Once primarily associated with poker games and sitcoms, the phrase “full house” strikes people a little differently these days — for many families, it’s currently the way of life.
Schools are closed and many parents are working remotely or on leave from their jobs, making each residence simultaneously a workplace, classroom and entertainment venue.
Shandi Anderson of Destrehan quipped her three children, ages 9, 6 and 5 respectively, are already missing school.
“They’re not happy with my teaching habits,” Anderson said with a laugh. “They’re not happy that mama is trying her best with the home schooling. They’re excited to not be in school, but I think they’re missing their teachers and most of all that social interaction with their friends.”
The first week of the statewide school closing, Anderson said she tried her hand at Google classroom on day one. Coupled with the sudden change in circumstances all are facing, it proved to be a bit overwhelming.
“So I made that week our spring break,” she said. “We took it easy. We all need some grace and to set a routine immediately, it was hard to set that bar. So we let them play on tablets, watch movies and had some comfort time with family.”
But when week two came, Anderson returned to the drawing board. She began using free online education resources like Kahn Academy and Lexia Learning to get her children back on the learning track. She said those have aided her and also credited the St. Charles Parish school district for their constant communication with parents through phone calls and emails as the COVID-19 situation progresses.
“We moved back here from Florida a few years ago. I’ve told my husband, I would not live anywhere but Destrehan because of the school district,” Anderson said.
There are challenges, but she keeps it in perspective.
“The toughest part has honestly been being away from (extended) family,” Anderson said. “We’re a very close knit family so not being able to see them is difficult. And home schooling is difficult as well … some parents really took to it. They’re doing science projects and really getting at it, but a lot of us are kind of keeping our heads above water.
“It could be so much worse though. We’re blessed … our family is healthy. We have electricity and water. It’s daunting at times but we’re making it on our own.”
Megan Hammett of Destrehan said her two children began missing school early on in the process.
“They’re very emotional in the sense of ‘I want to be back at school. I miss my teachers and my friends,’” Hammett said. “Nothing you’d expect from children at that age. I wouldn’t think they’d have this high anxiety about it, but I guess for them, the safety of being at school feels better.”
Hammett works remotely from home, so she says when it’s time for an important call or assignment for work, she communicates that openly with her children.
“I try to give them a heads up. They’ve each kind of picked up a book or started some quiet activities,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a challenge. You just try and balance them having some fun learning activities while you’re taking care of what you need to.”
It can be a bit overwhelming at times. Like Anderson, Hammett looks around and is sometimes floored with how coordinated the efforts of some families seem.
“I see other moms with their routines and it feels like I’m failing a bit,” Hammett said. “But everyone is honestly doing what works best for them. For us, I didn’t want to put too much on my kids at first. It’s kind of, this is what we’re dealing with, this is what we’re going through, and this is how we’re going to approach it today.”