NEW YORK – Families everywhere are struggling with balancing work, raising their children, and also remote learning. Greek-American families were among those featured in an article which appeared in School Stories, a digital publication produced by students in the Covering Education seminar at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and also online on Medium.
According to the School Stories article, “the Toutounases are one of many families that have to keep pace with their kids’ curricula,” adding that “on weekdays, Lili Toutounas helps her 8-year-old son with his schoolwork,” also cares for her 10-month old daughter, and has a full time job.
“I think what’s ominous is like, this is the third week,” said Toutounas, “and knowing that it’s going to continue for a while,” School Stories reported.
“When Toutounas first told her son that P.S. 150 in Sunnyside, Queens, was closing, his reaction was typical school-aged boy,” School Stories reported.
“He was like yay, no school, I think he didn’t really know what it meant. It wasn’t until I said other activities will also be closed, like Cub Scouts, that he was like, oh,” Toutounas told School Stories.
“Toutounas and her partner are trying to home-school and enlist their son’s help with chores, like cooking or emptying the dishwasher,” School Stories reported, adding that “they also assumed full-time care for their daughter, who usually has a babysitter during work hours.”
Of remote learning with their son, Toutounas told School Stories, “It’s a lot of sitting with him, helping with math assignments and other things like that. He’s gotten more technologically savvy, but Google Classroom is a little bit weird.”
Of her baby daughter, Toutounas said, “I worry that we’re not giving her enough stimulation because we can’t do everything. It’s hard to give them both 100 percent,” School Stories reported.
The Comnenoses in Brooklyn at first had a tough time adjusting to the quarantine. “I think we were in shock,” Pallas Comnenos, the family’s matriarch, told School Stories. “The first week was extremely, excruciatingly slow. It felt like one long day, with a couple of naps in there.”
“The Comnenos’ oldest is a fourth grader at A. Fantis School, a parochial school affiliated with the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Brooklyn Heights,” School Stories reported, adding that “her younger sister was one year old, enrolled in Imagine Early Learning Center in Dumbo, when COVID-19 turned New York upside down.”
In March, A. Fantis classes began online and the daycare center Imagine Dumbo “also closed, but without a remote alternative,” School Stories reported. “I think with that age group, it’s just impossible,” Comnenos told School Stories, noting that “previously, her toddler spent from 9 AM to 6 PM at the daycare center.”
The distress early on has now “diminished to a dull ache” School Stories reported, adding that “Comnenos credits her older daughter’s teacher, whose organization and dedication to her students added structure to their days.”
“We’ve gotten into this routine, so this week went a bit faster, but it was still rather painful,” Comnenos told School Stories.
The living room, where the Wi-Fi signal is the strongest in their Dumbo apartment, is where the family gathers in the mornings for work, school, and play time for the youngest. The online school schedule is almost the same as it used to be, just with more homework, School Studies reported.
Comnenos said, “It’s good they have a lot of homework. They need things to keep them busy,” Scholl Studies reported.
For their toddler, “Comnenos even tried a reading group with other moms from Imagine Dumbo over video-chat,” School Stories reported. She said, “Their attention span was like five minutes and then they wandered off, so we dropped that,” School Stories reported.
“We’re just trying to stay positive that, hey, we’re all here together, but the daily tasks are difficult with all of us at the same time, in the same house, sometimes in the same room,” said Comnenos, School Stories reported.