As work slows for thousands of marketing professionals across the country, many are finding new ways to reinvent themselves and apply their skills to address the challenges hitting hardest at home.
It’s not uncommon for marketing to be among the first sectors hit during an economic decline. And 2020, weighed down by the coronavirus, is no different. According to Influencer Marketing Hub’s Covid-19 Marketing Report, 38% of U.S. companies expect to lay off workers due to the pandemic, and 69% of brands are cutting advertising budgets.
Randi Zucker’s business as a website designer and social media marketing professional in Boca Raton was in full swing in March when the coronavirus began forcing schools to close which, for a mother of two preschool-aged children, presented a challenge on two fronts. How could she maintain a 60-hour work week at home and be a teacher at the same time?
Between her husband’s full-time work schedule and her clients’ demands, Zucker had to plan every moment to make things work. But as her business slowed, she turned to social media for tips and resources to create a positive learning experience for her daughters at home, which she then turned into a venture.
“The more I dug into blogs and online communities on Facebook that focused on homeschooling, I discovered a new wave of homeschooling families from all walks of life who wanted to bridge connections and not feel so alone in their decisions as new homeschooling parents,” Zucker said. “So I decided to take my website skills and build HomeSchoolRoomies.com as a way to connect new homeschoolers with seasoned pros.”
Homeschool Roomies provides a community and resources for traditional and new homeschool parents, combining them with teachers and mental health experts to make the most of the national pandemic homeschool experience. Since launching the website in July, Zucker’s site has more than 400 members.
The free online community built on WordPress using the BuddyBoss theme differs from other homeschool websites by focusing exclusively on education issues and is free of ads or outside distractions. Homeschool Roomies also provides an added level of privacy, allowing parents to create personal profiles on their children and their educational needs.
“What makes my site unique is that when you create a profile on your child, you can enter information like their grade level, homeschooling methods like Montessori or virtual instruction, and location,” Zucker said. “And the other parents with the same background can find you to share information or ask questions. It’s really designed to make other parents like myself know that we’re not alone and that we’re here to help each other through this.”
Homeschool Roomies also provides tips on setting up learning pods with families that share the same school district, grade levels and classes. Parents can take advantage of the site to form pods outside their zip codes and connect with others across the country with similar needs.
Zoom conferences and blogs are available from education and mental health experts to discuss isolation or excessive screen time. Parents can read about how to tackle extreme work-life balance challenges. And teachers can connect with other educators for support or learning tips on how to run classes online. Libraries are also partnering with the site to reacquaint parents with their services.
After schools started to reopen, many parents were unsure about their children’s safety. According to a July poll by The Economist, only a third of parents with school-age children wanted their kids to go back to the classroom, as evidenced by the large number of families who continue to opt for virtual learning.
But even as kids return to the classrooms, many social programs and events remain closed. Zucker addresses this by expanding Homeschool Roomies to host virtual extracurricular gatherings like local Girl Scout troop meetings, cooking classes and reading groups. Other groups include interactive math, tutors, and a homeschool that features an eclectic style of learning.
Recently Zucker began gamifying the site to encourage parents from different neighborhoods and states to connect and discuss common issues and challenges.
Even if classes fully return to normal, Zucker said Homeschool Roomies will be there if there’s a new wave of coronavirus infections. In the meantime, parents can continue to lean on each other for advice and support in a secure and private setting. In Zucker’s opinion, websites like Homeschool Roomies can help bring the entire learning community together to work through anything.
“Parents should know they have a place and a solid group of friends to turn to if schools close down again,” she said. “We’re really just trying to be there for parents so they can make connections as they navigate through this new world and be confident in their decisions. We want to help them find the resources they need and make meaningful connections to help them through this journey.”