#parent | #kids | Parents struggle to ‘do it all’ with kids in virtual school

‘I’m trying to help our teachers by educating them the same way’

For Angela Kearney, distance learning has been a humbling experience.

The 50-year-old Pottstown resident has spent the last few years earning an associate’s degree in paralegal science and a bachelor’s in legal studies. She finally landed her dream job as a paralegal in January – only to be furloughed in March. Since then she’s been at home, focused on supervising the education of her four children and grandchildren ages 8 to 13.

“It doesn’t matter how many degrees you have, your third grader may be right,” Kearney said “It’s a struggle.”

Kearney’s house is jam-packed: in addition to her school-age kids, she shares it with her husband, who’s fighting kidney cancer, and her 20-year-old daughter Catheryn, who is hoping to attend Montgomery County Community College when it reopens. Kearney’s grandkids are dropped off every day by another adult daughter, Hope, who is working as the front desk manager of a nearby Holiday Inn.

Angela Kearney’s grandson David, 8, writes a letter to another student in his class. (Courtesy of Angela Kearney)

Each weekday, Kearney tries to recreate a typical day at Pottstown Middle School or Lincoln Elementary as best she can. The morning starts with a reading lesson. Then, a ‘brain break’ for kids to move around. After that comes math, followed by ‘recess’ in the backyard.

“I’m trying to help our teachers by educating them the same way at home,” she said. “So when they go back…normalcy will occur.”

Scheduling lessons can be a challenge: the four kids have just two laptops to share. Still, Kearney said, the students have been able to keep up. What she worries about is getting the call that it is time for her return to work.

“I’m the breadwinner of the household,” Kearney said. “If my job calls me to come back, who is going to school the children?”

Christian Toland, Kearney’s 13-year-old son, said he has struggled in school before, but this year he felt he had finally come into his own.

“Everything was going so smoothly, and then it got ruined,” Toland said.

Toland is not a fan of remote learning. He had some stern advice to offer to the adults not heeding social distancing guidelines.

“Us kids…we are really trying to have a summer,” Toland said, hoping restrictions will lift as the curve flattens. “And I am pretty sure [adults] are too. So I would suggest you stay home.”

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