When Donna Russell’s own children were growing up, she did everything she could to participate in their schooling. Now that the 65-year-old has custody of her three grandchildren, she wishes she could be the same PTA mom she was decades ago.
But Russell, who lives in the tiny town of Manning, South Carolina, doesn’t have a car. She barely scrapes by with food stamps, Social Security and payments from the children’s father. Caring for the three youngsters – ages 2, 5 and 6 – is a full-time job and then some. Bake sales and ice-cream socials are out of the question.
Over the past school year, Russell found other ways to get involved. She spent a chunk of time every day helping her 4-year-old granddaughter Maleigha learn letters and numbers on the computer through Waterford Upstart, a program aimed at helping kids prepare for kindergarten. She became so invested in Maleigha’s progress that she would send photos to her teacher of them working together.
All around the country,the pandemic has upended parents’ relationships with school, hampering their ability to connect meaningfully with teachers and other families. But when learning moved online, parents got a front-row seat to daily classroom life, providing many of them an unprecedented opportunity to partake in their children’s education. And they don’t want to give that up when schools return to normal.
During the pandemic, close to 2 in 3 parents of school-aged children became more engaged than ever…