As both a mom and a history teacher, Lauren Holman is experiencing the stresses of COVID-19 from both sides.

“It’s been nearly impossible for us to do,” she said of her family’s effort to navigate the rules and regulations handed down since the onset of the pandemic.

When California closed down schools in spring, Holman had to take on the task of educating her kindergarten daughter and second grade son—all while continuing to teach her history students online. She is a teacher based in San Diego at Sage Oak Charter School, an all-remote, tuition-free public charter school that provides personalized learning education for students in K-12th grades. When the pandemic hit, it was one of the few schools prepared to operate in the new virtual world. But that didn’t make life any easier for Holman, as she adjusted to the strains of teaching her students and her children at the same time.

To grapple with the situation, Holman got creative. She’s one of the thousands of California parents who formed a “pandemic pod”—a small group of students learning together—with fellow parents to combat school closures. In order to contribute to the learning pod, she had to work nights and weekends to make up for her lost time grading and lesson planning.

While they’re getting by, Holman said she feels “real sorrow” for her kids. “It’s basically impossible to be a mom who has her own classes to teach and help my own kids succeed,” she said. The expectation that her 5-year-old daughter should be online from 8:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. felt wrong, and she mourned all the social skills her children lost.

But she, like millions of other parents across the country, are making the most of a difficult situation, doing what they can to address each child’s needs. For Holman, that meant at times taking their education into her own hands.

With public school teachers unions holding schools hostage to indefinite lockdowns, Holman said providing choice to parents is more important than ever. Prior to working at a school of choice, Holman admits she assumed that every student could thrive in a traditional public school. Now, she said, “I know that’s not the case.”

“I am a huge advocate for school of choice,” she said. “Everybody’s situation is unique…we are currently in crisis teaching and crisis learning right now. For policymakers to try to take away the choice or the options for families is pretty disgraceful.”

Her plea to policymakers as the country pushes through rougher months of the pandemic is to recognize the individual learning needs of families and students.

“It’s really important to take into consideration that each family is important,” she said. “And as policymakers, it’s really important for you to put our children first.”

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