A Day In The Life: Paige Mundy

The Herald | Home Work

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Photos by Marlena Sloss

Story by Leann Burke

Life for parents across the county became more hectic earlier this month when schools closed and moved to e-learning in response to COVID-19. Parents scrambled to either find child care or to adjust to working from home, all while also figuring out their children’s e-learning platforms.

It was a crazy week, Northeast Dubois High School social worker Paige Mundy, 34, admitted the morning of March 20 as she settled two of her four children — third-grader Lucy, 8, and first-grader Stella, 7, who both attend Greater Jasper Schools — into seats at the kitchen table to start their e-learning for the day. Meanwhile, Paige’s oldest daughter, Northeast Dubois sophomore Mackenzie, 16 worked on her assignments on her own in the living room, while Paige’s son, Henry, 3, watched “Dragons: Rescue Riders” on Netflix.

Paige’s husband, Chase, was at work at Jasper Engines and Transmissions.

“We are really just trying to get our groove,” Paige said.

Of course, this day was the last day of e-learning for a while. Kids across the county enjoyed spring break March 23-27. Couple the upcoming break with a doctor’s appointment earlier in the morning, and that might explain why e-learning was starting a little later than usual this morning. The family had been up and working on lessons by 8 a.m. most mornings — which still offered a few more hours of sleep than when schools were open — but this time it was about 10 a.m. before everyone was seated and working.

“OK, are you guys ready to start the day?” Paige asked.

Lucy, Paige and Stella lined one side of the kitchen table — Paige in the center — and set to work, the girls on their lessons and Paige on work she could complete at home. It started off with a bit of a hitch.

Paige Mundy helps her daughter Lucy, 8, with schoolwork while her son, Henry, 3, left, plays with a grow starfish and her daughters Stella, 7, and Mackenzie Belk, 16, do schoolwork at their home in Jasper. Paige, a social worker at the Northeast Dubois County School Corporation, is working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and like many parents, is faced with balancing her job, helping her children with schoolwork and parenting.

“Mom, it says nothing’s planned yet,” Lucy said, pointing at her computer screen.

“You’re in the wrong place then,” Paige said.

Stella was hard at work painting at her end of the table. Not exactly an assignment, but Paige let it slide while she helped Lucy find her assignments. Paige admitted e-learning can be a little confusing, even for someone who works in education.

Once they found the list, Paige wrote each assignment in a planner. Then, she did the same for Stella.

“It feels good to cross it off,” Paige said.

Lucy set to work on a paper-and-pencil assignment about the invention of adhesive bandages. Stella, meanwhile, was still painting.

“I’m drawing clovers,” she said. “I’m giving them faces. That means they’re lucky.”

Paige reminded Stella that she still had assignments to complete, but let her continue with her art. In Stella’s class at Fifth Street Elementary, her teacher, Audra Jahn, sets aside time each day for the kids to make some art, so Paige is keeping that going at home, too. At school, the students often tape their creations to Mrs. Jahn’s desk. At home, Stella taped hers to the kitchen table. Soon, it was covered in paintings of mermaids, ice cream cones and lucky clovers.

“I like making things a lot,” Stella said.

Lucy had finished her assignment, so Paige took a photo of it to send to her teacher. Then, Lucy got to work on an online reading assignment, and Paige got Stella going on typing out her spelling words. She needed to type each word three times, and then submit the page to her teacher.

“This is your spelling test this week, Stella, can you believe that?” Paige said.

Now that she had Lucy and Stella both settled and working on assignments, Paige got to work on her own tasks. Today, she was emailing the students she works with at Northeast Dubois to check in and see how they were doing with the e-learning. She was also checking with teachers to make sure students who were at risk of not passing classes — especially seniors — were completing their work.

“This is a really terrible time to be out of school for high schoolers,” Paige said.

Usually, she would be checking in with seniors around this time to make sure they were on track with everything for graduation and life after high school. She’d also be working with teachers at all grade levels to meet with students who were struggling and get them the support needed to finish the year strong. Usually, that involves meeting weekly with struggling students.

“We can’t do that now, and when we get back, we’ll only have three weeks left,” Paige said.

Still, they’re doing the best they can. Teachers are on call to support their students through the e-learning, and Paige is helping teachers call on instructional assistants who can help kids who are struggling over the phone.

Mackenzie joined her mom and sisters at the kitchen table.

