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Remote School Reality: What It's Really Like to School From Home

A Q&A with Olympia mom Nikki McCoy about her family's experience of online learning

Vicky McDonald

Published on: October 16, 2020

the authors son sitting at his virtual learning desk
The author's son sitting at his virtual learning desk

Over a month into this unlike-any-we've-experienced school year, we're checking in with some Puget Sound-area parents to see how they're managing school and life. 

Next up is Nikki McCoy. Nikki lives in Olympia and has an 11-year-old son in sixth grade and a 14-year-old son in ninth grade. Both kids are learning online this fall as their district is doing all remote learning.

In this Q&A, we asked Nikki about her kids' remote school set-up, their experience with online learning so far and how they are coping as a family.

Describe your kids’ remote school set-up?

Both kids have a desk in their room where they spend most of their time during school. Nick, my middle-schooler is in a private high-cap school and they send home a lot of materials, so he has a bookshelf that we converted to a cubby with labeled bins to hold all his supplies. The high-schooler, Quinn, has a little Chromebook on his desk amongst his comic books, Dungeon & Dragon books, Lego sets and flung-from-his-bed socks. 

Describe a typical school day for your family?

The boys do a great job starting their day. My husband works mostly from home, and I do, too. So we go off to our separate corners of the house to hopefully stay connected to our internet and our responsibilities.

I do love that my boys pop out of their rooms in between classes to tell me little tidbits of their day, struggles, comedic moments, good books they’ve been assigned, and sometimes just for a hug because “Ugh, mom, I wish school didn’t have to be like this.”

What are the main challenges with learning at home?

The biggest for me is that the boys miss in-person learning with their teachers and peers. Of course, working from home full-time can be difficult, too. I think now, seven months in, the employers are quite used to interruptions. I feel for families with younger students who aren’t as self-sufficient and need a lot of help to transition through their day. 

What is the biggest surprise so far?

The ability for my kids to adapt so well. I guess it’s not a huge surprise, per se, but since it was one of my bigger worries, it’s a huge relief to see what awesome humans they are in the face of change and adversity. 

What, if anything, keeps you sane and what do you do for self-care?

Hands down, lowering the bar has been crucial for my self-care. The early days were full of guilt for not keeping up. Now, I let go a little of that control, and while my house isn’t as clean as I’d like, the kids have a lot of autonomy for how they structure their time, and ultimately I’m more relaxed just going with the flow. I have finally been reading more again, and the occasional Zoom or backyard visits with girlfriends is also a welcome break. Oh, and pets. The dog and cat seem to keep everyone sane around here with their adorable antics and ability for unconditional love. 

How do you see your family functioning in January 2021?

Like I mentioned above, I’m most comfortable coping right now by going with the flow, so it’s difficult to even prospect a few months into the future. But, I will say that we are planning a little roadtrip to the Oregon coast and that gives us something to look forward to, a little hope. So, it might be fair to say that I see my family functioning with hope — hope for a healthier global community and a happier 2021.

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