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Homework makes dream work

Photo of mother and son doing homework

Monica Alvarado and her son, Raiden, U.S. Air Force military dependents, complete school assignments on a laptop at Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, Dec. 15, 2020. The Department of Defense Education Activity relies on teachers who conduct classes remotely as they guide both parents and students through a computer-based curriculum. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew J. Alvarado)

Photo of boy painting

Raiden, son of Monica Alvarado, and a U.S. Air Force military dependent, paints a tree as part of his art studies at Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, Dec. 15, 2020. Monica considers art a vital part of his education because it assists Raiden in expanding his creative ability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew J. Alvarado)

Photo of boy doing homework while mom feeds baby

Members of the Alvarado family gather around a kitchen table to complete schoolwork at Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, Dec. 15, 2020. Parents routinely balance their parental and teaching responsibilities while completing a virtual learning curriculum provided by the Department of Defense Education Activity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew J. Alvarado)

Photo of boy doing homework

Monica Alvarado and her son, Raiden, U.S. Air Force military dependents, practice using flashcards to improve memorization skills at Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, Dec. 15, 2020. Flashcards are one part of a variety of tools Monica uses when teaching her son. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew J. Alvarado)

Photo of mother and son doing math

Monica Alvarado and her son, Raiden, U.S. Air Force military dependents, practice arithmetic skills using a practice worksheet at Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, Dec. 15, 2020. Monica and Raiden designate certain days of the week to specific school subjects. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew J. Alvarado)

Photo of mom and son jogging

Monica Alvarado, U.S. Air Force military dependent, exercises with her two sons on a trail nearby Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Dec. 14, 2020. The Alvarado family alternates between using a running track and trail systems located in the Kaiserslautern area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew J. Alvarado)

Photo of mom and son hugging

Monica Alvarado and her son Raiden, U.S. Air Force military dependents, pose for a photo on a trail nearby Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Dec. 14, 2020. Monica and her family regularly frequent trails as part of their weekly exercise routine. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew J. Alvarado)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --

Many people view a child’s education as a foundation for developing the ability to learn well into adulthood. For one parent in particular, this journey presented challenges which seemed daunting in the beginning, but more attainable over time.

“The thought of me teaching my son things which he’ll need to recall, on a daily basis, for the rest of his life, was scary at first,” said Monica Alvarado, a U.S. Air Force military dependent.

Monica opted for virtual learning through the Department of Defense Education Activity. Virtual education is a vehicle DoDEA relies on. Teachers remotely conduct classes as they guide both parents and students through a computer-based curriculum.

“Every Monday involves a meeting with two teachers,” Monica said. “They focus on a variety of subjects for kindergarten. During the rest of the week, we complete assignments and wait for their feedback.”

This mother of two helps her 5-year-old son, Raiden, focus on his studies by assuming the role of two different types of authority figures. Transitioning between these two jobs proves to be a balancing act.

“You have to be a parent and a teacher at the same time,” Monica said. “All day long, I’m trying to teach him how to behave and clean after himself, but I also have to be a teacher by making sure he’s learning the material correctly.”

Perseverance is the key to helping children adjust to any difficulties they may face while navigating his lesson plan. 

“He loves it. I think he appreciates knowing I’m not going to give up on him,” Monica said. “He knows that if we can’t learn it one way, I’ll come up with a different technique to teach him.” 

Armed with an indomitable spirit, Monica and Raiden proceeded deeper into the semester. However, they appreciate the value of knowing when to pull away for a break.

“Being at home means we can take a breather,” Monica said. “Sometimes we say, ‘Hey, let’s cool off for 15 or 20 minutes and we’ll come back to this later.’ It helps us return with a refreshed mindset.”

A benefit to online school is a relaxed home environment and access to frequent breaks. Outside the home, Raiden’s education experience is supplemented with physical activity for maintaining wellness. 

“We usually go to a trail or a running track three or four times a week,” Monica said. “I let him choose between using a bike or a scooter. If we can’t travel out on any given day, he still has the playground as an alternative.”

In addition to caring for Raiden, Monica splits her attention between his needs and that of her youngest son, Aleric. Despite a five year age difference, Monica discovered a rhythm in conducting her motherly responsibilities. 

“I think it makes it easier,” Monica said. “If Aleric is in his walker, there’s at least a 30-minute window where we can complete school assignments. Raiden has become more self-reliant during this semester and understands that if I’m busy with Aleric, we’ll still take care of his studies at some point.”

Flexibility has become a commonplace tool for Monica, but she hopes other parents can be encouraged by her approach to overcoming apprehension with virtual learning.

“Just one day at a time,” Monica said. “That’s really the only way to get through it. Don’t wake up thinking you have to have a firm plan. I used to feel defeated when I couldn’t stick to a routine and it took a toll on us.”

Monica reflects on their progress over several months and explains that, ultimately, nothing can replace seeing Raiden’s achievements in real time.

“It’s one thing for them to come home after school telling you what they learned, but it’s different seeing their excitement first hand,” Monica said. “It’s the sweetest moment that just melts your heart.”