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As frustration grows, some parents are giving up on home schooling

The daunting challenge of managing school while working full-time is causing some parents to throw in the towel
/ Source: TODAY

As distance learning goes on (and on and on and on) parents are feeling the strain of having to work from home while also being teachers and full-time caregivers.

A fed up mom went viral when she joined the ranks of frustrated parents who are logging out of distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

"This isn't working," Sarah Parcak, an archeologist and University of Alabama at Birmingham professor, told TODAY Parents.

Parcak, 41, emailed her 7-year-old son Gabriel’s “wonderful and compassionate" first grade teacher to let her know that her child would no longer be participating in virtual classes.

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Parcak explained her decision in a thread on Twitter, noting that both she and her husband, Greg Mumford, an Egyptologist, work full time and split household duties such as cooking and gardening.

“The thought of homeschooling makes me want to barf,” Parcak wrote on Twitter. “Our goal is to have our son come out of this happy and not be long-term emotionally scarred (lord knows life will do that anyways).”

Sarah Parcak
Sarah Parcak's 7-year-old son will no longer be attending virtual classes during the coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy of Sarah Parcak

According to education experts, Parcak might be on to something. Jon E. Pedersen, dean of the University of South Carolina College of Education, says parents' No. 1 concern should be the stress and anxiety that our kids are facing in a situation we have never known or experienced.

"Could this mean that there is a lag in their learning? Of course. But they will not be alone and most schools in the coming year will need to deal with the issue of what was 'missed' during this crisis," Pedersen told TODAY Parents. "The academic aspects of learning can be made up. We can recover from this."

But there is some risk in opting out of distance learning, according to the U.S. Department of Education. It's possible a student might have to repeat a grade.

"State and local authorities ultimately make the decision about student promotion, and in the meantime, we are extending all kinds of flexibilities and resources so that learning can continue," a spokesperson for the department told TODAY Parents in a statement. "We know that this is a challenging time for everyone."

The risks aren't enough to prevent some exasperated parents from giving up. In response to Parcak's tweets, Alex Nicholson, a mother from Boston, shared a screenshot of her kindergartner's homeschool curriculum, which features advanced journal prompts and science lessons such as "How is a rainbow made?"

"And nearly everything requires a printer, which we don’t have," Nicholson lamented in her tweet. "We quit."

Education expert Kelly Wickham Hurst said the pressure being put on overwhelmed parents and kids needs to change — and fast.

“What we are being asked to do is absolutely outrageous,” the founder and executive director of Being Black at School told TODAY Parents. "We have to redo the system. The child's social and emotional needs must come first."

Parenting writer Jill Krause shared similar frustrations in a blog post titled “F*** Covid School.”

“Please, just let me feel zero guilt about simply keeping everyone alive right now while I also work, keep the house from becoming a biohazard, worry about my parents, source masks, strategically plan grocery runs ... did I mention WORK?” the Texas-based mother of four wrote.

Parents being stretched too thin is just one of the problems. The coronavirus has exposed the glaring disparities that exist between affluent and low-income schools districts and families.

For some, it's not a choice.

"According to the census, we have 18 million households in the U.S. that do not have broadband subscriptions at home," says Angela Siefer, executive director at National Digital Inclusion Alliance.

Tawana Brown of South Bend, Indiana, begins each day by driving her family to a parking lot where school buses that are equipped with Wi-Fi are parked. She has been keeping up with this daily schedule after coronavirus concerns led to the closure of schools in the South Bend school district last month. She doesn't have reliable, affordable internet access at home and wants to make sure her children, all good students, keep up with their learning.

In places like Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Knox County, Tennessee, where many students do not have computers or access to the internet, the curriculum consists of review or "enrichment" material; the work is not mandatory and students are not being graded.

"Because Knox County cannot provide equal access to all children, and because they do not have the resources for all children to access learning online, they have no choice but to move forward as they have chosen," Pedersen explained. "They will not be the only county, district or school that have to make that choice."

Remote learning is mandatory across the country unless school districts say it is not. Pedersen said some districts are attempting to close the gap by providing printed hard copies of materials. There is also talk of extending the school year or beginning school during the summer if possible, Pedersen said.

He added that the hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic could provide opportunities for growth and improvement.

"I am hopeful that the 'silver lining' in this crisis and tragedy is that we finally do something to ensure that all children have equal access to the same learning opportunities," he said.

Related: Free resources for home schooling

This story was first published on April 10, 2020, and has been updated.