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School in a pandemic

 
pollinator
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So, we have 2 school aged kids and an infant. They are going into second and fourth grade this year. We ended last year home schooling like everyone else and it was AWFUL!!! My kids would cry cry cry and sit at the table for hours rather than do their work. I kept telling them they just had to do it and then they could play. If it took them 1 hour or 24, they were going to sit at the table until it was done. In the end the only way work was completed was if i yelled. I HATE that. It makes me feel like an awful person and I don't want to have to yell at my kids. It's just not fun. In the end my daughter had a para from the school zooming with her for an hour to get the writing done. It really was just the writing. They hate writing, both of them. My daughter happily wrote pages for the para. Apparently it's just doing work for me they have a problem with.

Anyway, right now school is going to be back in the building but this gives me a conundrum. First off, I feel bad that school HAS to be in the building. We absolutely can not home school these children again. It only worked last time because I was quarantined at home. My husband home schooling and caring for the baby alone is just not going to work. I will likely not be quarantined at home again. My office is in a house. We had rented space to another lawyer but she bought her own and moved out July 1. I am completely alone in the building. No reason at all to keep me at home now.

Also, if they decide that homeschooling is necessary we are not going to tie ourselves to the school. Doing the work on their schedule without any of the support just isn't happening. They threatened me with a truancy officer when I informed my then 1st grader (who ended up getting the zoom help) was 100% not writing her papers. We cannot do that again.

I don't want to expose people to the virus. I don't want the virus to come home with our kids. The whole thing is a crap situation but man, they have to go to school ya'll.

Anyone else feeling this pressure?

It should also be noted that we are in a rural school district and a poor one at that. Quite a few kids didn't even have internet and there are some areas where internet isn't available at all. We have a rancher friend who has a verizon wireless hot spot as her sole internet source. So that's an issue with schooling at home as well. Never mind the working parents who do not have someone at home like we do. I just don't see how this is going to work for a lot of people.
 
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elle sagenev wrote: In the end my daughter had a para from the school zooming with her for an hour to get the writing done. It really was just the writing. They hate writing, both of them. My daughter happily wrote pages for the para. Apparently it's just doing work for me they have a problem with. Apparently it's just doing work for me they have a problem with.



I can see you are in a very frustrating place. I would like to suggest some of your frustration might come from this way of looking at things. Your tiny humans are likely overwhelmed, perhaps scared, and probably confused to say the least. Home before was not a place where they would have to spend all day doing schoolwork with mommy being the teacher. In addition, you are their safe place. Whenever they feel scared, confused or overwhelmed, you are the most likely person that they will act out in front of. This is a compliment, even though it might not feel like one ;-) Seeing their teacher on Zoom might have felt like at least a glimpse of what used to be normal, so they had enough bandwidth to get some work done.

I think this homeschooling situation is expecting way too much of little children. They are stressed and overwhelmed, and learning cannot happen when a person is stressed and overwhelmed. And I suspect teachers, school directors and parents are equally stressed and overwhelmed, and it is very hard to be patient and understanding with little ones when we are in such a state.

Personally, I do not really believe in formal schooling the way it is typically done in schools. Children do not learn at the same pace, and it is ludicrous to expect them all to learn the same things in the same way, being taught in the same way, and being made to sit still all day. If anything, this pandemic has shown how so many children (and families!) are not thriving in this system.

This is just really very hard, and I think the only thing we can do is be kind and easy on ourselves and our kids. This is new territory and there are no roadmaps, we just have to figure it out along the way.

I hope you will be able to find a solution that works for your family! Courage, momma!
 
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I really feel for you, Elle. Parents are being pulled in way too many directions and not given nearly enough resources.

Some parents do great with homeschooling, others of us have a harder time. And definitely, as mentioned above, parents have a dedicated role as a safe space, and sometimes all these roles/jobs don't fit together in a way that is compatible with anyone`s mental health or learning, which makes you wonder why you even bother.

