New York mom shares her family’s experience with virtual education during COVID-19

By Common Threads | Aug 18, 2020

An interview and discussion with Yvonne Wang-Silonga of New York

By Letty Salas & Julia Chant
Aug. 18, 2020

Common Threads recently had the opportunity to sit down with parent Yvonne Wang-Silonga for an interview regarding how her family has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. She discussed a range of topics, from daily eating and shopping habits, to the children’s transition digital learning.

Yvonne Wang-Silonga is the mother of three children, ages 4, 6, and 7. Like many parents, when asked about how this pandemic has affected her family, Silonga said it has been difficult. One reason is that Wang-Silonga’s husband works as a nurse in a New York hospital dealing with COVID-19 patients.

“He works in the cath lab, which is not as risky as working as, say a nurse or a doctor in the ER, but he is still dealing with COVID patients and that’s a big concern,” Wang-Silonga said. “How do we keep him away from my family when we don’t even see him as often as we want as it is?”

Also, grocery shopping is different, much less of a family activity with her children. Pre-COVID, she and her children used to go to the store together and choose items as they shopped, but online shopping is different. It is harder to know what to buy since all of the selections aren’t right in front of you, prompting you to purchase them.

“Sometimes my husband will go pick up some groceries after work if he has to, but we prefer to do everything online,” Wang-Silonga said. “We can’t bring three kids with a mask to the grocery store.”

Wang-Silonga states that her family has not been heavily affected when it comes to making family meals. They normally cook at home, so not much has changed. Furthermore, her family has always been conscious of the food they ate and always tried to keep a healthy diet.

“Our family is always trying to strive for a healthier diet. My oldest child has many food allergies, so we all eat healthy and nutritious diets to prevent flare ups from eczema,” Wang-Silonga shared.

What did change, however, is that now she is responsible for serving her children three meals on a daily basis. When the kids were at school, they were fed lunch, but now she has another meal to put on the table. “We have to think, oh, what are we going make the kids for lunch today?,” Wang-Silonga said.

Transitioning to a virtual learning environment has been another adjustment for the family. Wang-Silonga was a pre-school teacher before becoming a full-time stay at home mother, so she is no stranger to navigating the education process.

“Virtual learning differs from [traditional instruction], both socially and emotionally, and virtual learning lacks in those two areas,” Wang-Silonga explained. “It is very different from children being right next to each other and being able to ask questions about things right in front of them.”

Pre-COVID, Wang-Silonga’s children were all participants in Small Bites, Common Threads’ nutrition education program, and they decided to participate in virtual lessons during COVID. As a parent, she became aware of Small Bites through her kids’ school and she loved it so much she was thrilled when Common Threads was able to transition to virtual classes instead of cancelling the program. The virtual lessons have given Wang-Silonga and her children a family activity to look forward to. She said the program has brought them comfort and familiarity.

The family enjoyed being a part of the program because of all the new foods her children were being exposed to, along with various meal ideas she received. She was also able to gain important information about the “do’s and don’ts” of what to prepare for a typical meal, which was helpful when making dinner for her family, and in deciding which foods to pair with one another.

Wang-Silonga is very passionate about Small Bites because she believes in the power of food.

“It fuels your body, has healing properties, can boost your mind; mindset is everything,” Wang-Silonga said. “Many people are stuck at home these days and feeling lonelier than usual, so it’s good to get ideas from the classes taken with Small Bites. Recipes are all budget friendly, which is good because everyone’s in different situations right now.”

Wang-Silonga also admitted that the virtual Small Bites program is not as hands-on, which makes it more difficult when it comes to learning about food since children are not able to taste, smell and touch ingredients presented in virtual lessons. However, she said that Common Threads did an excellent job with transitioning to virtual lessons and still engaging children in an educational way.

“Every class had art incorporated into it; such as drawing, or a book on how we can try more things,” Wang-Silonga said. “I’ve gotten a new book just based on what I heard from the read aloud. I was inspired to go out and buy some of the books… Our instructor even did songs, connecting food and movements with the song so it was similar to gym or recess but now at home.”

Wang-Silonga’s family will continue to participate, whether online or in-person, when that is safe option again.

“You guys are awesome. I love your program. I love the people that hire to work with the parents. Everyone’s so sweet and I love what they do,” Wang-Silonga said.