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Laptops, lunches and online lessons: how to organize home-based learning in the USA

On Thursday evening, we learned that our school was closing last Friday, March 13, and tentatively until April 10. According to the plan, it was supposed to close on Monday and only for one day - so that teachers could come and prepare for distance learning, which was planned to be introduced later. But events with the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 unfolded so quickly that school doors closed earlier than expected.

Photo: Shutterstock

“I never got to school, I didn't prepare any plans, it takes time to figure it out, and let the children study in the Blackboard and Google Class room for now (online platforms where students do their homework). There they have a project about a science journal, and on Thursday we need to do something about light or sound, ”- this is the summary of a very long email that we received from our 5th grade teacher.

My 11-year-old son and I looked at his Blackboard and did not see any new tasks there. His scientific journal was finalized together on Thursday night, but they did not understand what the teacher wanted about light and sound.

District officials first received a message stating that the Virginia Department of Education has recommended that all schools provide continuous distance learning. And later - that the same department provided explanations: daily education without meeting the needs of children with special needs would be against the law. And now they are trying to figure it out. But soon everything will be - even lectures on local television channels. Wait.

Parents were also informed that starting next week, schools will begin, as necessary, to provide families with laptops and mobile hotspots (MiFi). The school district quickly arranged for distribution of food to needy families in special points and in warehouses. The school website has a map with locations where families can take one or two free breakfasts and lunches for children and purchase one for $ 2 for adults.

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Even from the school district, we received the advice of a psychologist. Organize your daily routine. Let the children wake up at the same time and keep a business diary. Do not forget to bring in time for leisure, household chores and exercise. Ask your teachers to send you tasks. Do not go too far with sitting in front of the screens, psychologist Sophie Belenis from Massachusetts wrote, but immediately recognized that this was not possible and advised resources with an educational video. Use this time so that children become more independent, learn how to set tasks for the day and organize their time.

So we made a schedule, according to which my fifth-grader does mathematics in the morning at Khan Academy, makes Ukrainian in Duolingo, watches a Ukrainian-language cartoon and educational video, reads books, then plays the guitar with her husband, and plays chess with me. After we walk the dog, play board games, then time for the X-Box, where he also communicates with friends.

However, it looks so beautiful on paper. On Tuesday, my son waited while my working meeting lasted so that I could help him solve the problem, and when the meeting ended, he said that his time for mathematics was over and he now had a guitar. On Wednesday, she and her husband broke up the beds for several hours - at the expense of Ukrainian, guitar and chess. The only thing that works flawlessly is the educational video “Kurzgesagt - In a Nutshell”, where various scientific concepts are explained in the form of cartoons and in simple language. He watches it for hours, especially everything related to viruses, immunity, microbiology. And then at dinner he enthusiastically talks about macrophages, lymphocytes and Ebola.

In other cities, training has already been established

From conversations with parents in other American states and even neighboring towns, I realized that our Fairfax County is lagging behind.

“Our school was preparing for this scenario in advance, so we already have part of the assignment for a week,” says Svetlana Sischuk, whose son is in the first grade at a public school in Brooklyn, New York.

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“Teachers are connected through the Class Dojo app and by email, and each student has an account on the I-Ready app for reading and math assignments. The NYC Department of Education website has a separate Learn At Home section that contains assignments for each parallel, programs for each subject for first grade, with links to online learning platforms, ”she writes.

“My youngest children, third and sixth grade, study at the private Catholic school of St. Nicholas founded by a Ukrainian. Teachers made them a Google Class Room, where they receive and do tasks. The sixth grade teaches math and history through the Zoom video conferencing application, ”says Svetlana Ugrina, a mother of four, who lives in Chicago. According to her, lessons for children take place as usual, teachers give and check assignments.

Her 16-year-old son (he goes to public school) does the tasks that he was given at school during quarantine.

“They decided that they would not study online, since not all children have computers,” says Svetlana.

“Sasha (grade 4) is given an assignment every day through Seesaw (an online platform),” says Alla Michenkova from neighboring Arlington. They also received a package of school tasks for the youngest daughter Victoria, a first grader.

