Up close with local families

Juggling work and online schooling during pandemic



Meet Seng Fields and her family. She’s a nurse at Abbott Northwestern who works four days a week, while her husband teaches for St. Paul Public Schools and has been home with their children. Maeve, age five, is a kindergartner at Chelsea Heights. Ava, age 13, is an eighth grader at Murray Middle School.
What’s the biggest change for you this school year?
Children are not receiving instruction in person and miss socializing with peers.
What’s the hardest part as a student?
Distance learning with instruction exclusively on screens isn’t very engaging. I find that my teenager tends to do her school work from couch/bed and may sometimes find her “resting her eyes.”
What’s the best part?
Being home relieves the stress of the morning push to get out the door and to the school sites – and coordination between my husband and I regarding who picks up which kid from where and at what time.
What’s going right for you this year?
We were able to spend more time with one another this year. Pre-pandemic we were a pretty busy family with both parents working and with both girls involved in multiple sports programs.
What are you and your family doing for your mental health?
We got husky puppies – although that has challenges in itself!
What tips do you have?
Be patient. Although it is nice to be able to spend more time together it is not always easy. Find ways to get outdoors, explore new hobbies and interests.
How do you think this will change you for the long-term?
Some interesting memories and appreciation whenever we can get back to a normal routine. Also, appreciation for the opportunities and privileges our family has during this challenging time.


Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria balances the needs of seven people in his house. Both he and his wife, Nubia Esparza, work from home, and he goes in for a few hours on Fridays at his University of Minnesota job as office manager of three departments. Daughter Isabelle (age 16) is a junior at Como Park Senior High School. Giselle (age 14) is a ninth grader at Highland Park Middle School. Santiago (age 9) is a fourth grader at Adams Spanish Immersion School. Rodrigo’s inlaws, who are immunosuppressed, also live with them, which means they’re careful about outside exposure.
What’s the biggest change for you this school year?
Adapting to distance learning. When we went on lockdown, we hadn’t been going to school because of the strike. Our expectations were just to survive last year. My wife and I are in a privileged situation. We can work from home and provide our children with technology and patience. There are a lot of kids we know that are struggling.
What’s the hardest part as a student?
Not having a physical location for them to go to changes their mindset. Your routines are off completely. There’s a lot of having to corral your kid and motivate them to turn things in.
My high schooler is an extrovert. It’s been a struggle for her.
Santiago is very routine-based. He needs the social interaction with his peers and teachers. There are good days when everything gets done at 2 p.m. and days when he gets really frustrated and has to take some time away.
What’s the best part?
Being able to work from home makes me extremely accessible. I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with my family and see what they’re learning and engaged in.
My kids are in Dare to be Real which addresses racial inequities, and we’ve always been active in our community. They are Brown kids. They have to learn to navigate White spaces. All these things that have been going on lately have led to interesting discussions.
Doing more things together has been great.
What are you and your family doing for your mental health?
They take breaks during the day. We all went sledding yesterday for Giselle’s 14th birthday with friends outside. We try to spend time together outside. I bought a used spin cycle bike the kids have been using. We watch TV together.
Giselle has always had an intuition for music, and now she’s picked up the guitar. We are feeding their creativity as much as we can.
What tips do you have?
Enjoy the relationships. Enjoy all the time you’re together. Sometimes being with family can be good and also frustrating and exhausting. Know when to take a break. If you have a series of books to work on, do that. Work on creative things. Live day to day in a sense. No one has written a book on how to deal with a pandemic. Know you don’t need to have all the answers. But be there for yourself and others. The most important thing is to show up.


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