Juggling a Family of Six During the Age of COVID-19: A Parent’s Point of View

MARINE PARK — Good Shepherd Catholic Academy’s Home School Association President Kathleen Tomassetti has had a lot on her plate while raising six children amidst a pandemic. She currently has five kids enrolled in GSCA’s universal pre-k and Grades 2, 3, 6, and 7, and a freshman at Xaverian High School. When schools were forced to physically close in mid-March, she, like many other parents across the Diocese, took on the new role of teacher.

The Tomassettis gathered for a back-to-school family photo on Sept. 10, 2020. Clockwise from top left: Kathleen Tomassetti, Dino (freshman), Joseph (7th grade), Luke (UPK), Vincent (3rd grade), Nicholas (2nd grade), and Maria (6th grade). (Photo: Courtesy of Kathleen Tomassetti)

Though her family had enough devices to attend virtual classes and complete assignments, Tomassetti noted that it was not always smooth sailing. Internet service sometimes was spotty or even went out completely for a considerable amount of time since they live in Rockaway, Queens. Additionally, she had to figure out and find suitable areas for all six children to work without chaos ensuing.

“Three of my kids had to be online with live classes and needed to be in individual rooms. With my next two youngest kids, I was teaching them and helping them do their homework,” Tomassetti explained. “I will say homeschooling six children is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, and I have great respect for the teachers.”

Now that most Catholic schools have reopened across the diocese, Tomassetti is continuing to juggle various schedules at GSCA, which she calls her “second home.”

Her sixth- and seventh-graders are going into the school on a rotating basis of Monday/Wednesday/Friday and Tuesday/Thursday. Tomassetti’s second- and third-graders will be in GSCA every day of the week, and her youngest son will be learning from home once every four days. Plus, her oldest son will physically be in Xaverian once a week until mid-October — at which point he will transition to learning in-person two or three times a week. When you put all the schedules together, at least two kids are home every day.

“I’m glad my kids are going back in the safest way possible, and I’ll take that any day of the week,” Tomassetti said. “But the biggest thing for me is that, while kids go to school to learn academics, they get so much more out of school with learning from a teacher in-person, having social interactions with their peers, and simply moving from class to class. That’s what makes school, school, and I think that’s what we were missing.

“Enrolling them in the all in-person learning, or hybrid program, was the first step in making them feel like they’re normal students again.”

Tomassetti remarked at how wonderful it was to see her children excitedly pack their backpacks and interact with their teachers and friends again on the first day of school. She gives kudos to the diocese for everything it has done for families during the pandemic.

“Everybody has a different living situation,” she continued. “The Catholic schools have gone out of their way to make all the parents feel comfortable, whether you’re home and choose the St. Thomas Aquinas Distance Learning Program, whether you’re in school, or whether you go with a hybrid version of school.”

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