Expert answers most-Googled questions about working parents and back-to-school

Elva Mankin

With the future unpredictable as kids return to the classroom during the coronavirus epidemic, parents are turning to Google to ask questions and attempt to plan.

As a part of TODAY’s coronavirus and the classroom series, NBC senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle answered the three most-Googled questions about the 2020-2021 school year, offering advice on everything from setting up a schedule that works to how to juggle work responsibilities while supervising online learning.

How are working parents doing this?

While Ruhle acknowledges working parents are stressed and struggling, she says it’s important to make a plan, but stay flexible.

“Put together a plan and an actual schedule,” said Ruhle, who likens the work and school routine to maternity leave; when baby sleeps, that’s when mom gets time to shower or nap herself. “When that school day starts, that’s when you can get the most out of your work day.”

Ruhle also cautions parents to be flexible.

“That schedule is a goal, it’s not a die-hard plan.”

What is the parents’ role in virtual learning?

Ruhle says parents should focus on communication with their child’s teacher.

“You are not the teacher, you’re the supporter,” she said. “You’re the facilitator. Ask them what you can do to be supportive.”

Parents should also figure out disruptions that could hinder their child’s learning. Ruhle suggests making the room where kids do schoolwork video game and television free. She says parents should make sure kids understand what to do to troubleshoot tech issues, for example, so you’re not always hearing “MO-OOOM!”

How can employers support working parents?

Ruhle says it’s easier for employers to support working parents if parents are honest about the limitations they’re facing due to their children’s schooling, explaining that it’s important to make employers aware in advance of scheduling conflicts or specific needs that arise during the school year.

“Hopefully employers can start to be somewhat flexible,” Ruhle added. “We’re all experiencing this together and we’ve got to stick together.”

NBC investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen also answered questions about home schooling versus virtual learning, saying for parents who do not have the option to home school, distance learning may become the default schooling method for their kids.

Nguyen says teachers have had more time since the start of the coronavirus epidemic to plan their lessons and work on ways to engage students, even creating virtual classrooms to give kids a space to engage with their class. These changes may make virtual learning a different experience than it was during the last school year.

What school supplies should parents make sure kids have for virtual learning?

Nguyen says the list is simpler this year than in years past.

“The number one tool you’re going to need is technology,” said Nguyen. “You can’t do virtual learning without the internet and without a laptop or a tablet.”

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