Normal Interrupted

Until mid-March 2020, parents and students each had defined roles and processes when working together to manage a student’s education. Yet, the COVID-induced closure of school campuses and the subsequent implementation of distance learning, upended a well-worn family dynamic.

During a typical Pre-COVID school day, all students had a ready-made structure to manage their academic work. Bells indicated the next period beginning and the last period ending. Teachers wrote the next day’s homework assignment in the same corner of the white board, which students were trained to scan, write down in their school-distributed planner, then the teacher followed a predictable class agenda, take attendance, warm-up, lecture, time to work on the day’s lesson. 

Parents’ role as academic supporters was clearly defined: wake kid up, prepare breakfast, pick up the carpool, drop kids off at the front circle, take a short inventory, something like, “Do you have your homework? What time should I pick you up from practice? Don’t forget to ask your teacher about….” Then, speed away, off to work. 

Then, in mid-March 2020, suddenly, parents and their kids retreated into their homes, in response to the government’s efforts to slow the infection rate during the COVID-related public health emergency. Families had not spent so much time together, in the same physical location without break from one another, since their teenagers were toddlers. Stress built. 

Parents were conscripted as substitute teachers, especially for elementary-aged students. Parents of middle school and high school teenagers were concerned about whether their kid would continue to progress academically, as well as maintain competitiveness for college admissions

Yet, students often remark that distance learning assignments this past spring lacked substance. Parents are dismayed at the seeming haphazard quality of distance learning in Spring 2020, as teachers were challenged to suddenly transform their in-person pedagogy to unfamiliar online formats and tools, many with little training nor experience. 

While keeping school campuses closed might reduce the risks of contracting COVID-19 or spreading the virus, many parents, students and teachers are skeptical about the quality of distance learning during the 2020-21 school year.  And, many parents are already concerned their children are “falling behind” in school, as we discussed in When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade. 

Some parents are considering alternative schooling options, besides distance learning, as well as expressing their concerns on Twitter: 

The disruption to “normal” educational processes, although stressful, is also an opportunity to challenge learning modalities as it relates to our children and adapt where possible, not only surviving and sustaining learning during this period, but possibly augmenting and adapting how your children learn, long after school is back in session after this extended COVID-induced break. 

Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, is Educational Partner at Creative Marbles Consultancy. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators, helping nurture the next generation, especially during these uncertain times as families navigate the unfamiliar distance learning models. For more information, contact Jill at

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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