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Grandparents

By on October 25, 2020 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments

answer the school bell

John Henri helps Hazel get set up on Zoom on her school iPad.

Editor’s note: The people in the first photo (of John Henri helping Hazel) were misidentified in the print version of this story.

story by 

Marlene Farrell

photos by

kevin farrell

The pandemic has thrust some families together, with parents working from home and kids learning remotely, using a dining room or kitchen nook as a makeshift classroom. Everyone’s on their own device, doing their best to be productive.

In other cases, parents are away at essential jobs and children become their own time managers. Both scenarios are rife with problems, and quality education can be a casualty.

Some lucky local families are tapping into a key resource to help — grandparents! This option works if grandparents live nearby and feel safe sharing a bubble with their younger family members.

Darakshan Farber

For Darakshan Farber, his daily routine has changed dramatically from a year ago. 

In the fall of 2019, he was wandering and exploring Spain, Turkey and Egypt, four and a half years into world travel. Back then, being on the move was his constant.

Now Darakshan has settled in Leavenworth; this summer he found a small rental with a river view. His mornings are punctuated by the arrival of Ori, his fourth grader grandson, who comes in time to start up Zoom on a laptop, attend class and work on assignments. Ori’s older brother has a different routine, working at home while his mom is present or at work.

“I’m only helping one child, and it’s pretty hands off,” Darakshan said of their arrangement. 

“It took a few weeks to get the rhythm down. Occasionally, Ori comes to me with a question, but that’s pretty rare. I am supposed to keep track of when he should be working and when on break, but that’s been difficult. I usually don’t hear the current instructions from his teacher, so I have to trust Ori’s word.” 

Trust is based on good intentions, but even the best intentions can be derailed by accidental misunderstanding between teacher and student through screens.

While Darakshan describes himself as “kind of a hermit,” he’s enjoying this time with his grandson. “I think Ori is different with me when his mom is not around, because they have such a strong relationship. And he’ll come and show me a video he’s discovered or what he’s working on.”

After the morning work is done, time with other kids can boost spirits. 

“There is a girl a little younger than Ori who lives next door. They have bonded here; they both don’t get to see many other friends,” said Darakshan. “Ori is excited to go play with her as soon as they are both free, just about every day.”

Mary Henri and grandkids Cedar and Hazel hang out at Cedar’s workspace in his bedroom.

Mary and 

John Henri

For a decade, Mary and John Henri have called Leavenworth home, and it’s also where the families of their two daughters, Jodie and Jamie, both teachers, live with their families. 

The Henris have immersed themselves in nonprofit work — she’s on the board of Cascade Education Foundation and he’s on the board of Mountain Meadows — and now they are giving back in another way, by helping once a week with the remote education of their two youngest grandchildren, Cedar, third grade, and Hazel, first grade. 

The Henris take turns going to the grandkids’ home. “I get Cedar started at 8 a.m. and then after that, he works pretty much independently. I sit with Hazel and start the day with the ‘Ladder’ (list of things she needs to do during the day). She works close to independent but gets stuck or stalls on some tasks.”

Breaks are times for snacks and playing with the fluffball of a hamster, Butterscotch.

It goes pretty smoothly, but occasionally there’s an issue. “Sometimes we work with Hazel on a task only to find out that we were supposed to watch a video to know how to do the task (cart before the horse for the grandparents),” said Mary.

Cedar and Hazel are usually done with schoolwork by noon. “Unless they do not understand a task, they can plow through their work in a shorter period of time than in a classroom where there is a one on 20 or more ratio,” said John. Thus, in the afternoons, Hazel might reach into the P.E. jar and pull out an activity such as “hike at Ski Hill.”

Mary feels fortunate to help, because she sees firsthand how much time and effort her teacher-daughters are putting into their work. 

“With the remote learning, Jodie and Jamie have set hours for school-related issues, but often it spills over,” said Mary. “They receive texts, emails and calls outside the work day which disrupts their time with their children. This is likely because other parents are trying to work around their work schedules as well.”

Judy Derpack teaches a hands-on geography lesson to granddaughters, from left, Cora and Elliana and neighbor Nola.

Judy and 

Tom Derpack

Judy and Tom Derpack put on teacher hats once or twice a week to teach social studies and geography to granddaughters and cousins, Cora, sixth grade, and Elliana, fifth grade. 

These girls are both participating in the school district’s home-based learning Home Link program. Their schedule is thus a bit more flexible and they meet for two- to three-hour increments.

Judy, with over 30 years in early childhood education, is comfortable in front of a white board or doing hands-on activities with her granddaughters. 

“Tom and I are a great team,” she explains. “He helps with the hunt for items we need. For example, last week we made 3D relief maps with sawdust and wallpaper paste, and he went all over town collecting supplies.”

When the academics are done for the day, if there’s time, they will play games, garden or go on hikes with the girls.

Judy, a Cascade school board member, knows the behind-the-scenes work to design the various remote options for families. 

“As difficult as the last seven months have been, I’m really proud of everyone! At the same time, I would never minimize how hard it can be for families, especially for those who don’t have extended family/friend support.” 

Hardships might continue for a while, but these grandparents, along with parents and school staff, are innovating, and students are learning. 

“This is a once in a hundred years situation,” said Judy. “We all need to work together.”

The Farrells have two children dealing with home schooling. Quentin in 10th and Alice in 8th,  each have their own workspaces in the office and dining room, while Kevin is upstairs in a home office and Marlene works outside the home. As older students, they work independently, but Marlene and Kevin assist where needed in the evenings, and try hard to get Quentin to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

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