Meroby Elementary School first grader Lexie Arsenault and fourth grader Austin Smith do school work at their home in Peru. Submitted photo

RUMFORD — With the  Stay Healthy At Home Order by Gov. Janet Mills, parents have had to rapidly adopt the principles of remote learning.

Sarah Arsenault of Peru, who works as a certified dental assistant and waitress when those places aren’t closed, is teaching her two Meroby Elementary School students. She is also assisting with teaching her two stepchildren visiting for two weeks. Two of the four are in first grade, one in third grade and one in fourth grade.

“I never taught a day in my life before this,” she said. “I could barely help with homework because of my hours at work. Usually by the time I got home, they were already done.”

She said the favorite part of her new role is the extra time with her children and teaching them life skills.

However, Arsenault admits there are clearly drawbacks to facilitating remote learning.

“Trying to help one child who is in first grade and the other who is in fourth grade at the same time can be tough,” she said. “Dividing my help and attention to both is a struggle.”

She added, “Our family is definitely stronger in some aspects. We now sit at the table and eat dinner together and talk about our day. We do activities together, play more, since I am not working.”

However, there are other aspects causing stress.

“This is not normal for me,” she said. “I’ve worked almost every single day of my life since I was 16 years old. For me to be home all the time has taken an emotional toll, and the kids don’t understand why mommy gets upset, and frustrated.”

Kari Jamison of Rumford is a stay-at-home mom, teaching her children ages 4, 5, 7 and 9 while her woodcutter husband works.

She has no teaching background but loves the extra time she gets to spend interacting with her children, she said. But she admits that trying to figure out how to help them with their lessons has been very stressful sometimes.

“I do not think I would consider home-schooling again, after the coronavirus, it is just too tough!” she said.

Andrea Palmer of Rumford, a first grade teacher at Dirigo Elementary School, said, “Most kids are doing well with the technology piece because we do a lot with technology in the classroom.”

She said her favorite part is seeing the students either in virtual meetings or on videos sent back and forth.

“My students are such a big part of my heart and not seeing them everyday is so very hard,” Palmer said. “The children also miss being together and each other.”

Heidi Broomhall of Rumford, who teaches Spanish in grades seven through 12 and English in ninth grade at Dirigo High and Middle schools, said reaction to remote schooling varies by student. Some have adjusted well, while others are struggling.

Broomhall said she misses the day-to-day interaction and the banter that comes with a live class.

Sean Gould of Rumford, a senior at Mountain Valley High School, said he misses the camaraderie of being a traditional student, both in the classroom and on the sports fields. He worries about missing out on prom and a traditional graduation.

“When my cousin Kelly Trenoweth graduated, I went to see her graduate to support her,” he said. “When I was there, I saw the awesome things that happen at graduation.”

At that time he was part of the River Valley Homeschoolers program.

“I thought to myself, ‘wow, I really, really want to walk with my fellow classmates and have this experience,’ so I entered high school as a freshman, and now I’m not going to get what I’ve worked and waited for all these years!”

Caden Welch of Rumford, a Mountain Valley High School sophomore, said he likes not having to get up every morning and go to school, and he likes working at his own pace.

College students have also had to respond to changes in their daily routine.

Courtney Carrier of Rumford, a first-year student at the University of Maine at Farmington, said all her classes used to be hands-on and discussion based.

Now, all the coursework is online, and she finds it harder to understand concepts. None of her classes are using Zoom so all communication with professors is via email.

“I’ve gotten used to my own space,” she said, “and it’s harder for me to be back living with other people in my family all the time.”

Arsenault echoed a common sentiment, “Kudos to teachers! They definitely need a raise after all of this!”

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