“Victoria does extra exercises with the Dreambox and Raz Kids apps. The teacher said to study them for no more than 20 minutes. Victoria is happy to do this and is proud to say that she has earned the largest number of gold coins (awards) in this math application, ”said Alla, who, together with her husband, was transferred to remote work. The children's teachers keep in touch with the parents by email.

Satisfied with how her school district prepared, and Victoria Hull. She and her two children (4 and 10 years old) live in the city of Denver, Colorado, and now, like her husband, she works from home.

They receive daily messages from the school district and principal. Children communicate with their teachers via the Internet, do tasks on online platforms.

“I was amazed at how easy it was for the children to communicate with their teachers, recorded video games on a musical instrument, continued to exercise and even had a virtual run,” writes Victoria.

Easy transition to distance learning seemed to Tatyana Terdal from Portland, Oregon. Their schools extended their vacations for a week, but parents have already begun working with their children on their own.

“We started using the same strategies that we developed during the summer months in Switzerland, where my husband worked for two summers in a row. An hour of math through the IXL online resource, a diary entry of the day, practice of typing on a computer. After completing all these tasks, the children received electronics for a limited time. This week of homeschooling during the quarantine began similarly - 55 minutes of math, a diary entry of the day's events, and work on unfinished school assignments. We adhere to the school schedule for lunch, take a little more time for breaks. Electronic games only after the end of the school day - after 16:00 pm, ”she writes.

And how to work if there are small children at home? If the work of both parents at home is very intense? Or if at all - do parents work outside the home?

“Ask me in two weeks” - this is the answer I received from several mothers who are trying to adapt to new conditions.

“God, so many things have piled up with this quarantine that they haven’t gotten to training yet,” writes Lyudmila Andrievskaya, who also lives in Arlington, Virginia. - Seva (11 years old) little by little does the task from the teachers himself, but an hour a day, no more. XNUMX-year-old Eva is at home. It is very difficult to work with both of them at home. The work is intense, everyone needs to be fed at home, things to be washed, laid out, to keep some order. And the stress of all the news. We are still trying to come to our senses and figure out how to combine all this. "

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In groups on Facebook, such as "Education in quarantine", there are cries of the soul that it is simply impossible to work fully at the same time, do the housework and even be teachers to your children.

“This whole shift to distance learning is wonderful. And the private schools where my kids go to do an incredible job. But how long can this go on? " - writes Joe Herman, one of the band members.

“I think you can withstand 2-3 weeks, maximum - a month. Parents have a huge burden to make sure their children participate in the learning process and understand the material. We have to make all the printouts and then scan them and send them to the teachers. This is a full-time job. And we are doing our job at this time. I can't do two jobs at the same time, ”writes another user.

An acquaintance of mine who did not want to be named is a single mother and dentist. She continues to commute to work, while her 12-year-old daughter stays home alone and works remotely.

“What's my other way out? Who should I leave her with? I see that she is allegedly studying, I receive messages when she is late for class, ”she says.

In the United States, parents can be severely punished if they leave their children alone at home or let them go alone (depending on the age of the child and the length of unattended time). But who will check this now? One can only imagine how many children remain at home while their parents hold on to the work that they have.

Letters from our school district and teachers' responses on Facebook say they are well aware of the burden on parents. They will not give marks, they write. Do as best you can, organize the process as you like, the main thing is that everyone remains healthy.

I think that based on the results of this planetary experiment, we will see two consequences - positive and negative.

Firstly, it will become clear how easy and effective it is to learn from home thanks to online resources. More and more parents who can work remotely will transfer children to distance learning.

Secondly, the academic difference will increase between those children whose parents work at home, can establish and control the educational process, do additional tasks with children and find high-quality online resources, and those whose parents work as cashiers and drivers in other jobs where they are at home it’s impossible to work, and they just hope that their children will survive.

Whether this becomes true - we will see in the future. But the conclusion that can be made today is this: it's hard for all of us, no one knows how to do it right, we need to be kinder and more indulgent towards ourselves and others.

The original column is published on the website. Ukrainian service "Voices of America".

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