I am trained as an educator (reading specialist, and also taught HS foreign languages and English while I was doing my reading specialist training), with experience across all age groups. When we moved here I homeschooled my kid part time for the subjects she wasn`t getting in her school (US history, English) and supplemented her in math, which was a challenge for her. I damn near lost my composure trying to teach her times tables and fractions, I even pulled out all my Montessori tricks with recipes, piles of buttons, giant chalk on the ground, and not a blessed thing worked, every single time it ended in tears (for both of us). Eventually I had to just walk away and trust that it was going to get sorted out in school, or else our relationship was going to be affected.
[it was rough there for a while, and there was a grade repeated.... but the kid graduated high school with honors and passed the entrance exam for the Federal University here, which is a big deal, and is now in her second year studying biology. She got through math, and funny enough, doesn't remember much of the fraction torture, I'm very relieved to say!!!].

There is nothing wrong with not doing it all and I thank my lucky stars regularly that this pandemic didn`t happen when I was teaching HS with two small children in the home and a spouse working in an essential industry with no work-from-home option. I literally don't think I could have done it. We are all being put in situations that are just untenable, and I know here we`re just trying to choose the lesser of the evils, take precautions as much as we can, and quite frankly pray or hope for the best.
 
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That's a tough situation. It's not ideal, but you gotta do you.

It seems like school in the US has taken the role of childcare. I haven't looked at them recently, but when I was in school the yearly requirements of what needs to be learned were actually pretty small. Schools just take forever teaching them and assign loads of busy work to fill the time, in my experience. I was homeschooled a year here and a year there. We barely did anything, and when I returned to school I didn't feel like I had missed anything.

I would think the school would have more important stuff to worry about than harassing parents for missing assignments during the pandemic. Cheese and crackers! Truancy officers are still a thing, wow. Sorry you have to deal with that on top of everything else!

If you decide to look more into homeschooling, I think there are a good selection of bare minimum curricula designed to appease state requirements. I'm sure it's changed since I was a kid and by state, but all we had to do was submit a curriculum plan saying what we were going to do. I'm not sure if we had to keep a log or something, but "science class" was the magic school bus on pbs, so it couldn't have been too strict. And if you're only homeschooling for a year because of the pandemic and planning to return them to school after, then you can relax knowing that they can catch up later if they have to. My information is very outdated and skewed by childhood memories. And children still need supervision which is very hard to provide with a newborn and making a living.

You just have to do what's best for you given the resources you have available. It sounds like the benefits of preserving your relationship with your kids and providing financial support outweigh the risks in your case.
 
elle sagenev
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My husband is doing alright at home. He's been home for a year. I keep asking him what he's going to do if they school closes again and I don't get quarantined at home to help. He tells me flat out that he cannot handle it. He cannot handle the baby, keeping everyone alive and education. So, I'm not sure what will happen. I mostly feel bad that the school has to remain open with our kids in it because we just can't have them not there.
 
pollinator
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Elle, have you reached out to any other parents near by? This event has spurred us to start developing a homeschool collective because we don't want our children being educated in plexiglass cubicles with everyone masked.

Its a lot to undertake but it definitely feels more approachable with other families (even though all of  us share the feelings of being overwhelmed).
 
pollinator
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Elle - I’m a teacher. Our homeschooling has been:
Weeding
Baking
Chicken care
Learning Bike riding
Watching documentaries together and discussing them
An unlimited supply of reading material, and more advanced audio books

And most importantly... decent amounts of screen time for everyone’s sanity.

In the first week of lockdown here my various social media connections went absolutely mental. I think I had 5 years worth of resource and activity recommendations sent my way. Every parent seemed to go crazy.

All the teachers were like “meh, they’ll be fine”.



 
elle sagenev
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s. lowe wrote:Elle, have you reached out to any other parents near by? This event has spurred us to start developing a homeschool collective because we don't want our children being educated in plexiglass cubicles with everyone masked.

Its a lot to undertake but it definitely feels more approachable with other families (even though all of  us share the feelings of being overwhelmed).



Seems like the pandemic pods the rich are making are what you have in mind. lol If I could pay a teacher I totally would!
 
Tereza Okava
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Elle, while I feel for the teachers that have to go back, I am sure you are not the only parent in your district who feels like the kids need to go back to school, and I doubt your kids will be the only ones back. Even out in rural areas, people rely on school as child care. I really don't know how parents are doing it. Hang in there til school goes back (don't count that chicken til it hatches, either. Plenty of time for policy to go back and forth a number of times) and try not to beat yourself up, you've got enough on your plate.
 
elle sagenev
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Tereza Okava wrote:Elle, while I feel for the teachers that have to go back, I am sure you are not the only parent in your district who feels like the kids need to go back to school, and I doubt your kids will be the only ones back. Even out in rural areas, people rely on school as child care. I really don't know how parents are doing it. Hang in there til school goes back (don't count that chicken til it hatches, either. Plenty of time for policy to go back and forth a number of times) and try not to beat yourself up, you've got enough on your plate.



