Health & Safety
Ontario parents finding ways to manage extended online learning
Working parents thrust into untenable educational situation
By Nicole Thompson
Tanya Bogatin’s once pristine home is no longer quite so organized, and she’s waiting a little longer between loads of laundry, but it’s no skin off her back.
Her priorities have shifted now that she’ll be helping her two young kids attend classes from their home in Vaughan, Ont., for another month.
“Things are gonna fall to the backburner,” she said. “I tell my kids, don’t stress about it … relax, relax. We’re happy, we’re safe, we’re healthy.”
With online learning extended until late January across southern Ontario, and for even longer in Toronto, York, Peel, Durham and Windsor-Essex, parents like Bogatin are finding a litany of strategies to manage all their responsibilities.
She said she briefly panicked when she found out her kids would be learning remotely until at least Feb. 10, but then she came up with a game plan. Each morning, she and her kids get up at around 8:20 a.m., with half an hour to spare before classes begin.
Once classes start, her son — who is in Grade 4 — stations himself in the dining room, and her daughter — in Grade 2 — sets up her laptop at the desk in the toy room.
Bogatin sits on the stairs between them, listening in case they call for help.
At recess, she said, she bundles them up in winter gear and sends them out to play in the backyard. Right after classes end, they get to work on homework.
Employer flexibility key
Bogatin works part-time, and as of this week she’s able to do that from home.
“I’m very, very lucky that I have a very flexible job,” she said, noting that she’s mostly able to set her own schedule, and will sometimes retreat into her bedroom for online meetings.
Her days are busy, she said, but they’re “good busy.”
Parents are making it work, said Rachel Huot with the Ontario Parent Action Network, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy.
“It’s extremely challenging to try and support children learning remotely,” she said. “Your kids are not meant to learn sitting in front of a computer screen for six hours a day.”
Parents who have to juggle supervising kids and working — either in or out of the home — are stretched even thinner, she said.
“Then there’s the fact that we’re watching the government fail us day after day. And there’s no clear end in sight,” she said.
Huot echoed calls from teachers’ unions that are requesting broader testing of asymptomatic students, smaller class sizes and better ventilation systems in schools so that kids can safely return to the classroom.
A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said student safety is the government’s top priority.
“We know that parents want their children back in class and we firmly agree, and our commitment to deliver on that is to further enhance our safety protocols and provincewide targeted surveillance testing to ensure our students can safely go back to class,” she said.
The government has cited rising COVID-19 positivity rates amongst children as well as soaring daily infections for its decision to have students learn virtually for longer.