Family members help with virtual learning during pandemic

Cypress, TX – Extended family members have helped with the challenges of virtual learning during the pandemic, experts said.

“Sometimes you can’t find the work and it doesn’t let you do it,” said Eli, 8.

Virtual learning isn’t always easy for children and in the Patel home, it was a concern for the kids to return to the classroom.

Their mother is a teacher, and their father is in the medical field.

“My oldest, Emet has asthma and then also, my mother-in-law lives with us and she’s older,” said mother Edith Patel. “With COVID, I was really worried about the kids returning, us going out, doing anything.”

Their 71-year-old grandmother or “Ba” as they call her, stepped up.

“Even though she’s not technology savvy, she took care of everything else,” said Edith.

For a third, fourth and fifth grader, even ‘everything else’ can be a lot of work.

“I wake them up, have breakfast, get in the shower, get ready for school,” said Hansa Patel.

Ba knew their schedules, would ensure they logged in on time and they were focused.

“A lot of the times she would come check on me to make sure I was still paying attention and not doing anything else,” Emet, 11.

Ba kept busy in between classes.

“I spend my time in the kitchen, making sure they have a good lunch, warm lunch and they always appreciated it,” said Hansa Patel.

Dr. Rhoda Freelon works in the College of Education at the University of Houston and said many relatives like Ba have risen to the pandemic’s challenges.

“This is an opportunity to reimagine what schooling and learning should look like,” said Freelon. “It helps with young people and learning and having another adult at home to support the family.

Freelon said it’s important for every member of the family.

“It also helps grandparents be less isolated, an aunt who lives by herself be less isolated during a time when the pandemic has put us in compartments almost,” said Freelon.

As for the Patels, it has made a difference.

“It’s been a blessing to have her here because she’s done so much for our family,” said Edith Patel.

Ba said it’s been beneficial for her, too.

“You have to love your family to do this. It was a little hard cause I’m 71, sometimes I get tired,” said Hansa “If they’re happy, I’m happy.”

Dr. Freelon said it could be tricky if a parent is asking for help from extended family members.

She believes most relatives, if they’re able to do so safely, would welcome the opportunity to connect with family.

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