You could say that Mai Kaufman turned her back on society to be home with her family. In the time of multi-hyphenate moms, she gave up everything, including her career in fashion and interior design, ditching red carpet-worthy dresses and high heels to run around the world with her two daughters Alexa and Calista and her husband, entrepreneur David Kaufman. She was also among the first of high-profile women to champion homeschooling after having decided to devote her time exclusively to raising her children.

In a chat over Messenger, Mai told me that, as a family, they didn’t really have any major adjustments under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). “We were initially worried about the possibility of catching the virus,” she said. “But thanks to the ECQ, we remained safe at home.” 

In our conversation, she reveals more of her thoughts and feelings—and learnings—about our world now, the quarantine, social distancing, homeschooling, and our future. 

What has the lockdown been like for you?

It was an answered prayer for us because, before it happened, we used to always wish we could have more time to accomplish more without rushing. Our days were so packed because many invitations came for our elder daughter, Alexa, who is a classical soprano singer. While we are always careful not to fill our days too much, the invitations were too hard to decline. Those opportunities would really contribute to the growth of our daughter. In our homeschooling, we believe that learning can happen anywhere. We can take any activity and enrich the depth of that experience. Having said that, we got too busy with all the rehearsals and performances and Alexa’s schoolwork got a little bit affected. She was two quarters delayed so we are thankful that the lockdown gave us time to make up for that. 

Homeschooling your kids, you have taken them around to experience the world. How do you explain what’s going on to them?

My daughters have no problems adjusting to the “new norm.” They’ve been through so many challenging experiences before while we were traveling, so they’re aware of how unpredictable life can be. They are also in the habit of finding their resilience and they always try to do whatever they can to still make a difference in their own little way.

By force of circumstance, many parents are now exploring homeschooling as an option. What is your advice?

I think the most sensible thing to do for parents is to do their thorough research. You know, homeschooling is not for everyone so their decision to try it should have a deeper purpose other than having no choice because of the pandemic and if they end up trying homeschooling, then whoever would be the primary teacher should at least have an educational attainment that is at par with the grade level he or she intends to teach, particularly if the parent-teacher intends to teach the higher grade levels. Again, if they plan to homeschool the main teacher should commit to an ample amount of time dedicated to homeschooling alone. Some parents just dove into homeschooling but really didn’t have enough time because they were either busy with work or they have a younger infant to take care of. Some had other domestic responsibilities. When this happens, the child is left to learn and cope alone, which is really not a good thing because it results to hurried time and inadequate learning. Patience is a must. Homeschooling is not for the short-fused or busy parents. It will only damage as opposed to helping your child. Now for parents with younger children in preschool up to grade 2 levels I think they should try homeschool because there’s not much pressure on the academic efficiency yet. This is the stage where they can explore and enjoy the benefits of learning through play. To this day, my girls and I are still doing that. We have to remember: We always have a choice. Homeschooling is just one tool out of the many tools available to equip our children. I believe that it is still intentional parenting that can make a huge impact and difference in a child’s life. 

What changes do you see happening after the pandemic?

I think after the pandemic, people will focus more on what is essential. They will probably take better care of their health, know how to make better use of their time, and have learned to do things with more mindful awareness. I also think that hygiene and sanitation will be at the heart of every public place and building planning and to lessen carbon footprint I think more people will choose to do online shopping, video conferencing, and online classes. Also, I think people will support small and medium sized enterprises. They’ll probably buy local more and travel to local destinations. Now that we recognize who the essential workers are, I think they should be given better benefits. Personally, I think we will have a deeper appreciation of life, family, and relationships.

What lessons has this pandemic taught you?

It gave me a keener understanding of how fragile life is. As a mother, I was reminded to take deeper, slower breaths and to not lose sight of the love, beauty, joy, and blessings around. As a human being, I am reminded that it’s not so much what life gives us but how we react to it. It’s time for us to collectively rekindle the importance of investing time in what matters most. We should focus more on what we can do to help than to criticize. I know that life will be a new and better normal in God’s time.

Source: Manila Bulletin (