Eight is enough

How are things going for those with a full house?

We’re well into the second week of remote learning, and parents and kids are beginning to adapt to the temporary new normal.

I’ve got it easy. I have one kid, she’s 17, and she has a handle on the remote learning.

I think.

Hold on – I’m going to go double-check to make sure she’s doing her homework. I’ll be right back.


OK, she is. Parenting win.

But what about other families who might have two kids? Or three? Or eight?


Team Burke. (The judge doesn’t belong to them.)

My brother and his wife have eight kids, a son-in-law, our parents, three dogs and three cats under their roof – which may pose a few unique challenges. I thought I’d check in to see how they’re doing.

What I learned from our conversation (and something all of us have learned by now): parents have been pressed into service in roles they may not have formal experience in.

“I just became a speech therapist, occupational therapist, special needs teacher, regular teacher, gym teacher, art teacher and librarian over night,” my sister-in-law said.

With eight kids, though, they’ve had plenty of practice, making them experts, says me. So here’s what my brother has learned while wrangling the herd:

Getting up to speed
“The high school-age kids are doing their thing – we just have to check-in to make sure they’re doing the work, but we leave that up to them. They own it. But we’re not teachers, and out of the blue we’re responsible to organize and teach every day. Even with a first grader, there’s quite a bit to do. Like everyone, we had to get up to speed on the platforms the Manchester School District is using. I’m working from home, but it’s taken us a week to get a grasp. The high school kids can do it themselves, but the little kids can’t.

Routines can vary
“You have to know your kid. With (the first grader,) we have to do this math thing and it throws her. If she’s not perfect she gets upset. She feels a lot of pressure. Like I said, we’re not teachers, so I’m thinking, ‘how am I going to deal with this?’ And that’s on top of making sure there’s enough toilet paper in the house and enough money coming in to pay the bills as we move forward in this complete uncertainty.

“We’ve had to shift gears and make it fun for her, so I’ve become her favorite teacher. That’s what I’ve told her – I’m your favorite teacher now, right?’ She says, ‘yes.’ We made it into games. I think with K-through-second grade kids, their routines are important. Breaking routines is a challenge, so having to navigate everything – and a first grader’s daily workload as a brand new teacher without a degree in that area – is challenging.

“We’re not really sticking to routines. Our style really isn’t that way. I get up at 5 a.m. and do work for a few hours, then we let them get up when they wake up since they’re not catching a bus. (The first grader) gets up, has breakfast, watches TV for a bit and then that eases her into her day. For us that’s working. The older kids are on their own schedule. Again, our point-of-view is that ‘you own this, you gotta do what you gotta do.’”

“The (pre-K child) doesn’t really understand what’s going on, but she does. She knows there’s a virus. After a week she asked us, ‘How come you’re not making me go to school anymore?’ So we told her, ‘Remember that virus we talked about? That’s why you can’t go to school. That’s why nobody can go school, that’s why i’m your favorite teacher.”

“Because the programs online are so good, we’re having him sit next to her to watch and listen. It’s been really good, repetitive, long vowel sounds, reading words, sight words – we’re having him soak it up a little and he’s enjoying that.”

Categories: Dad on Bored