Two months into online learning in private schools, I see many of my middle class friends on Facebook grapple with the work from home and school from home setup. Whether professionals on full-time employment or SME entrepreneurs, online learning has put to test their patience, creativity and resilience.
For today’s column, I particularly chose parents who have kids in elementary school. As well all know, elementary school students need more handholding than those in high school. How has these affected parents who work from home? On financials, what are the additional monthly costs incurred under the online learning arrangement?
Parents as learning coaches
In virtual learning, parents have become learning coaches. They are required to work closely with their child to make sure that they are listening to the teachers and completing worksheets. Today, tutoring the kids is not only a mother’s task. Online learning has pushed the husband-wife tandem as learning coaches.
For Genie and Ron, preparing the kids for their morning classes including setting up the computer is Ron’s task. Genie teaches their kids – Isha is in nursery while Georgy is in Grade 2 – after work but if worksheets were not completed, they finish everything during the weekend.
Jen, on the one hand, is more focused on CJ who is in Grade 3 than JC in Grade 8. Understandably, JC requires less supervision since she has established her own study habits. It is a good thing that Jen is also in the academe so teaching math and science is easy for her. Daily tutoring is after dinner.
In the case of May and George who have kids in Nursery and Grades 1 and 4, May devotes more time to teaching the kids given her work flexibility as an ophthalmologist. But at times that she must report to the hospital for consultations or surgery, George takes over. This becomes a challenge for George who is a government official. There was a time when he had a high-level meeting and the kids were in the background because he also had to make sure that they were finishing their school tasks.
For SME entrepreneurs Maylene and Steven, their 12-year-old twins are taught by Steven after dinner. But for their toddler in Nursery, Maylene stays with her during the entire online class. School time for Shobe is rolling on the floor, jumping up and down, and constantly asking her to listen to the teacher. But with Maylene’s intervention, Shobe can now write her name.
Spike on monthly utilities
As expected, electricity and internet costs doubled due to online learning.
Genie has to pay an additional P2,000 a month to upgrade their internet bandwidth. From only P2,000 a month for electricity, they now pay P3,000 to P4,000 since the AC unit is turned on almost the whole day. This is also the same amount as Jen who computed an additional P8,000 per month on utility expenses due to online learning.
Maylene’s household expenses, from food to electricity and internet, also doubled with all family members at home all the time. She now pays P14,000 for electricity from only P8,000 pre-pandemic. They converted one room for the kids’ classes. Sometimes, her brother who teaches in Ateneo also uses the room. Since everybody is at home all day, her food and grocery expenses is now doubled at P30,000 per month.
These are just the spike on monthly expenses. Financial setbacks also include buying additional computers. Jen had to buy a new laptop for JC that cost her about P30,000 and a printer for P7,000 since some worksheets must be printed. In Maylene’s case, they had to assemble three additional PCs that setback their finances by P85,000.
Balancing work and school from home
As a full-time working mom, Jen prepares a list of deliverables that her daughters must submit at the end of the week whether it is a project, book report or worksheet. When she has to report to work, JC look after CJ’s online classes. She makes sure that her mobile phone is always with her at work. She is also very active in the group chats of co-parents in school.
Maylene and Steven have already established a schedule to address the requirements of online learning and the demands of their business. Maylene opens the store at 7:30am and goes home at 12:30pm just in time for Shobe’s online class. Steven replaces her at the store and teaches the twins after dinner.
As entrepreneurs, they also have to focus on their business which has also suffered due to the pandemic. As with other businesses, their sales dropped due to lack of suppliers. They are struggling with the store rental and taxes paid to BIR and the local government. Maylene and Steven are now using their lifetime savings to survive the crisis.
This brings to the fore the need for government to step up support for SMEs that keep the economy afloat. We will discuss this soon.
Better in school
While all of them unanimously answered that the work and school from home setup has solidified their relationships with their kids and has in fact, opened their eyes to their daily struggles in school, working parents still believe that the traditional schooling is best for kids.
Kids are able to concentrate in school since teachers are experts at keeping their attention. George said that a controlled environment is needed for children to focus on learning. He said that if both parents are working full time and all their kids are in elementary school, even just a simple technical glitch could affect their schooling.
It also only in schools that kids learn social interaction. We all learn from social experiences which is how we develop different social skills based on those interactions. Children develop strong language skills, creativity, empathy and confidence through social interactions in school.
Eight more months of online learning awaits all of us. Our patience, understanding, and excellent time management will be further tested in the coming months. But our love and devotion to our kids will surpass any difficulty. Middle class families will survive online learning.