We got through quarantine. What happens now?

Every family has its own survival story about quarantine and distance learning. For the Walkers of Queens, New York, life was a nonstop juggling act as they figured out how to make things work.

Eric is a firefighter with the FDNY. As an essential worker, he couldn’t be around very often. So a lot fell to Ivonnely, who works in the financial aid office of a local university. For three months, she helped 10-year-old Elijah and 8-year-old Lourdes with school — all while trying to do her job remotely.

Distance learning went fine for Elijah. But it was tough for Lourdes, who learns and thinks differently. Now, the Walkers are adapting again — to a summer without structure and the unknowns of the school year ahead.

Here, Ivonnely Walker shares her story with writer Tara Drinks.

The first weeks out, I didn’t even know how to organize my day. At work, I had a schedule and my office was set up properly. But at home, I felt so disorganized because I wasn’t only managing my time, I was managing the kids’ time.

It was pretty hectic. I even considered getting one of those giant calendars. But there was too much stuff on the wall already.

School was difficult for Lourdes. Having to sit down and pay attention to her schoolwork online didn’t work, especially for her physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech.

I bought things she could use at home. I bought something similar to play-dough that helps her build muscles in her fingers, and also puzzles that she could work on.

The school year actually ended better than I expected. At the beginning of the year, Elijah was having a hard time with math. His teacher was telling me that he needed practice, and I was a bit worried about his grades. I wasn’t too sure if remote learning was going to help or not.

This whole process was odd for me as an adult, so I can only imagine as a child how weird it is to do everything remotely. I thought Elijah’s progress was going to decrease because I wasn’t always paying attention to everything he was doing, because I was also working.

But I spoke with Elijah’s teacher and surprisingly, she said he was actually doing much better in remote learning than he had been in school. I wonder if maybe he felt freer at home and not as stressed as he would have in the classroom.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the fall. The school has asked us whether or not we would be OK with the kids going back. They’ve proposed part-time schooling, or even dividing up their day, half in school and half at home.

But if they give us the option for kids to attend remotely only, it’s very likely that I’ll have them do that. It will take more out of my day to take them to school and come back home to work and then go right back to get them, than me just having them here.

Even though this time has been challenging, I’ve learned so much about Elijah and Lourdes. Elijah is very independent, and I didn’t realize that. He’s prioritizing now and realizing what’s truly important.

As for Lourdes, although she needs routine, she also needs the ability to be free. With being here at home, she’s developed a real personality (that’s much like mine) and she’s speaking so much more. She’s more relaxed now and her vocabulary is immensely increased.

Now that school’s out, I’m feeling a bit relieved. We’ve asked Lourdes and Elijah what they wanted to do for the summer. Elijah said he wanted a full week off to relax and do whatever he wanted to do. And Lourdes, well, she was born with a quarantine mentality. She has no problem with this lifestyle.

So right now, they get a free pass. They can do what they want, whether it’s relaxing, watching a movie, or playing video games. And we’re OK with that.


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