— School leaders in Cumberland County have put together a program to help parents navigate their children’s virtual educational world.

The Cumberland Family Academy allows parents to log into a Zoom chat room every Thursday evening, where teachers explain the software students are using for remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic. Parents also can ask questions about any problems their children are having online.

“We understand that homework time and virtual learning time can be a challenging time for families,” said Lindsay Whitley, spokesman for Cumberland County Schools. “We want to provide support so that our parents and families feel comfortable in the role of supporting their children at home.”

The online academy is taught in English and Spanish, and the district provides an encore presentation in English every Tuesday on Facebook and YouTube.

Njeri Fikes said her role as a mother has expanded during the pandemic. She’s now her 13-year-old daughter’s computer coach, helping navigate online classes.

“My oldest is 26, she’s 13. That’s a huge gap,” Fikes said. “What they’re learning now looks nothing like what I learned. It looks nothing like what her father learned. It doesn’t even look a lot like what her older sister learned.”

The Cumberland Family Academy has been a great resource, she said.

“We have to let go of our defenses and say, ‘You know what, I don’t know all of this,'” she said. “You can’t be upset that it isn’t what we want because, at the end of the day, we set the tone for how they learn.”

Jessica Fikes, a seventh-grader at 71st Classical Middle School, said her mother has been a big help with online learning.

“My mom has helped me a lot with helping me understand a lot of what I’m learning and helping me do all of my school work so that I know everything is correct,” she said.

“My biggest challenge was figuring out how to find resources so that I could get everything that I needed in order to make this quasi-home-schooling experience be successful,” Fikes said.

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