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‘It’s very stressful’: Parents struggle with teaching children at home through COVID-19

‘It’s very stressful’: Calgary parents struggle with teaching children at home
WATCH: Schools have been closed for over a month now in Alberta and parents are starting to feel the strain of helping their kids learn from home. Carolyn Kury de Castillo has more on the challenges parents are facing and what is being done to help families.

Teachers and educators have tried to make the transition to learning at home as smooth as possible, but it can still be a struggle. It was on March 15 that the Alberta government announced that all school classes in the province would be cancelled because of COVID-19.

Like so many parents, Nikki Gorzo’s home life has been turned upside down since the pandemic began. Gorzo was temporarily laid off and now she helps teach her eight-year-old daughter while keeping her two-year-old son out of trouble.
COVID-19: Managing work and parenting while schools are closed
COVID-19: Managing work and parenting while schools are closed
“It’s crazy. My son wants to climb onto my lap and he wants to press the (computer) buttons and he thinks he’s helping,” Gorzo said from her northwest Calgary home.
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“It’s not necessarily that he needs the attention but he needs to be watched. Because you turn around and he’s jumping off the couch that kind of thing.
“It’s been stressful.”
Gorzo is thankful her husband still has a job and said he helps as much as he can, but there are times when she could use more help.

“Now I am trying to be a teacher and also a mom, and my daughter has special needs — and I am not a teacher. So it’s very frustrating.  It’s very stressful and it is hard to teach her because I don’t know what she needs,” Gorzo said.

READ MORE: Alberta orders all classes cancelled, daycares closed as COVID-19 cases rise to 56 in the province

Alyssa Harapnuk has her hands full with a seven-year-old and a four-year-old. In addition to teaching her own kids she is still working as a teaching assistant at Providence, a special needs school in Calgary.
Her advice as an educator?  Don’t be afraid to reach out to your teachers and keep a schedule.
“I have the kids help me. We have a big white board and we write down what we hope we can do for the day and the few core things. Breakfast, lunch and dinner and what do we feel like doing in between,” Harapnuk said.
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“Definitely lean on your school. I am a teaching assistant myself and I miss my students. I wish I could have them with me all the time. In the meantime, if parents were to reach out to me I would be offering every resource I can find. Lean on other parents too, but definitely if you’re having struggles with anything school-wise, talk to the school,” Harapnuk said.
She also advises to get outside.
“The kids need the fresh air.  They need the sunshine, so as much as we can we are outside getting fresh air [while] doing any school work… and it just seems to make them a lot happier,” Harapnuk said.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Stay-at-home online learning tips for parents

Alberta’s education minister is also encouraging parents to look to teachers and school divisions for help but also suggests that parents just value the time with their children.
“We really just want children to learn as best they can but really don’t put any extra pressure on yourself. Be kind to yourself and be kind to your children and be kind to the teachers,” Education Minister Adriana Lagrange said on Wednesday.  She said she has heard varied reports from parents since the online learning started.
LaGrange says the province is giving school divisions flexibility to meet their individual needs and to adjust their on line learning as they see fit.
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For parents who are looking for our teaching support during the pandemic, many educational resources are available online, including digital educational programming, provided by companies like Shaw Communications. Additional resources are available on the Canada Together website. (Canada Together is an initiative run by Corus Entertainment, the parent company of Global News.)