I do have a husband at home with the kids but he can keep them alive or teach them, not both. LOL
 
master steward
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I'm totally feeling the pressure, too. We have an AWESOME public/home-school co-op, so we're really set up a lot better than others. But, wow, the "Mommy Guilt" is strong right now. Especially since I picked up a work-from-home job about a month before covid-19 came (can you guess who I work for?... Oh LOOK! A Truly Passive Greenhouse!). I'm really, really thankfully I took the job, because the hospital my husband works at cut his hours by 1/4th, so if I wasn't working, we would be sinking economically.

But, trying to balance working, the garden, the animals, feeding the family, and teaching the kids is HARD. My son will be in 1st grade, and my daughter is 3.

History and science are easy for us. We just read books and watch documentaries and youtube videos and just engage with the kids curiosity.

But, math and reading are HARD. My son HATES writing. It was a battle in school, and it's still a battle. I've found the best time to do work for him was right before bed. He got to stay up later if he was doing homework. I also--like Tereza--pull out the manipulative and do a LOT with chalk. I often just start doing something, and my kids get interested and we play/learn together. Young kids really do learn best through play!

I actually have a thread about what I'd been doing: https://permies.com/t/137137/Ways-teach-basics-gardening-practicing....but you'll notice there's been no new posts for a while, because the work/teaching balance was totally off. I was working more to make up for my husband's lack of pay, so the kids pretty much just play together all day. Which, is really great--they need to play and imagine....but, well, I need to do better and actually teach them to read and understand math!

So, I tried to make a schedule, where I stop working and go teach/play with them for an hour....and that hour is actually right now, and here I am typing on the computer!

We were planning on attending school in the fall--especially since it's only a few days a week and such an awesome school. But, my husband works at the Hospital and he's getting more and more worried about it. So, he's thinking we'll homeschool almost entirely at home. Which means I really need to get my act together.

I think if you're going to homeschool, don't try to do the distance learning through the public schools. Find a great curriculum that works for how your kids learn. Mine HATES writing. But, he LOVES videos and reading stories. So, I'm learning heavily toward something that's mostly me reading him stuff. I won't be able to just sit him down and tell him to work through his work books...but that would never have worked anyway.

The thing is, kids learn fast when they're interested and they have someone who's answering their questions and they're engaged in the process. When it becomes drudgery, it's a nightmare. A routine is helpful. Having it be something they get to do to stay up late is helpful ("you can go to bed now at 8:00pm, or stay up until 10:00pm if you're working on homework." "Oh, you're too tired to do anymore? That's fine! You can just go to bed!"). Teaching them "sneakily" is also helpful. If you work it into what you're talking about or doing with them, they won't even notice you're teaching.

But, a lot of that requires some actual "teacher planning time"--at least it does for me. I need a good hour once a week to get a "game plan" in my head about what we're going to learn, and some ideas for how to teach it.

Another thing you can do, if you stick with the public school, is to work with the teacher and say, "Can we show my daughter has learned this in a different way?" Maybe you can send a video of her talking about what she learned, instead of her writing it. Or she can do a project or diorama or something else. It's more work for the teachers to try to grade/evaluate a bunch of different stuff (as a former teacher I REALLY feel for all the teachers right now), but it might work.

...................

Anyway, this is all really long. Long story short is, I think we're ALL feeling this pressure! It's so hard to know what the right thing to do is for our families right now!
 
s. lowe
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elle sagenev wrote:

s. lowe wrote:Elle, have you reached out to any other parents near by? This event has spurred us to start developing a homeschool collective because we don't want our children being educated in plexiglass cubicles with everyone masked.

Its a lot to undertake but it definitely feels more approachable with other families (even though all of  us share the feelings of being overwhelmed).



Seems like the pandemic pods the rich are making are what you have in mind. lol If I could pay a teacher I totally would!



Well the pandemic has.been the catalyst to get more.serious about it but we are more interested in forming a genuine community that exists parallel to normal society. Modern American society seems more and more like a bad proposition to us.

