“I just can’t do this.” Harried parents forgo home school

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Alexandra Nicholson

This March 18, 2020, photo released by Alexandra Nicholson shows her son, Henry Martinsen, playing at a beach in Quincy, Mass. The frustration of parents is mounting as more families across the U.S. enter their second or even third week of total distance learning, and some say it will be their last. (Alexandra Nicholson via AP)

Frustration is mounting as more families across the U.S. enter their second or even third week of distance learning — and some overwhelmed parents say it will be their last.

Amid the barrage of learning apps, video meet-ups and e-mailed assignments that pass as pandemic home school, some frustrated and exhausted parents are choosing to disconnect entirely for the rest of the academic year. Others are cramming all their children’s school work into the weekend or taking days off work to help their kids with a week’s worth of assignments in one day.

“We tried to make it work the first week. We put together a schedule, and what we found is that forcing a child who is that young into a fake teaching situation is really, really hard,” said Alexandra Nicholson, whose son is in kindergarten in a town outside Boston.

“I’d rather have him watch classic Godzilla movies and play in the yard and pretend to be a Jedi rather than figure out basic math.”

That stress is only compounded for families with multiple children in different grades, or when parents work long hours outside the home. In some cases, older siblings must watch younger ones during the day, leaving no time for school work.

“I think the pressure is on and I think it’s on even more for some of our low-income families. It’s totally overwhelming,” said Rachel Pearl, chief program officer for Friends of the Children-Portland. The Portland, Oregon-based national nonprofit pairs paid mentors with at-risk children.

“A lot of our families already feel they’re not doing enough when they are working so hard and I fear they will fear they are failing at it.”

Parents are concerned their kids are falling behind, especially in lower income families. In households where the parents earn less than $50,000 total annually, 72% are at least somewhat concerned about their child falling behind academically, compared with 56% of parents in high-income households, according to a late-March poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.