Column: There's a learning curve with distance learning

Deborah Rose

Deborah Rose

Deborah Rose / Hearst Connecticut Media

Last week was tough.

Distance learning rolled out for New Milford Public Schools March 25.

I had felt pretty good up until then. As I had mentioned in last week’s column, we had had some trial days of our own school activities — and survived with few tears.

I cannot say that about the first three days the kids had to use Google Classroom for their assignments.

My son cried. My daughter cried. I cried.

My daughter screamed. My son yelled. I, unfortunately, swore, a few times.

Timeouts in rooms were issued. Breaks from work were necessary.

A friend reminded me: we survived each day.

It’s true. And I’m sure it’ll get better with each day — I hope — but it’s not easy getting into this new routine.

In last week’s column, I emphasized the need to lower my expectations about everything.

I’ve definitely done that.

The first day we had a late start because we took care of elder loved ones who live more than 50 miles away and needed groceries. Family comes first.

Upon return home, we reviewed the first day’s lesson plans and did what we could before bed.

The second day was awful. We had to play catch up a little and the kids needed one-on-one attention to follow the lesson plans and stay focused.

It’s difficult to divide time between two children who are in different grades and learning different skills, and are expected to complete their work.

My heart goes out to families that have more than two children in the school system.

On day three, I lost my mind after spending several hours at the table with my eldest child, 11, going over just writing assignments, which aren’t his favorite.

My daughter, 9, was on her own, attempting to work her way through her lesson plans.

After a while, she gave up and waited for me to have one-on-one time with her.

I felt pulled in too many directions and I hadn’t even left my house, let alone my dining room table!

By late afternoon, I vented to a few friends via text: “(Forget) distance learning. I think we were all better with our own individualized schedules with life and home skills. Teachers should just email home worksheets for (subjects) and have kids journal for writing. All grades. That simple.”

By Friday night, I was relieved. It was the start of the weekend. I didn’t have to think about school lessons.

Instead, I told myself I’d work on how to better myself as best as I could to lead the kids through the next week of work.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

I slept in each day, felt a little blue and was unproductive (although I did clean the tub and vacuum).

At night, I binge watched shows to take my mind off of our new reality and earned in “A” in late-night snacking.

Thinking outside the box

I’m eternally grateful for teachers and the administration for working so hard to bring this new way of learning to us in these uncertain days. It is no small task.

Keeping our children engaged and learning is vital.

Education is an important part of growth. And having a routine — even if it comes through distance learning — provides structure and stability for children, which is something they need right now.

I’m an advocate for teachers and school budgets that fully support and supply the resources our children need (and hopefully, people will be much more supportive of school budgets and increased teacher salaries moving forward).

However, I noticed that the spirits of all of my family members were much brighter when we had created our own learning activities before distance learning was implemented.

The kids didn’t feel as much pressure when I offered tasks and we collaborated on activities, most of which were tangible to them.

Some of those activities included home and life skills in which I have neglected to fully engage my kids (things tend to get done faster when you do them yourself).

But, given this precious time as a family 24/7, we were beginning to explore them just before the Chrome Books chimed with lesson plans from the kids’ teachers.

Distance learning is here for the foreseeable future, despite the fact my family is not a fan — at least right now.

I’ve got to buckle up and charge the devices so my kids and I can all work remotely from home, and I have to find a way to provide balance between schoolwork and the everyday life skills I want to share with the kids.

I acknowledge I will certainly have more gray hair by fall — heck, forget that, probably by next week — but I recognize I might also be a better parent.

It is now, while I am home and have more quality time than I have had in the past, that I can focus on areas of my life and my family’s life I have overlooked and in which I have not fully invested.

Deborah Rose is a lifelong New Milford resident who has worked at The Spectrum since its inception in 1998. She can be reached by email at