Virtual Learning/ Almost Homeschooling

I’m trying to enjoy this whole experience.  I’m calling this “almost homeschooling” because, thankfully, I do not have to invent a curriculum.  The wonderful teachers are providing it. 

I feel like it’s worth mentioning that in our school there are only six children doing virtual learning.  I’m not sure how many kids are in the school, but I know it’s much smaller than other schools.  Our district has three-grade schools, all coming together in middle school.  They only have one class of each grade in the building.  Still, this number surprised me.

Even though we are in a pandemic, people don’t have choices.  They still have to work and kids still have to attend school.  I can’t imagine the difficult decisions that are being made every day and people that are going without seeing family and hugging these children out of fear of killing their vulnerable loved ones.  I’m sure the fatigue  has settled in and people are slowly assuming regular lives, even though numbers climb.  Two kids in our high school have tested positive for COVID-19.  We will just have to wait and see how it goes “as we take all the necessary precautions.” 

My daughter is in 2nd grade and going on eight years old.  The interesting part of this is, if she’s sad at the end of the day, and it’s because of the class bully, CPS may need to get involved.  If you are homeschooling, then you know our attitudes as caregivers go through some adjustments, as well as theirs.

My oldest daughter does this with three kids in virtual school and two kids under the age of three running around under foot.  I don’t consider what I’m doing difficult.  I know what difficulty looks like and my case is not it.

We set up the learning area and she gets excited because she loves to “play” school.  We’ve gone through some trouble to set it up.  I printed some learning posters, written down some class rules, and hung up some things that I think will mesh well with what the teacher will be doing.  I have cleaned out my desk and moved in a table to replace it.  (I love the space on the table. Don’t know how I’d go back to the desk now.)  I gave her my desk because she loves it and I want her to feel like this is an extension of school.  Not just a ratty corner in the living room she has to spend the day in.  I’m hoping that she’ll be able to go back by the 2nd semester.

The school is slowly sending me information about how things are going to go.  Only three weeks until the launch of my living room schoolhouse and the stress of not knowing how it’s going to go is killing me.  No mention of when we get iPads or what’s on them.  I’ve gotten a bunch of supplies because I’m not sure what the school is sending as far as crayons or anything.  Whatever they send will be redundant at this point. 

My daughter is an only child and she’s been well stocked with things that keep her busy in the art world.  Some may think she’s a bit spoiled in this respect but one child vs more than one in the house in this regard is a big deal.  She is my second litter.  She has older siblings.  Her siblings have kids the same age as her.  When they were younger I tried to buy a lot of the same things. Except, with more than one child things seem to get broken, eaten, or lost daily.  When my grandchildren come in the summer, they tend to thin out her older supplies (as expected).

With two weeks until school I’m starting to be the parent the school wants to avoid.  I’ve spent time overthinking how this is going to go (for my one child) and I just can’t understand what the holdup is on this (as they are planning in the case that everyone has to go virtual).  

Okay. Permission slips coming by email for iPads, pictures on Facebook, mask information, interacting with the actual school building information, and start dates for the virtual kids.  We’re finally moving.  One week to go and we can pick up the iPads and school supplies.  Now we get to finish setting up the at-home school area.  Yay!!! We’re both excited!!!  The school recommends that you treat every day as though they are going to school.  Get up, eat, get dressed, and be classroom ready!  Got It! We are all in! 

Day number one!

We get up so excited.  Eat breakfast, get dressed, do her hair, and get ready for what we think is going to be a school day. 

We hadn’t received any kind of a real schedule for the week, so we assumed we would get it today.

We turned on the iPad and waited for the longest five minutes ever.  We joined the meeting.  No one was there, so I slid it over to look at it and of course that’s when the teacher let us in.  The first image that Dani’s class saw was her mother, who had not gotten ready for school. I quickly slid it back to Dani.

The principle is virtual as well, even to the classrooms.  We are watching and hearing a virtual principal, virtually.  She does an uplifting talk, recites the lunch menu and then tells a joke.  The joke isn’t funny, but she is.  After the Pledge of Allegiance, the class does a good morning thing where each student says hello to a student of their choice.  The teacher tells the class what they are doing next then says goodbye to the virtual kids…

She hangs up…

All of this has lasted only fifteen minutes.  We are now sitting in front of the desk with the iPad set up, looking at nothing.  We look at each other and decide to explore the iPad a little. Maybe we can find more info there.  Did we miss something?

Nope.

We find links to more morning meetings for the rest of the week.  I’m so confused at this point.

So, I call the school.

“Hi…  This is Bobbi Brandt and I’m wondering if you’re actually planning to have dinosaurs on your dinosaur tour?”

“Excuse me?” Say’s the secretary.

“Sorry.” I say, “I’m wondering if we’re going to be doing other school related things today for the virtual learners?”

She replies “This week is just going to be the morning meetings.  Next week will be more learning opportunities.”

We were so let down.  I don’t know what we were expecting.  I think that was kind of the whole point.  No one knew what to expect.  Not really.

I felt like that kid that just realized their parents don’t know everything, and my daughter found out that I didn’t either.  At least that’s how I thought it played out.  Instead it took another direction.

She turned to me and asked if I was going to go there and help them figure this stuff out?

I said “No.  They have lots of people working on it” (image remains intact).

The next week was better and now we are in a good place with it.  The schedule slowly filled in for us and I think that was a good thing.  Adjusting to home schooling wasn’t too difficult for my daughter.

Expectations were very low when school let out last spring.  The message was “don’t try to force them.  We don’t want them to hate virtual learning in case we have to do it in the fall.”

Turns out that was a good plan after all.  Although, it did cause a problem when we started the writing class.  This year she has to do it.  Last year they didn’t care if she finished.  She doesn’t enjoy it and thought complaining about it meant she didn’t have to do it.  After a brief meltdown, she is now enjoying it more.

Hats off to everyone doing virtual learning.  And to others that didn’t have a choice…

Hang in there.

I’m thinking of you, wishing and hoping things would and will change for the better for all of us.

Thank you to the amazing teachers trying so hard to keep us all on the same page and manage the concerns of their own lives on top of it all.

No matter what we are doing, let’s all try to support each other where it’s needed and really try to support these kids.  Even if we don’t agree on everything, we can all agree these kids are precious and important to us.  Let’s try to make it a happy school year for them.  Don’t be hard on yourself or them.  We all deserve a little slack right now.  Give it to yourself!

Update: Our high school is now taking off for two weeks and going virtual due to COVID-19.

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