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

The fact that our school closes last Friday, March 13, and tentatively until April 10, we learned on Thursday evening. 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 the events with the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 unfolded so quickly that the school doors closed earlier than anticipated.

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“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 (online platforms where students do their homework). There they have a project about a scientific 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.

A message came first from school district leaders stating that the Virginia Department of Education 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 a violation of 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 is doing math in the morning at Khan Academy, doing Ukrainian in Duolingo, watching a Ukrainian-language cartoon and an educational video, reading books, then playing guitar with her husband and chess with me. After we walk with the dog, play board games, then time on 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 declared that his time for math had expired and now he had a guitar. On Wednesday, he and her husband smashed 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 plain language. He watches it for hours, especially everything related to viruses, immunity, microbiology. And then, over dinner, she talks with enthusiasm 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 such a scenario in advance, so we already partially have a task for the week,” says Svetlana Sishchuk, whose son is in first grade at a public school in Brooklyn, New York.

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“Teachers connected via the Class Dojo app and via email, as well as each student has their own account in the I-Ready app, where there are reading and math assignments. The New York Department of Education website has a separate section, Learn At Home, which contains assignments for each parallel, programs for each subject for the first grade, with links to online learning platforms, ”she writes.

“My youngest children, the third and sixth grade, are studying at the Ukrainian-founded private Catholic school of St. Nicholas. The teachers gave them a Google Class Room, where they receive and do tasks. Sixth grade teaches math and history through the Zoom video conferencing app, ”says Svetlana Ugrina, a mother of four, who lives in Chicago. According to her, lessons in children take place as usual, teachers give and test 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 won’t be engaged online, since not all children have computers,” says Svetlana.

“A teacher gives a task to Sasha (grade 4) every day through Seesaw (an online platform),” says Alla Mikhenkova from Arlington, next to us. They also received a school paper package for the youngest daughter of Victoria, a first grader.

“Victoria is doing additional exercises on the Dreambox and Raz Kids apps. The teacher told them to study for no more than 20 minutes. Victoria is pleased to do this and proudly says that she earned the most gold coins (awards) in this math application, ”said Alla, who, together with her husband, was transferred to remote work. Teachers of children keep in touch with parents by e-mail.

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 struck by how easily children communicate with their teachers, recorded video games on a musical instrument, continue to do physical exercises and even had a virtual race,” 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 about a past day, typing practice on a computer. After completing all these tasks, children received electronics for a limited time. This week of home schooling during quarantine began similarly - 55 minutes of math, a diary entry on the events of the day and work on unfinished school assignments. We adhere to the school schedule in relation to lunch, we take a little more time for breaks. Electronic games only after the end of the school day - after 16:00, ”she writes.

And how to work if at home small children? 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,” I received such an answer from several mothers who are trying to adapt to new conditions.

“God, so much has been piled up with this quarantine that hands have not reached training yet,” writes Lyudmila Andrievskaya, who also lives in Arlington, Virginia. - Seva (11 years old) is gradually doing the assignment from teachers, but an hour a day, no more. Four-year-old Eve is at home. And it is very difficult to work with both of them at home. The work is intense, everyone needs to be fed at home, things should be washed, laid out, and some order should be kept. And also stress from 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 “Parenting in quarantine”, there are cries of the soul that it is simply impossible to fully work at the same time, to do homework and even be teachers for your children.

“The whole transition to distance learning is wonderful. And the private schools where my children study do an incredible job. But how long can this go on? ” - writes Joe Herman, one of the members of the group.

“I think that you can withstand 2-3 weeks, a maximum of a month. A huge burden is placed on parents to make sure that the children participate in the training, understand the material. We have to make all printouts, and then scan them and send them to 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.

My acquaintance, who did not want to give her name, is a single mother and a dentist. She continues to go to work, and her 12-year-old daughter remains at home alone and works remotely.

“What is my other way out? With whom to leave her? I see that she is allegedly engaged, messages come to me when she was late for the lesson, ”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.

The letters from our school district’s leadership and the teachers ’answers on Facebook said that they understand very well how much of the burden is placed on their parents. They will not give marks, they write. Do as you can, organize the process as you like, the main thing is that everyone stay healthy.

I think that according to 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 will be true - we will see in the future. But the conclusion that can be made today is this: it is hard for us all, no one knows how to do it right, we must be kinder and more condescending to ourselves and others.

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

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