In month two of social distancing, students and professors alike have been figuring out how to adjust to online learning. But student-parents have had to deal with both their own courses and creating a learning environment for their children.
With the remainder of IU’s spring semester moved online, students have been stuck at home. The change means student parents now need to juggle child care, schoolwork, jobs and teaching their children.
Third-year law student Claudio Pérez said having a child and going to school is tough, even in ideal conditions. Pérez, who lives in Bloomington, said his wife, Kathleen, has been instrumental in helping take care of their 4-year-old son.
“My son is at a tender age, and I want to be there for him," Pérez said. "I don’t want him to be babysat by the TV."
One challenge of having young kids at home is keeping them busy throughout the day. Pérez said they use “kid yoga” to entertain the kids. He said he and Kathleen want to be able to give their child attention, but they also have work to do to fulfill their degree requirements.
“It’s a balancing act," Pérez said. "We don’t want him to be obsessed with the screen time, and we also want to give him family time and we try to do that with playing games, cards and chess.”
During Zoom calls Kathleen usually takes care of their son, Pérez said. This allows him to focus on his lectures.
A full class load hinders parents' ability to attend to their kids all the time throughout the day, which can lead to partners having to pick up the slack.
Pérez said when his son was going to school full-time, he or his wife would drop him off at school around 8:45 a.m. each morning. His wife would then be able to get work done for her internship at Lotus Education and Arts Foundation, and he would be able to finish his schoolwork. He said social distancing has affected his wife the most because she teaches their son during the day.
The support student-parents receive goes beyond their immediate families. The university can also play a role in their success or failure during these difficult times.
Associate professor of sociology Jessica Calarco said the more IU can do to support students who are raising children, the better.
“The key thing is for the university to recognize how hard it is for student-parents,” Calarco said. “I hope that faculty members and the university will be as accommodating as possible.”
There are ways for those who now find themselves in the role of caregiver, educator and student to find support.
Reaching out and asking for help is very important, Calarco said. She said to go to faculty members you feel comfortable talking to and explain the situation to them. If they are not flexible, she said parents can contact the Dean of Students Office and the Student Advocates Office for help.
Third-year doctoral student Ryan Collins is raising two sons, one 2-year-old and one 10-year-old while working towards his degree.
“We’re used to dropping him off at day care early and being able to get work done while he’s at school, but now we stay up and sleep in later which throws off our schedule for the day,” Collins said.
But Collins said spending more time at home has allowed him to be more involved in his older son’s studies. He said his son doesn’t usually bring his work home with him, and he and his wife love being able to see what he’s learning and experiencing at school.
“You get to see them grow up a little bit more, especially with my 10-year-old, when you’re on campus a lot of the time, you don’t get to see them grow up as much,” he said.
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