Education in the age of pandemic

With the advent of COVID19 and social distancing, the local school district has opted for distanced learning for the foreseeable future. While this doesn’t really affect me, it does my eldest son and his wife who have 3 children of school age (and two younger ones).

Normally, this would all happen at their house, but they’ve been looking for, and found, a larger home for their gowing family. That meant that they needed to sell their current home, so the children (and the dog) all came to my house for a few days. Before you ask, they sold their house to the first offer that came in on day one (they held out for a few more, but when you’re offered $30k over asking price, it’s hard to say “No”). The new house is massive, with 5 bedrooms, a rec room, 3 decks, and 3 full bathrooms… and it comes on 1.5 acres of manicured lawn and trees. The kitchen is massive, with two full sized ovens in wall, a 6 burner gas cooktop in the island counter, and built in fridge. The kids have already claimed that Thanksgiving will be at their house this year (good enough for me!).

But back to the education. The school district issued a touch screen laptop that convert into tablets when needed for free (full coverage insurance is available) as well as all the learning supplies to each student with new packets of learning materials made weekly. It’s a requirement that you need high speed internet, and the amount of bandwidth used adds up quickly. While my eldest grandson (he’s 10) seems to have no issues with distanced learning, the younger the kids are, the more taxing it seems to be.

My 8 year old grandson seems to lose focus after hours of staring at a 13″ monitor, and our 5 year old grandson (in kindergarten) becomes frustrated easily and has a meltdown most days because he becomes lost in the instruction and gets frustrated, refusing to interact, often in tears.

I know this is our best and only option at the moment, and our grandchildren are lucky in that their father is home and able to work with them during the school day (though that may change soon, as he just got his Bachelor’s degree in IT). I wonder how this is working for kids who don’t have a parent there to help guild them along/keep focus during the day. There are also children who don’t have high speed internet (or just got rid of it because for economic reasons), and families (like my son’s) who are going to be slammed with data overage fees every month because of the bandwidth used when you have several children (for my son with 3 kids, it’s over Comcast’s data cap of 1TB of data per month, so no Netflix or other streaming services in the foreseeable future for them).

I fear that as this pandemic continues, we’re going to have a generation of children who missed out on basic education and social interaction in their youth, and I worry about the long term effects this will cause. I’m hopeful we’ll have a vaccine soon, but “soon” won’t be this year, and quite possibly not next year either. Until then, be patient with your children and do your best to help them in their studies. Remember, they’re just as isolated and bored as your are.