Cate Dougherty, 8, at her makeshift school desk in the entry way of her home.

Cate Dougherty’s new classroom is lodged in the entry way of her family home in Forest Acres, across the street from Satchelford Elementary, which she can see from her living room window and misses walking to every day. 

Instead of racing to the playground with her friends, the 8 year old works at a her brother’s old desk, repurposed using a shelf and old shutters, now decorated with her drawings and school work. 

“I don’t like it. It’s annoying, but the only thing I do like about online learning is that you can mute people,” Cate said.

As the pandemic seeps into the school year, children are in an awkward limbo. From canceled family vacations, play dates and ballet practice, kids may be feeling a little lost.

According to a Gallup Panel poll conducted in May, three in 10 parents reported that their child was “‘already experiencing harm’ to their emotional or mental health because of social distancing and closures.”

“We would usually go, everyday a different place, like last year we would go to Adrenaline once every two weeks and jump around and sometimes we’d go to Frankie’s Fun Park,” Grace, Cate’s 11 year old sister, said.

“I can’t even go to the store with my mom as much, and my mom never has time to play with me because she’s always at work,” Cate said.

With both parents working from home and an older brother in high school, life in the Dougherty household is  hectic.

“I made my dad this paper so he can let us know when it’s OK to say ‘Hi’ to him. He works in our play room now,” Cate said. “Mom works on the dinner table sometimes, so I like to work with her there too.”

The girls have learned to keep themselves busy. Lately, Cate has been visiting tiny libraries around her neighborhood and caring for chickens that call her schools backyard home. 

“There’s chickens across the street at my school and I’ve raised them since they were babies. They have too many eggs now, some of them are big, some of them are blue,” Cate said.

“We’re also bending the rules a bit today… I get to hang out with one of my friends,” Cate said. 

Meanwhile, Grace is still learning to adjust to her new normal when it comes to things like ballet class.

“I go to ballet at a studio and we have to wear a mask the entire time, and I’ve forgotten it like five times,” Grace said.

Most kids seem to have the same thoughts about online schooling. Eight-year-old Joseph Rosenfeld, who attends A.C. Moore Elementary and goes to his grandparents house every morning for his schooling, fights his own distractions.

“I have a cuckoo clock right next to me that is really annoying when I’m trying to do my work because it hurts my head,” Joseph said.

Joseph’s older sister, 11-year-old Bella Rosenfeld, who just started the 6th grade at Hand Middle School, has her own issues with online schooling aside from the distractions.

 “I was disappointed because I was going to a new school this year, and so it was going to be even harder because I didn’t know any of the teachers there or anything like that; and they didn’t tell us our class schedule until like a few days before school started,” Bella said.

Bella’s grandparents set up a desk for her in an extra bedroom. Her grandfather prints out fun dachshund memes and hangs them up on her and Joseph’s workspaces to cheer them up in the mornings. 

“They’re cute and they make me laugh. I almost look for it every morning,” Bella said. 

The Rosenfelds have also adjusted to the pandemic in their own way, as they learn to make a routine of wearing masks and staying safe. 

“I don’t have to wear a mask. I have to be 10 [years old] and I’m not 10. But our rule is I can’t go anywhere without it so I have to wear it… which isn’t fun,” Joseph said. 

“I make him wash his hands, and I’m always using hand sanitizer a lot too,” Bella said. 

With online schooling continuing for the foreseeable future, the Dougherty and Rosenfeld kids are just making the best of what they can; whether it’s day projects, watching YouTube or just washing their hands more.



Joseph and Bella Rosenfeld working on their online schooling while at home. 

Cate and Grace’s grandmother makes them homemade masks out of felt and Cate makes sure to collect them all. 

Joseph and Bella’s grandfather shares a variety of memes with the kids every morning to give them a laugh before the school day starts. Photo credit: Jennifer Rosenfeld

Grace and Cate Dougherty sit on their back porch talking about their adjustment to online schooling.