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COMMENTARY: #ACCESS901 — ‘Alexa, homeschool my kids!’

THE NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — “I actually moved our son’s desk from his room into my workspace to help him understand, WE ARE STILL LEARNING AND WORKING. Our new norm is that we do these things TOGETHER. I have a bell … and even made a hall pass for him to do things like go to the rest room or get a drink of water. According to him, I am doing way too much!”

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By Joy Doss, The New Tri-State Defender

Shelter-in-place mandates have -- for now -- made homeschooling part of the norm and some parents and guardians are having to dig deep.

Shelter-in-place mandates have — for now — made homeschooling part of the norm and some parents and guardians are having to dig deep.

Millions of parents have been drop-kicked into a homeschooling situation. Like me, some already work from home. Others had to make a quick-step. Distressingly, some are furloughed and not working at all.

TSD #Access901 columnist Joy Doss. (Photo: Demarcus Bowser)

TSD #Access901 columnist Joy Doss. (Photo: Demarcus Bowser)

Regardless, it makes for fraught times as we try to figure out their stuff and our stuff at the same time. That task is piled atop pushing through cabin fever, slogging through a swamp of uncertainty and conflicting information and managing the anxiety of living in what feels like a bizarre dystopian novel.

To remain semi-sane, I meditate, exercise regularly, pray like crazy and selectively tune out the news.

All that to say, ALEXA, HOMESCHOOL MY KIDS!

Cause we ain’t ready! And we don’t know nothin’ bout this new math of theirs!


For me, it’s mostly a space invasion. My sixth-grader mostly is like a self-cleaning oven – very independent and wants no help. But she gone get this supervision. We review assignments daily. Her school was online within days, operating via Google Meet and Google Classroom,  which means her teachers are still doing the teaching and I am not responsible for creating a makeshift curriculum.

She has a designated space for her Google Meets (lighting is everything of course!) and still holes up in her dungeon/bedroom for homework. We are fortunate to have both a laptop for her and a tablet. Outside of Google Meets and assignment deadlines, she is on a loose schedule. My main rule is homework and classwork finished by 5 p.m.! I also keep her weekly tutor appointment, now via FaceTime.

I checked in with some mommy friends to see what’s up with them.

Cherhonda Mason-Ayers, a married mom with a fifth-grade student in Shelby County Schools, has been teaching for 17 years. She has a different approach:

“I actually moved our son’s desk from his room into my workspace to help him understand, WE ARE STILL LEARNING AND WORKING. Our new norm is that we do these things TOGETHER. I have a bell … and even made a hall pass for him to do things like go to the restroom or get a drink of water. According to him, I am doing way too much!”

She gauges good stopping points between their respective Zoom meetings, laughing at the thought of such.

Her son’s teachers provide assignments on Sunday evenings and use Zoom to have face-to-face meetings and answer questions about assignments.

Her advice for keeping it together? “PRAYER! Once we move beyond this pandemic, I hope people will realize how important human connection is!”


‘Psalms 91 is my bestie right about now’

The stay-at-home mandates have forced Ann Perry Wallace and her three children – ages 10, almost 16 and 17 – to slow their normally fast-paced family life down.

An actress, writer and program manager at Playback Memphis, Ann often works at home, so creating and converting separate corners for everyone was imperative. Coincidentally, they just moved into a larger home in midtown.

“I do make them get up, wash up, get on decent clothes and get their breakfast before starting so they can feel like they’re doing more than just playing around,” she said. “I have carved out a makeshift office in my bedroom. I get up, pray, meditate, shower, get dressed, get coffee and breakfast, make up the bed.”

The bed made signals the start of the workday.

Her husband, Darius, shares the kiddo responsibilities. The Wallace kids mostly manage without their parents, “attending” school through distance learning models. They prepare their own breakfast and lunch and have dinner as a family.

Periodically throughout the day, the Wallaces stop so Darius can lead the family in Tai Chi practice.

“This relaxes and energizes us,” Ann says.

Like Cherhonda, Ann relies on prayer. “I cannot control what happens so I have to pray. Psalms 91 is my bestie right about now.”

My friend Kelly Hodrick lives in Union, NJ, where she is mom to Carter, who is in pre-K, and third-grader Malcolm. At 8 a.m., she’s attempting to log into work, fix breakfast and open home school for the day.

She normally works from home once a week; having the kiddos adds a twist. The family is working to create a schedule close to what is normal for the kids, who take breaks throughout the day and must complete their assignments by 4:30 p.m.

“Third grade is fully up and running via Google Classroom. Assignments…posted daily…are a combination of both class ‘lessons,’ homework, as well as projects and quizzes. For Pre-K, the daycare has recently started daily 30-minute classes via Zoom for the kids to reconnect and share and also reinforce learning, including sight word development, reading, storytelling, show and tell, etc.”

Her older son’s school has provided helpful online resources that have been a part of the regular curriculum.

Her recommendations for sanity?

“Prayer, daily scriptures (Biblestudytools.com), DJ D-NICE Club Quarantine, Drizly liquor delivery, daily kee-keeing with my girls and my line sisters.”

Be encouraged all. And remember – We’re Memphis Strong!

(Resources: Free curriculum, www.alicefayeduncan.com; WKNO and Bounce for all ages school on TV; work exercises for all ages, www.IXL.com. If your child’s school doesn’t provide access, the monthly membership is about $20 per child ($4 for each additional child) for core classes.)

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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