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

We learned on Thursday evening 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 COVID-19 coronavirus 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, but for now let the children study in Blackboard and Google Class room (online platforms where schoolchildren do homework). They have a project about a science magazine and they need to do something about light or sound on Thursday,” is the summary of a very long email 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.

The initial message from school district officials was that the Virginia Department of Education had advised all schools to provide continued remote learning. And later - that the same department provided an explanation: daily education without providing for 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 happen - 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 math at Khan Academy in the morning, does Ukrainian in Duolingo, watches a Ukrainian-language cartoon and educational video, reads books, then plays guitar with my husband, and chess with me. Afterwards we walk the dog, play board games, then time on the X-Box, where he also chats with friends.

However, it looks so beautiful on paper. On Tuesday, my son waited until my work meeting lasted so that I could help him solve the problem, and when the meeting ended, he said that his time for mathematics was up and he now had a guitar. On Wednesday, she and her husband spent several hours making garden beds, using 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 over dinner he talks enthusiastically 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 prepared for such a scenario in advance, so we already have part of the assignment for the week,” says Svetlana Sishchuk, whose son is in first grade at one of the public schools in Brooklyn, New York.

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“Teachers are connected through the Class Dojo app and by email, and 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, where assignments for each parallel, programs for each subject for the first grade are posted, 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. The teachers made a Google Class Room for them, where they receive and do tasks. The sixth grade is learning math and history through the video conferencing application Zoom,” says mother of four Svetlana Ugrina, who lives in Chicago. According to her, children’s lessons 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.

“The teacher gives Sasha (4th grade) an assignment every day through Seesaw (an online platform),” says Alla Michenkova from our neighboring Arlington. They also received a packet of school paperwork for their youngest daughter, Victoria, a first-grader.

“Victoria does additional exercises on the Dreambox and Raz Kids apps. The teacher said to study them for no more than 20 minutes. Victoria does this with pleasure and proudly says that she earned the most gold coins (awards) in this mathematics application,” said Alla, who, together with her husband, was transferred to remote work. Children's teachers keep in touch with parents via 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 easily the children communicated with their teachers, recorded video games on a musical instrument, continued to do physical exercises and even held a virtual race,” Victoria writes.

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 began to use 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, journaling about the day, typing practice on the computer. After completing all these tasks, children received electronics for a limited time. This week of homeschooling during quarantine started off similar - 55 minutes of math, journaling about the day's events, and working on unfinished school assignments. We stick to the school schedule for lunch and take a little more time for breaks. Electronic games only after the end of the school day - after 16:00,” she writes.

How to work if there are small children at home? What if both parents have very intense work at home? Or, if at all, do parents work outside the home?

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

“God, so much has happened with this quarantine that I haven’t gotten around to studying yet,” writes Lyudmila Andrievskaya, who also lives in Arlington, Virginia. — Seva (11 years old) little by little does the tasks assigned by teachers, but an hour a day, no more. Four-year-old Eva is at home. And it’s very difficult to work with the two of them at home. The work is intense, everyone at home needs to be fed, things need to be washed, laid out, and some kind of order must be maintained. And also stress from all the news. We’re still trying to come to our senses and figure out how to combine it all.”

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In groups on Facebook, such as “Parenting in Quarantine,” there are cries from the heart that it is simply impossible to simultaneously work full-time, take care of the house, and even be teachers for your children.

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

“I think we can withstand 2-3 weeks, a month at most. Parents have a huge burden to make sure their children participate in learning 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 at this time we are doing our job. I can’t do two jobs at the same time,” writes another user.

A friend of mine who didn’t want to give her name is a single mother and a dentist. She continues to commute to work, while her 12-year-old daughter remains home alone and studies remotely.

“What other option do I have? Who should I leave her with? I see that she’s supposedly studying, I get messages when she’s 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 leadership and responses from teachers on Facebook indicate that they understand the great burden placed on parents. They will not give grades, they write. Do the best you can, organize the process as convenient for you, 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.

Will this become true? We will see in the future. But the conclusion that can be drawn 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 forgiving towards ourselves and others.

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

ForumDaily is not responsible for the content of blogs and may not share the views of the author. If you want to become the author of the column, send your materials to [email protected]

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