Relax—we’re all learning how to learn
Teachers are adjusting to online instruction, students are adjusting to the new classroom setting, parents are adjusting to the new responsibilities. We’re all learning together, and growing pains and mistakes are part of the process. “Rather than getting too concerned about grades and subject topics, I suggest seeing this school year as a chance to develop your child’s curiosity, discipline, and ability to learn independently. Distance learning is showing all of us that education does not just happen in a formal classroom, and whatever happens this school year, it can be a good life lesson,” says teacher Doreen Go.
Family counselor Terence Uy adds, “Let go of the guilt and pressure. Trust yourself and trust your child. Human beings are resilient, and even in imperfect situations, are able to adjust and thrive. The New Normal brings many challenges and changes, but that is how people grow.”
As a working mom, I have limited time and energy, but even stay-at-home moms and work-from-home moms face their own challenges. But eventually we will all find a system that works for us, and suits our individual needs and personalities.
About The Writer
Dedet Reyes-Panabi was editor-in-chief of a parenting magazine for over 10 years, but has been writing for newspapers and magazines much longer than that (hint: back then, people still used film for photo shoots!). Today, she is a content marketing consultant for both local and international companies. She is full-time mom to two kids, three cats, and a stubborn French bulldog.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.