“I actually enjoy being home because I can be in my bed or wherever I want,” she said of the e-learning. “I just have to be disciplined enough to get it done.”

At about 11:15 a.m., everyone took a break. Lucy went upstairs to play, followed closely by Henry, who wasted no time climbing on his train in his room. Stella stayed in the kitchen to play a learning game on her Chromebook.

At 11:30, Paige rounded everyone back up, and they got back to work. All except for Henry, who instead pulled out two robotic dinosaurs that lit up, walked around the living room and roared like Godzilla. It took about 10 seconds for Paige and Mackenzie to ask him to turn them off.

“Those are the worst things ever,” Mackenzie said.

“Like, ever,” Paige agreed.

Paige has a playful balloon fight with her son, Henry, 3, while her daughter, Stella, 7, washes her hands before lunch. While Paige helped Lucy, 8, and Stella with schoolwork, Mackenzie made lunch. Paige says it has been challenging to balance keeping the house clean, helping her children, and doing her social work remotely.

After another hour, the conversation at the kitchen table turned to lunch. Today, pizza was on the menu for lunch, so Mackenzie started cooking.

By now, Paige was working on rescheduling prom. As the junior class sponsor, she oversees prom planning.

“What do you think about a countywide prom?” she asked Mackenzie.

“No,” Mackenzie said.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Paige said.

“Is she even going to prom?” Lucy interjected, looking up from her fractions homework.

“No, she’s not even going. I don’t even know why I asked her,” Paige said jokingly.

Paige put together a Google form to survey the juniors and seniors about options for prom, which at this point looked like it might not happen until the summer.

“It’s just hard because we don’t know,” Paige said.

By now, it was noon. Lucy had finished her assignments and was out in the backyard jumping on the trampoline with the neighborhood kids. Stella, on the other hand, hadn’t gotten too far past her spelling assignment from earlier.

“We need to get to school work, OK?” Paige said to Stella. “You’re not going to get done if you don’t focus.”

Meanwhile, Henry was making laps around the house pretending to be a dinosaur. On one of his laps, Paige caught him.

“Henry, do you want to play Play-Doh?” she asked.

“Rawr!” Henry answered.

“Does that mean yes?” Paige asked.

She set the Play-Doh on the table for Henry.

By about 1 p.m., Stella had finished her assignments and was eating lunch. Lucy came inside, followed by several of the neighborhood kids, and they all ate, too.

Paige sits on a swing to get fresh air and think about ways to help her students while watching her children bounce on the trampoline in their backyard. Paige said she knows many of her students are struggling being socially isolated so she is working on ways to connect students virtually.

In the afternoon, Paige got a small break. Henry took a nap, and Lucy and Stella went to play with the neighborhood kids for a while. Paige and her neighbors have been splitting up the afternoons since school closed so all the parents have time to catch up on their own work or clean the house. One house does a music and art lesson, one house is just for play, and at Paige’s house, the kids all come over to bake. Today, it looked like everyone wanted milkshakes.

No matter what’s going on, it’s controlled chaos. But it works.

“We just had to find our groove,” Paige said. “At first, I was trying to be regimented and get it all done at once, but I figured out they can’t just do it all. They need breaks.”

Even with the breaks, Paige saw that the e-learning assignments didn’t take all day, and if she just gave them the time and space, her kids would get their work done.

Chase got home around 5 p.m., and Paige switched into chill mode. She caught up on work she didn’t get done during the day, and spent time with Henry while Chase cooked dinner. She also worked on her Bible study. Usually, she’s part of a group that meets weekly, but that’s been on hold in response to COVID-19, so the group members are working through the study solo.

Once Chase finished cooking, the family and the neighborhood kids gathered around the Mundys’ table for dinner.

Chase and Paige eat dinner with their children and the Burch children, who live in the neighborhood and often come over to play.

After dinner, the neighborhood kids all went home and the Mundys relaxed together, and Paige cuddled with Henry so he got some one-on-one attention, too. She’s so busy helping Stella and Lucy with school during the day, she said, and she doesn’t want him to feel left out.

Then, it was time for bed. The next morning was Saturday, so no e-learning that day, or for the next week since spring break had arrived. But Paige — and parents across the county — will be back at it this Tuesday when e-learning resumes.

Right now, it looks like e-learning and working from home will be part of Paige’s life at least until May. But like so much else in the time of COVID-19, there’s no guarantee.

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