Student parents face new challenges with online courses

Serena Bettis

Staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic looks different for everyone. Perhaps you are back with your parents and siblings, staying with your roommates, who are also your best friends, or living all by yourself. 

Student parents at Colorado State University are in new situations as well, studying at home with their families every day. Now, not only are they full-time parents and students, but they fill the role of a teacher too. 

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President of the Student Parent Organization and second-year social work student Olivia Martinez has three children, ages 5, 8 and 9, who she helps learn and keep entertained while her husband is at work. 

“I have a second and third grader, so for them, they’re learning new material,” Martinez said. “So it’s not like they’re doing things they’ve done all year. It’s progressing through new stuff. There is a lot of helping them navigating the technology.” 

Martinez said this can make it difficult to find quiet time to do her own schoolwork during the day.

“It’s a challenge; my husband is an essential employee, so he’s still working 40 plus hours a week, and so a lot of times, the midweek deadlines have been really challenging,” Martinez said. “I can find some time during the day, but … the kids can’t be playing outside while I’m inside studying and things like that.” 

Instead, Martinez spends all day on Saturdays catching up on her work and moving ahead into the next week’s materials and deadlines, if they are available. 

“I think everyone is just kind of figuring it out at the moment,” said Lisa Chandler, Adult Learner and Veteran Services assistant director. “I think that challenge of (navigating) how to support their kids when their kid needs some help at a specific time because maybe their kid is in elementary school, and they need to be on a call for their own class, and the parent also has to be in a call for their class, … that’s been the biggest challenge: figuring out all those things.”

I can find some time during the day, but … the kids can’t be playing outside while I’m inside studying and things like that.” -Student Parent Organization President Olivia Martinez

Chandler said the ALVS staff are compiling a Google Doc for their students to refer to with resources provided by CSU for online learning and extra activity ideas for students’ children. 

Brendan Kayne, a sophomore health and exercise science major, has a 4-year-old and is learning how to navigate his own online courses alongside providing enrichment material for his son. 

“Lectures are kind of hard to follow since they don’t really have a normal platform,” Kayne wrote in an email to The Collegian. “One day might be a slideshow to follow, and the next is three or four YouTube videos to watch. Or both.”

Chandler said the Ram Kidz Village program, which provides educational activities for young children while their parents study in the Morgan Library, has also been organizing virtual meetings and activities to give student parents time to focus on their own work. 

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Martinez said most of her professors have been accommodating and understanding of her situation during this time. 

“They’ve all been really awesome and have moved deadlines to midnight instead of having midday deadlines, which as a student parent I’m really appreciative of because having something due at 3 p.m. is really tough when you have kiddos in the house,” Martinez said.  

All students who go through the ALVS orientation receive a peer adviser, Chandler said, and they have reached out to student parents via phone, email and text to check in on their situations at home, but sometimes they can only do so much from afar.

“When going about this situation, sustainability is manageable when approached with a ‘we’ and not a ‘me’ mindset,” Kayne wrote. “We need to respect social distancing measures but also help our neighbors the best that we can. Finding healthy outlets to manage stress or anxiety is crucial in health and keeping a positive mindset during these uncertain times.”

Serena Bettis can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb.