Experts say families need to evolve to meet challenges of online schooling

Educational experts say first through third grade are usually the most pivotal period for a student's academic development.

Nowadays, many parents are wondering if they should have their child repeat a grade because they worry online lessons are not meeting their needs.

With just weeks from the start of the school year, hundreds of thousands of families are making some tough decisions on how to balance remote learning and work.

12-year-old Emani and her brothers get their energy out on a sunny afternoon while their parents Sheree and Travis Ugaitafa brainstorming schooling methods this year.

Sheree and Travis have always worked full-time jobs, but opposite schedules. New parenting decisions will be crucial for them with four kids and remote learning enacted this coming school year. 

With Sheree's recent promotion and the hours she's required to work, the couple says Travis--who works overnights--will have to do the majority of online schooling during the day. 

"Everyday I feel like a zombie it’s just a lack of sleep," said Travis. 

When asked about the foreseeable future for their children, education is crucial to them and Travis worries he won't be able to keep up with their schooling needs.

Like many other parents who care about the education needs of their children, Travis said he feels guilty when he can't give each child enough attention.

"I'll try to get my 5-year-old to write his name and we have our 3 years old trying to mix and he's crying because I'm not paying attention to him. And then we have the 5-year-old not wanting to write his name," said Travis. 

From this Kent family to another in Port Orchard, it's a common challenge among many in the state. 

"The way our dynamic is going to change is huge for us," said Daniel Arachikavitz. 

Tiffany and Daniel Arachikavitz are having to make hard decisions to have Tiffany be a stay-at-home mom to their three young sons all under the age of 8-years-old.

"This is the first time being a stay at home mom," said Tiffany. 

"Both of us have worked full time since we’ve been married we both masters Tiffany has her doctorate but it’s our kids for our situation it makes more sense for one of us to stay home," said Daniel. 

Experts in the education field say these two families are doing it right by evolving their patterns during these different times. 

"There needs to be a dramatic resetting of the social contract within families," said Allen Koh. "It’s harder to adjust to this new reality if you also cling to all values of 6 months ago."

Koh, the CEO of Cardinal Education, said with remote lessons, there will be gaps in learning despite a schools' best intentions. He said parents need to be engaged in what schools are doing or not doing more than ever before. 

"What are the gaps and try to fill them in. It’s coming to dawn on people the government isn’t coming to help," said Koh. 

As for the question of repeating a grade for an academically struggling child, Koh had some advice for parents.

"Generally we are advising telling families not to repeat this year because it’s going to be a total remote situation for most school districts. So repeating this year will almost certainly be a lost year," said Koh.

And this year the disparities in education will be more pronounced than ever. 

The demand for Cardinal Education's private tutors has skyrocketed this year. But many families can't afford it. That's why Koh said it's vital to create micro-learning pods. 

"If you can have 6 to 8 families pooling their schedules. Middle-class families more urgently need to do this because middle-class families need to work," he said. 

Daniel and Travis just moved to Washington from China, where they say they witnessed the divide in education. 

"It’s all the rich kids in China who have their tutors and went to Brazil or wherever they fled to that’s the same here the gap is going to grow," said Tiffany.

So in order to put their children's education first, their lives will look vastly different now. But this family is determined to stay positive. 

"That isn’t a defeatist that isn’t giving up I throw in the towel no we are going to work on this and we are going to work at this and we are going to do this together," said Daniel. 

As for the Kent family, it's going to be tough with both parents working, but they are willing to give it their all. 

"There are all types of scenarios but we're all in this together," said Sheree. 

**As we all try to figure out getting back to school in the middle of a pandemic, we invite you to join our Facebook group Q13 News: Your Education Destination to interact with our team of journalist parents and other families in your community.**