The big challenges facing big families as they return to remote learning

TEAM: The family get together around the kitchen table - clockwise from left Edna, Kailani, Lieszel, Henry, Raymond and Atelaite. Picture: supplied
TEAM: The family get together around the kitchen table - clockwise from left Edna, Kailani, Lieszel, Henry, Raymond and Atelaite. Picture: supplied

With six children - five of them at school - remote learning is quite the challenge for single mum Jacklyn Kenny who also runs her own catering business and cares for her sick mother who lives with the family in Ballarat.

Having learned from the first period of remote learning, this time around the children - secondary school students Edna, 18 and in year 12, Lieszel, 14, and Atelaite, 12, and primary pupils Raymond, 10, and Kailani, 9 - all have their own desks and separate areas for study in a bid to create an "atmosphere" for learning. Preschooler Henry, 5, rounds out the family.

During term two's remote learning, the children banded together to support each other as Ms Kenny was having to travel back and forward to care for her sick mum in Melbourne.

WORK TIME: Atelaite and Lieszel at their new desks. Picture: supplied

WORK TIME: Atelaite and Lieszel at their new desks. Picture: supplied

"We either had to remote learn on the go, or if I was only gone a few hours Edna was in charge," Ms Kenny said. "There was a lot of pressure on me as a mother to try to make sure they were all in the same place, and pressure on Edna in year 12, and making sure the younger ones were doing the right thing too."

Both schools were aware of the external pressures and gave as much support as possible to help the family succeed.

"We had to have a system, but some days we just ran with it and whatever we could do that day, that's what we did," she said.

While the older girls have their own laptops, Raymond and Kailani's primary school loaned the family iPads so they could do their home schooling and keep connected online.

Without the pressure of travelling to Melbourne, Ms Kenny hopes remote learning will be a little smoother the second time around.

"My 12 year old just started year seven this year and it's been an interesting year for her - she went in to high school not knowing too much and what to really expect, and she's pretty much for most of it been at home.

TEAM: (clockwise from back left) Edna, 18, Atelaite 12, Raymond, 10, Kailani, 9, and Lieszel, 14, work together to support each other as a family team for remote schooling. Picture: supplied

TEAM: (clockwise from back left) Edna, 18, Atelaite 12, Raymond, 10, Kailani, 9, and Lieszel, 14, work together to support each other as a family team for remote schooling. Picture: supplied

"With Edna being in year 12 the first time around there were days when it was a bit harder for her to take it all in and go with it, but there's more support this time around and if she finds she's struggling she can get that extra help from school," she said.

Edna said she felt her motivation levels drop off in the first period of remote learning but was determined to stay strong this time during the crucial third term of year 12 - and said taking learning out of the bedroom and on to a study desk would help.

The younger children work in a separate room.

"We've set up a bit more of an atmosphere this time so the kids can get themselves in that school mood, especially the older ones," Ms Kenny said. "The younger ones I still have to keep them in their own room together so i can keep on top of it - the million questions all coming at once."

Edna also helps her mum in the family catering business, which also does cake making and during last lockdown offered delivered home-cooked meals.

Ms Kenny is waiting to see whether that can continue this time around as many clients are in Melbourne and she is waiting to hear if she can obtain a permit to deliver down there.

"I'm hoping to continue ... it's my sanity to have that moment to make things for other people and doing that takes me out of that zone of being mum, carer, teacher," she said.

This story The big challenges facing big families in remote learning first appeared on The Courier.