We have started working out numbers for paying someone for some things. It does seem like homeschool settings allow for  much more efficiency of learning, so you don't need to pay a skilled teacher for all the hours of a normal school day. Our current idea is to rent a space and employ a trained teacher for 10-15 hours a week and then rely on rotating group babysitting with a mission to cover the rest of the childcare needs.

Its definitely a benefit that most people involved have flexibility in their work schedules as opposed to traditional 9-5 jobs
 
pollinator
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I agree with (I think it was Nicole) that if the schools have to close again, you should pull your kids from that district and file any necessary paperwork for homeschooling and find what works for your family in terms of structuring that schooling.

From the grade levels you mentioned it sounds like your school-age kids are about 8 and 10? I wonder if part of the problem was that seeing all the work they had to do overwhelmed them and they thought it would take forever and they just gave up rather than do the work. Maybe a small reward for each page completed would help. Kids that age need breaks, they need play time, so the idea of having to sit at the table until the work is done might have short-circuited their system. Kids don't do logic really well at those ages. Add in that their normal routine is disrupted, and kids that age are old enough to understand some things about the pandemic, and it's just a perfect storm.

Another thing that might be a factor is the idea that school and home are separate. Our 16 year old with autism will not do any kind of school work for me. Mom is home. School is school. Mom is not school. He will sometimes do school work if his siblings help and encourage him. I'm guessing the difference is that he knows his brothers and sister go to school (or did, in the case of the one who's graduated) so he's willing to be flexible on that.  You'd be surprised how many things in autism are actually part of normal childhood behavior but ramped way up, and lingering far longer than they would for neurotypical kids.

If there are any other parents in your area who you know are homeschooling, or thinking about it, maybe reach out to them and see if they have ideas on curricula, how to schedule the days, encouraging the kids to do their work, and finding ways to keep both the kids and the parents sane. Not being accountable to the district would take a huge burden off, and you can be really creative with homeschooling. There might be other parents willing to help with the teaching, or older kids who are stuck between high school and college who could help out part-time in exchange for being able to put tutoring or volunteering on their college applications.

Know that you're not alone. Everyone is worried, everyone is facing new things, it's a time of massive suck for almost everyone right now. Tons of parents are struggling with the same issues, the same decisions that have to be made, the same fears about what's coming in the next few months and how to handle it all. But we WILL get through this. Your fellow-permies are here for you.
 
Molly Kay
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

Mine HATES writing. But, he LOVES videos and reading stories. So, I'm learning heavily toward something that's mostly me reading him stuff. I won't be able to just sit him down and tell him to work through his work books...but that would never have worked anyway.



He may be too young to make the connection between the stories and videos he loves and the fact that "hey, someone wrote that" but you could start laying the groundwork for it. Talk to him about the stories he likes the most. Look at what they have in common, look at how they differ. Ask questions that make him think: "What if the character did this instead?"  If the part of writing he hates is that the subject matter isn't interesting, it would be awesome if he could find subjects that interest him enough that the writing itself becomes less of a chore and more fun. Of course if there are other issues involved, this suggestion may be no help at all.

Our oldest had a problem with his mind going blank as soon as he picked up a pen or pencil, but he had no problem getting his thoughts down through typing. He's gotten past that issue now, but for a few years he really needed a keyboard to do a lot of his school work.
 
Nicole Alderman
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He loves stories and we make stories and little books together. And we analyse and question books as we read them. It's the physical process of writing that he doesn't like. He also doesn't like drawing. He's doing better, and will at least write his name or color something. But that's all he'll do without a melt down. It's hard for him (likely due to hypermobility in his finger joints) and his desire to be perfect at it. His first year of kindergarten was really hard, because there was a LOT of writing...at least a lot in his mind. Doing more than a few words was too much for him, and he was required to write 20 or more a day, just in the process of doing the other work.

While I know he needs to learn penmanship and get more skilled, the requirement for him to physically write got in the way of him learning the subject matter. He didn't want to do math or write a story because he didn't want to write the numbers or letters. As much as I was able, I had him dictate to me, and I was his scribe. I'm still not sure if it was the right choice, but I'm avoiding curriculums that are largely work-sheet based to ones that are more focused on me verbally reading stories or lessons to him, or that are using manipulative like legos or other math manipulatives.
 
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