Being Mom and Teacher: Online Learning Helps Keep Little Ones Engaged

Published on October 28, 2020 in


Like many parents, Zainab Beydoun of Detroit has been home with her two young children since March. She had a difficult decision to make as the school year approached: would she choose virtual or in-person learning?

Finding affordable child care options, especially now, can be challenging for families. Detroit families with children age 5 and younger can now check their eligibility and locate child care options using United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s new resource, Connect4Care Kids.

“We decided to go with online school for health reasons,” Zainab said. “We live above my mother and she has underlying issues. It has been very scary during COVID, and that’s why we chose online learning. I wouldn’t want my son to be in school right now, but I want him to be learning.”

“Honestly, the start of school has been such a relief for my kids and me,” Zainab said. “My son was miserable after so many months at home. They’re not as bored now with class activities to look forward to.”

Excelling online

Last year, Zainab’s son, Abbas, attended preschool in a blended Head Start/Great Start Readiness Program classroom with United Way partner Starfish Family Services, while her 2-year-old daughter, Shaza, participated in the home-based Early Head Start program

Both children are now part of Starfish Family Services’ virtual learning program. They participate in 15-minute, small-group lessons four days a week.

“My kids enjoy it a lot. My daughter jumps on my son’s Zoom and then she does hers as well. It’s fun to see the kids interact with each other and their teachers,” Zainab said. 

“For the preschoolers, they have large and small group activities. They had show-and-tell. He had to find items around the house with letters on them and that turned into a writing lesson. Today, he had a yoga lesson with his class. 

“Then, for my 2-year-old, they’ve been learning about animals. The teacher reads them a story every day and they dance.

More than learning

In addition to the class Zoom, Starfish provides weekly packages that include food, diapers and wipes, masks and sanitation supplies, and activity books for the next week. This includes ideas for family activities outside of the Zoom calls to help keep the kids learning and engaged. 

“They give us ideas for things to do with the kids,” Zainab said. “We went on a nature walk in our backyard to find leaves and look at the colors. Then, the kids did a drawing of something that we saw on our walk. Another day, we found items in the house that make noises, like an empty bottle and some noodles, so the kids could make instruments,” Zainab said.

“I’m mom and teacher now, so the online schooling is taking a little bit off of me.”

Parents can visit Connect4CareKids.org or text Kids to 42273 to search for child care locations, check if their child is eligible for programs that help with child care costs, and connect with programs that match their family’s needs. The process is quick and easy to start.