'It's a little bit chaotic': Parents adjust to first day of home schooling in Manitoba

Parents are adjusting to a new reality in Manitoba as more than 200,000 students begin a three-week break from in-class instruction at their schools. 

Different approaches taken as 200,000 students begin 3-week suspension of classes amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Klein family is adapting to social distancing on the first day of home school. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Parents are adjusting to a new reality in Manitoba as more than 200,000 students begin a three-week break from in-class instruction at their schools, in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19. 

"It's a little bit chaotic, it's definitely hard," said Leigh-Ann Klein, mother to a 13-year-old and an eight year old. 

The busy accountant said she's also trying to work from home in the spirit of social distancing.

"I have earphones in to drown out the noise, but then you have to keep looking behind you to make sure somebody's not having a tea-party in the middle of your files, not getting into messes or doing stuff that they shouldn't," she told CBC News from her home in Winnipeg. 

Her daughter understands the social distancing measures are necessary, and on Monday, played with dolls, her dog, read, wrote and called her friends.

"I like being at home but I really miss my friends. So it's hard for me, but it's okay," said 6-year-old Heidi Klein. 

Divisions of labour

The Winnipeg School Division said teachers are continuing the regular curriculum as much as possible so that students stay on track. Teachers are checking in with parents online, sending out lesson plans, and providing ways for students to submit their assignments online. 

"Students who don't have that access were provided with home learning packages, and even if they have online access, some of the younger years were provided a portion of their home learning as hard copy materials," said a spokesperson in an email. 

But the Seven Oaks School Division is taking a different approach — parents are being encouraged to relax, exhale and focus on family time.

"Reading a book, cooking a batch of cookies, watching a documentary together, having [a] conversation," said superintendent Brian O'Leary, as some suggestions for what parents can do with their children during the break from school. 

"I think if parents focus on keeping their relationship with their kids healthy and keeping everybody healthy the school work will take care of itself," he said. 

O'Leary said the school division has been fielding calls from anxious parents about how they'd pass the time.

Many homes only have one computer, he said, and it's not realistic for students to spend the whole day studying. Instead, he's encouraging parents to pique the natural curiosity of children by taking them outside.

"I don't think we can expect at all that parents are doing the job of teachers and the kids are covering everything that they would if they were in class," he said. "We can't replicate school online."

O'Leary said one Grade 12 teacher phoned all their students this morning and woke them up.

"If we get curious, happy kids coming back into school, we'll make up the ground we've lost."

Klein said she and and her husband are doing their best to keep everyone on task because kids are still expected to do their lessons.

"I just think it's going to be quite crazy and trying to get everything done because we don't have the instruction to teach them exactly what they need to know," she said.

It's proving to be especially challenging given her daughter is in French immersion. 

"Some of the stuff she's saying to me I have no clue what she's saying, and then trying to help her with that is gonna be a little bit of a challenge," Klein said. "They need their teachers."

"We recognize that the parental or guardian support is very variable, so flexibility on the part of the educator and the students is going to be important," read the Winnipeg School Division spokesperson's email. "Parents are encouraged to reach out to their child's teacher if they have questions – none of us is on vacation, we're all working from home and eager to help."

Heidi Klein has the following advice for fellow temporary homeschoolers: 

 "Whenever your parents tell you to do something, if you're in a bad attitude, just do it, and get along with your siblings."

Manitoba families adjust to school and work at home

3 years ago
Duration 1:51
More than 200,000 students are home from classes starting this week as the province attempts to curb the spread COVID-19. But like many, the Klein family isn’t always finding it easy for everyone to be working under one roof.

With files from Marina von Stackelberg