My wife and I, like every other family, have been forced to take sole responsibility for the education of our children.  

Our reality of allowing the school to handle the majority of education while we support and supplement the effort has flipped. Now, we as parents have the major responsibility and the school supports and supplements us.  

I have two daughters, 9 and 11, who learn very differently.

To be honest, it’s challenging. I did not go to college to become a teacher. Some of the math concepts are either brand new to me, or I just flat out cannot remember how to solve them, let alone teach them. I have been using Kahn Academy’s explanation videos to get a refresher before attempting to teach them to my girls.

What is even more difficult is the fact that there isn’t any manual for parents. Should I still wake them up at 7:00 a.m. like they did for school? How long should I attempt to teach them per day? How do I make sure they get the correct amount of exercise? Trying to figure it all out on the fly has been difficult.  

But there is a hidden opportunity in all of this. As parents our capacity to educate our children is growing. 

We can use examples that they would have never heard in school to illustrate the lessons. We can teach them from the perspective of someone who looks like them and can relate to their experiences. We can make them feel valued and unique. We can make sure that they truly learn a given subject. We can give them breaks when they need it. We can create projects that let them apply what they have learned and teach them things outside of the normal curriculum. We have the opportunity to tailor what they are learning specifically to their interests. I would say that is a pretty special opportunity for parents.  

We also have an opportunity to support parents and families by making sure that every child has access to the technology needed to complete their school work. 

Our public school system has done an incredible job of adapting to this new reality, but if families do not have access to the resources and information on how to get resources they are still going without. Many of the students who have been struggling during the school year in the traditional school setting are likely to fall even farther behind during this pandemic. We should really be trying to figure out support systems and platforms to help families that are really struggling to educate their children or even get access to the resources needed to educate their children.

What I would like to see at some point is a teacher teaching a lesson virtually to an online classroom of students on a set schedule, and every student having the technology needed to access it. Of course learning virtually is not the same as being in the classroom, but if a teacher had a set schedule of two hours per day it would help parents tremendously and help keep students on track.  

Many families are going to need additional support during this time. We as parent leaders have a duty to find ways to help those families. Several states have already decided to cancel school for the remainder of the school year. If New York follows that pattern that will mean that students will have gone six months without being in a classroom with a teacher. 

For many families that are struggling that will be catastrophic to their child’s education. 

That’s why it is crucial that school systems and communities are thinking now about how they will get all students the support and resources they need when school resumes so that no child’s education suffers. 

Duncan Kirkwood is a parent in Buffalo who participates in The Education Trust–New York Parent Fellowship.