Each morning, inside the Steele house in Northboro, Massachusetts, there’s a bit of controlled chaos that goes on as Mary Rose Steele and her husband, Ryan, get their three kids ready for school.
Each of the kids sets up in a different room of the house for remote learning. It’s been like this for nearly a year now. Dylan, 12, is setup at his desk in the family’s den, his 10-year-old brother, Brady, has taken over the dining room table, while their 8-year-old sister, Sophie, has claimed a corner of the living room as her classroom.
Learning in the middle of a pandemic has meant flexibility and patience for so many families across the country.
“I hate it. I’d rather be at regular school, but at least the timing is better,” explained 5th-grader Brady.
Like so many other families, the Steele family agonized over whether to send their kids back to school last fall. With COVID-19 cases spiking across the country, all three kids told their parents they wanted to continue with distance learning. It’s a decision they don’t regret.
But after a year of being out of the classroom and away from their friends, it’s getting tough.
“I think the biggest thing is social skills. Even when I want to go and do something with them, they don’t want to leave the house at this point, explained their mom, Mary Rose.
“They just want to sit in their bubbles. And I talk to all my friends who are seeing the same things with their kids at home as well.”
As a high school math teacher, this mother of three has a deep appreciation for the challenges facing teachers, students and parents across the country. Juggling a full-time job and three kids at home who are distance learning pushed the Steeles to hire a nanny. It’s something they know not every family can afford. But without the extra help, they’re not sure how they’d manage.
“You can have a period of time where the three kids are working and then all of a sudden of three of them are having computer issues at the same time,” said the kids’ father, Ryan Steele, who is also working a full-time job from his makeshift home office above the garage.
Like most Americans, what they miss the most is having things to look forward to, like trips to Disney World and family gatherings, which have all been put on hold because of COVID-19.
“Even when I see people in the hall at work and they say, 'Hey, hi, how are you doing?' I don’t know what to say anymore. I don’t feel like there’s a response of, ‘I’m doing great, or bad.’ I’m just getting by,” Mary Rose added.
For now, the family is just making the most of being together, ready for the day when this hurdle will be behind them.
This is part of a series of stories examining the question: How are you doing?