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Being a Virtual Schooling Parent is Not Convenient

In an ideal world, this is what most of the day would look like:  older kids learning peacefully, younger ones playing quietly.
In an ideal world, this is what most of the day would look like: older kids learning peacefully, younger ones playing quietly.
Emily L. Goodman

Being the parent of a virtual schooling child isn’t convenient, nor is it easy. As a virtual schooling parent, you do not meander out of bed when it’s convenient to you, push a computer at your child, and turn them loose. You do not drop your child off for seven or eight hours and return to find the bulk of their educational responsibilities accomplished, with at most an hour or so worth of work to complete once they return home. You do not even have the ability to pack your child into the car and run about, taking care of all of your errands for the day on your schedule, because there are class connect sessions and virtual lessons to take into consideration.

There are testing days, when you must wake early and drive to an unfamiliar location, rushing about as you try to find the testing center only to sit for hours waiting for your child to emerge from behind a locked door, because if you leave, it will be your child’s group that gets finished thirty minutes early. There are conference days, when your teacher lets you know not nearly far enough in advance that you’re going to have to plop yourself down behind a computer screen for a fifteen-minute chat with them at a specific time, for which you can not be late. There are class connect sessions that your child must attend, often scheduled at the most inconvenient times possible.

There are days when your child does not understand the lesson that they’re currently doing—and as a virtual schooling parent, you don’t always have the option of turning that lesson over to a teacher. Sometimes, you find yourself googling “How does the quadratic formula work?” and studying for two hours, in spite of the fact that you haven’t done any math more complicated than basic multiplication since college, because your child’s teacher won’t be available for a one-on-one conference for a week, and you don’t want her to get that far behind. Sometimes, you won’t like the instruction (or lack thereof) on a particular topic, so you’ll have to dig into knowledge that you haven’t used since high school. Or middle school. Or earlier.

There are days when you find yourself reading The Secret Garden or The Hobbit or Tom Sawyer in a desperate hurry, not even taking the time to linger over the parts you remember liking, because your child has a question about the plot of the story, and you haven’t read it in more than a decade. Or two. Then you end up googling the answer anyway, because you aren’t sure that yours is the “right” one, and you want them to have the answer that their teacher is looking for.

There are days when you sit and stare at the learning coach guide for a lesson and wonder whether it was written by someone for whom English is a second language…and days when you wonder if English is really your second language.

There are days when, instead of being done early enough to get out and run your errands after lunch, you’ll discover that it’s three o’clock and your child is only on their third lesson of the day.

There are days when you look at your “advance prep” at ten o’clock the night before you’re supposed to do a lesson and realize that there are three different materials that you were supposed to acquire for the lesson that you forgot about. All of them have to be purchased from different locations. None of those locations is Wal-mart.

There are days when you’ve tried six times to get a straight answer out of your child’s teacher, and you must be writing too much in your kmails, because somehow, he’s managed to miss the point every single time you’ve asked the question.

There are days when you realize halfway through the day that your child has been playing computer games all morning instead of working on schoolwork, and all of your plans for the afternoon are immediately derailed. You wrestle with the “safe surfing” settings on the computer a dozen different times, but every time you think you have it locked own tightly enough to prevent this, they’re sent to a site that they can’t access during a class connect session, and you have to unblock everything again.

There are days when you are sick, or tired, or busy, and the absolute last thing that you want to be bothered with is a seventh grader’s history assignment—but you have to, because with a virtual school schedule, you have to work within a traditional school week, and if you take the day off, you’re just going to have to make it up at a less convenient time.

Being a virtual schooling parent is not convenient. It comes with a messy house, a hectic schedule, and commitments that you can’t ignore, no matter how much you might want to. It’s not for everyone. It’s certainly not for parents who are considering it on a whim.

But for those who need it, it’s so worth it.