By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
Homeschooling, once the realm of a select few families, is now the new norm, as families in Michigan stay home to avoid coronavirus contagion, while using online learning and other options.
Sheri Alley, of Lincoln Park, said her son, Dillon, a senior at Lincoln Park High School, who is autistic, faces additional challenges.
“This is a difficult time for all children, but for a child with autism or any disability, it’s harder,” Alley said.
Mellissa L’Heureux, of Lincoln Park, whose daughter Sophia, 9, is autistic, agreed.
“I’m not going to lie – some days are better than others,” she said. “Sophia’s struggles are more related to the challenges autism brings into the picture. Kids like her are extreme creatures of routine, and she is completely out of it, although we try the best we can.”
L’Heureux still commutes to her physical office each day, while her husband, Kevin, stays home with Sophia, a student at Lincoln Park Carr Elementary, and Denis, 13, a student at Lincoln Park Middle School.
She said her children tend to do their schoolwork early in the day.
“Both kids are morning people,” she said. “How that happened, I have no idea.”
She said Sophia’s teacher has put together a packet of resources and online websites, from which they let their daughter choose. Her big brother will answer questions and help keep her on task.
“We are doing what we can to keep those minds engaged,” L’Heureux said. “Are there days when it’s TV, tablets, video games and movies? Yup. Because sometimes we all need the mental break.”
Patricia Johnson, of Melvindale, is relieved that her two children are pretty self-sufficient, because, although she is working from home, as an employee with a medical supply firm, she is very busy.
Her son, Connor, 16, is a sophomore at Melvindale High School, and her daughter, Bailey, 11, is a fifth-grader at Allendale Elementary.
She said the first day of April was rough, since Connor had to spend his 16th birthday in quarantine.
“He was supposed to get his driver’s license, and now we have to wait until who knows when,” Johnson said.
She said they are lucky that each of them at home has their own computer. Her high schooler does online lessons, while her younger child has a packet she is working through.
“My daughter has shed a few tears, missing her friends, and not getting to see her teacher,” Johnson said. “She spends time in the backyard, and my son likes to go for runs in the evening.”
She said the biggest concern is what will happen in the future.
“It is a scary time, but we are trying to take it one day at a time,” she said.
Kris Robinson, of Riverview, who has two high school students, understands the uncertainty that teens and parents are experiencing. Her daughter, Sydney, is a senior, and her son, Blake, is a freshman at Riverview Community High School.
She said they are doing online school assignments, and both have attended virtual, online play rehearsals for their school play, “The Diviners.”
“Sydney’s wanting a prom and graduation,” Robinson said. “Those two milestones are her biggest concerns for her senior year. She has her prom dress, which was purchased the day before the governor locked the state down.”
She said her son, who runs track, is running on his own and missing his friends.
“We all have cabin fever, and are looking forward to the weather warming up, and to at least be able to be outside in the sun,” Robinson said.
Melody Maggard of Melvindale, who has seven children, from a college student to a baby, said having everyone schooling at home has been a challenge, as well as a chance to spend time together as a family.
Their children include James, 19, who attends the University of Detroit Mercy; Cody, 16, a junior, and Aurora, 15, a sophomore, at Melvindale High School; Braxton, 7, a second-grader, and Genevieve, 5, a kindergartener, at Southgate Creative Montessori Academy; Ryker, 3, who attends speech classes at Rogers Early Elementary School in Allen Park; and eight-month-old Vivienne.
Maggard said they have a loose and flexible routine, so they can “change it up” if the kids get bored.
She said while her high schoolers are doing well with their online lessons, they are struggling with missing their friends.
“Cody and Aurora were both cast in the spring musical at Melvindale High School, and it increasingly looks like that may not be happening, which has been disappointing for them,” Maggard said. “No honors night, no spring concerts, no end-of-the-year fun with their friends.”
Her children like the flexibility of being at home, but miss friends and activities.
“The hardest part, for me, is not being able to explain when or if they will return to school,” Maggard said. “My planner used to be packed full with activities, and now it is packed full with virtual meetings, classes and activities.”
Kelli Cook, of Wyandotte, who home-schooled both her children, said their learning routine is very normal for her 11-year-old son, Jack. Her daughter, Logan, 19, a freshman in college, is currently home, studying online, but not by choice.
“For parents who have been homeschooling all along, the path is far easier,” she said. “Since I created my child’s curriculum, I already know what is expected of him.”
Cook said that every child learns differently, and recommends that parents learn what works best for their own child.
“I truly find homeschooling to be enjoyable, convenient and, quite honestly, easy,” she said. “Of course, there are always challenges, but for our family, the benefits far outweigh those challenges.”