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On a typical day, retired schoolteacher Janice Atkins has a full schedule: She has a 30-minute commute, then helps three of her grandchildren log in to virtual classes. She monitors their assignments and makes breakfast and lunch. On top of that, she tries to corral her toddler granddaughter and get her excited about numbers and letters.
When COVID-19 forced school closures in the Atlanta area, Atkins was ready for the demands of remote education. She dusted off her knowledge of curriculum, brought back her teacher voice and turned up the volume on her love for instruction.
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It's not lost on Atkins that when she was working in schools, she put her own children in daycare, in order to instruct other children. Now, she's able to take everything she knows after 35 years in classrooms to foster a love of learning in her grandchildren, even during this unprecedented pandemic schooling situation.
"I'm getting a chance to pour everything it is that I know about early childhood education into my grandchildren,” Atkins says. “I spent all those years pouring that into other people's children."
Making remote learning meaningful
Atkins is one of many grandparents who have stepped in to help support grandchildren with online learning and to assist their adult children, who may be working from home or out of the house while trying to juggle childcare and educational duties. Even before the pandemic, grandparents were lending a hand: A 2018 AARP survey found that 38 percent of grandparents handled childcare for their grandchildren. More than 50 percent consider themselves a source of wisdom for their grandkids.
The number of grandparents helping out is likely much higher now as some schools remain all virtual or are operating in a hybrid mode, offering a mix of face-to-face and remote classes.
Atkins delights in the opportunity to spend time with her grandchildren and takes pride in their education. “That's what's going to determine what their future is,” she says. “I feel very strongly that we have to make sure that they value education and that they see it as necessary and that they enjoy it."