Maria G., a mom of two elementary school kids, lives in New York, the U.S. city most battered by the coronavirus. She understands why her kids’ school remained closed this fall. But that doesn’t mean remote learning is going well for her family.
“It’s impossible,” she said. “I work full time from home and have two children doing remote learning all week. As I suspect it is in most homes, kids turn to mom for everything — including help with school. I feel like I’m always 10 steps behind.”
Maria said she wouldn’t be comfortable having her kids back in the classroom (as parents of students moving to college might feel, too), but she doesn’t know how to solve some of the challenges that come with remote learning, either.
“I don’t think I can solve a problem administrators are clearly trying very hard to solve,” she added. “There’s just no good solution here.”
In the U.S., some school districts are attempting to reopen amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But it’s impossible to even track how many students are attending in-person classes versus learning remotely from home, because those decisions are made by local districts and they change frequently as schools and districts that reopened close down — temporarily or indefinitely — after experiencing their own outbreaks.
Amid all the uncertainty, many districts across the country made the difficult decision to stick with remote learning this year. And as we all face an unprecedented situation in which kids are attending school online and it’s largely up to their parents to guide them through it, we wondered: How’s it going so far?
So we surveyed American parents whose kids are learning remotely, hoping to learn more about the challenges both kids and parents face in this challenging new world.
Survey: Most Parents Say Remote Learning Isn’t Working for Their Kids
From our survey results, we were able to see that most parents and their kids are facing significant challenges that have come with remote learning. Here are some of the things we learned:
- 75 percent of parents say their kids achieve just four or fewer hours of learning per day from home.
- More than 55 percent of parents say their kids are achieving 50 percent or less instruction compared to in-person learning.
- Nearly 70 percent of parents say at-home distractions are the top obstacle to remote learning.
- 1 in six parents say they don’t have adequate space or a dedicated work area for remote learning for their kids.
- Nearly one in five say they don’t have the right materials for at-home learning.
- 55 percent of parents say having students at home has cut their ability to work remotely by 50 percent or more.
- 1 in five say they are only able to work at home 25 percent as effectively as without a student at home.
75% of Parents Say Their Kids Learn for 4 Hours Or Less Per Day From Home
The first indication that remote learning isn’t working out for a lot of parents and families? 75 percent of parents in our survey say that their kids achieve just four or fewer hours of learning per day from home, including 22 percent of parents who say their kids only spend one to two hours per day on remote learning. That’s compared to the average day of in-person classes, which would include six to seven hours of instruction.
In addition, more than half of parents say their kids are learning less from home than they typically do in a classroom. Well over half of parents surveyed say their kids achieve 50 percent or less instruction, compared to in-person learning.
That lines up with what research into the effects of the pandemic is beginning to show. Oregon-based education research nonprofit NWEA published some preliminary research on the effects of remote learning for the roughly 55 million K-12 students whose schools abruptly closed in the spring. They found that kids nationwide were returning to school this fall with only 70 percent of their expected reading gains, and only 50 percent of their expected math gains. For kids from minority or low-income families, kids whose families were economically impacted by the pandemic (or past economic recessions), or kids with less access to technology, learning losses were even greater.
70% of Parents Say Distractions At Home Are Keeping Their Kids From Learning
Domonique H. has two kids learning from home: a 13-year-old eighth grader, and an 11-year-old sixth grader. But in addition to that, Domonique runs an at-home daycare that she says creates a home environment that’s making it harder for her kids to learn.
“I’ve had to adjust schedules to make sure that the timing lines up with what they need. Them needing quiet space is a little bit more difficult to achieve so we’ve just needed to make adjustments to give them as quiet an environment as possible,” she explained. “I’ve had to utilize different spaces in the home more often, move around the daycare kid’s main area to reduce the noise.”
Domonique isn’t alone. Nearly 70 percent of parents say that distractions at home are the biggest obstacle to remote learning for their kids.
Many Families Don’t Have the Space or Resources for Remote Learning
If you look closely at that chart, you’ll see that 21% of parents said the biggest obstacle for their kids was that they don’t have the space for remote learning, or they don’t have the right materials and resources to help their kids succeed. That’s yet another challenge families are facing as they try to navigate remote learning.
1 in six parents said that even if it wasn’t the biggest obstacle for their kids, they didn’t have the space in their home for remote learning.
What’s even more shocking is that nearly one in five said they don’t have the right supplies or materials to support at-home learning.
It’s important to note that our survey was conducted online, which may have skewed the results toward families who have computers and an internet connection at home. According to the FCC, 25 million Americans lack stable broadband access at home, and more than 14 million have no internet access at home at all. These families are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to remote learning.
Remote Learning Is Keeping Parents From Working, Too
While remote learning is especially hard on the kids who have to navigate it, their parents are facing challenges, too.
Many offices and workplaces remain closed, and 71 percent of parents say someone in their household is currently working remotely from home while their kids are learning remotely.
55 percent of those parents say having students at home has reduced their ability to work remotely by 50 percent or more. And one in five says they are only able to work 25 percent as effectively as they would be without any students at home.
How Can Parents Help Make Remote Learning Easier?
We don’t know how long kids will need to keep learning from home, but we do know that this survey revealed some of the ways parents can help their kids succeed. If your home has space for it, creating a quiet, dedicated area for learning can be the first step. And keeping it well-organized will give your kids an environment where they can do their best learning.
We surveyed 611 American parents on Sept. 18, 2020. Respondents came from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In order to complete the survey, the parents had to have at least one child who is engaged in remote learning from home.
All parents were at least 25 years old. Their ages were:
- 27 percent ages 25-34;
- 38 percent ages 35-44;
- 19 percent ages 45-54;
- 16 percent 55 and over.
54 percent of survey respondents were female, and 46 percent were male.