Frustrated by Virtual Learning

I am two days into my oldest child’s virtual school year and I am already frustrated by virtual learning. So far it has shown a number of troubling things that I am going to have to overcome with my kids.

So what has me frustrated by virtual learning? I do not work for a school, a school board nor am I a teacher. As such I have no special insight into their challenges in operating in this environment. I did have a short conversation with my oldest son’s teacher today which helped to cement some of the conclusions I suspected:

  • Public school systems spent the summer planning for how to have in-person learning
  • When that was put on hold, districts and schools were left scrambling to formulate a plan
  • Current schools and districts are not at all equipped for an online learning model
  • To make matters worse, they do not have the budgets of untold dollars to transition to this model only to scrap the whole thing at some point when kids go back to school

Everyone including, parents, students and teachers is frustrated by virtual learning. Your kids still need an education so a solution needs to be formulated. Just as it was for me last spring, this solution is most likely going to come exclusively from me!

I went to my child’s school two days before school to pick up their school supplies. This was a bag of various things that they would need for the school year.

It was delivered to the school because that was where they were supposed to be! I am sure the school made a little money through me buying the supplies this route so it seemed a win-win. 

The reality of going to the school and picking these supplies up from a masked woman in the parking lot only served to hammer home how challenging this school year would be.

I’m Already Frustrated By Virtual Learning (And I’m Only Two Days In!)

Here in the Portland, OR school district they have advised us we will be online only until at least the end of the first quarter on Nov. 5th. Seeing other districts open and have Covid outbreaks makes me believe they have made the right choice.

It also makes one point abundantly clear:

Until there is an effective vaccine that I feel comfortable giving to my kids and myself, we will be doing online school indefinitely

Think about it, what is going to change anytime soon that would change the reasoning for going online-only in the first place? The only thing I can think of is parents getting fed up and putting enough pressure on the district to re-open. That solves one problem (kids back in school where they belong) but creates another (an unknown increase in Covid-related risk for everyone involved).

frustrated by virtual learning

So far we have two days of the “soft start” to the school year under our belt. Translation? Kids are not learning anything other than how to use a computer and the associated software.

Simple enough? Add in a teacher that has a bad internet connection at her home. Taking “attendance” takes 15 minutes!!

My sister has a son that is a freshman in high school. She tells me kids that age can be left to themselves because they know all about the tech (probably better than their parents) and parents need to just make sure the work is getting done.

With my kids, 6 and 5 years old, they need guidance the whole way through. So the “schedule” that was created (which my son’s teacher told me was dropped in their laps two days before school started) is almost irrelevant. I am going to be doing the teaching!!

Here is my plan

I’ve written several posts in the past about using ABC Mouse for my kid’s education. What the school is providing is really not much different than that.

They are using a suite of software that will allow them to provide content to my kids that will serve as their educational material. In and of itself it will act as a sort of minimum requirement. I for one would like to do a little bit more.

Anything you come up with is obviously going to be very much age-dependent. This is due to not only what the kids need to learn, but also what the school needs to be able to verify in terms of that learning.

Now with kids my age what I’m really trying to do is teach them how to read and write, learn a little bit about the sciences, and maybe mix in some art. We are still very much at the building block stage of their education.

So my plan is to do everything the teachers assign. On top of that, we will do simple things like taking nature walks where we talk about what we see or read books that they like or do math quizzes while we drive the car (there are three cars on the side of the road and there’s two on the other-how many is that total?)

I’m just going to try to incorporate teaching on the things they need to know at this age into their daily lives without trying to turn it into some sort of de facto elementary school at my house. The reality is neither I nor my kids are going to be able to tolerate six or seven hours of “school” a day at our house. 

What’s more, is that they don’t need that much schooling to learn what they need to learn at this age. A big part of the reason kids my age spend so much time at school is as much for the interaction with other kids and adults as it is to learn their ABCs.

I Am Lucky

I don’t know this for sure but I feel that I am much luckier than most people that are in this situation right now. I keep reading story after story about parents who are forced to either go work at their job or take care of their kids and their education.

My situation allows me to do both at the same time. It is so unfortunate that for some to try to come up with a plan for this, there simply is no “good” solution, there are just choices all of which vary between mediocre and horrible.

The great thing is that kids really are survivors, they know a lot more than we probably think they know, and they are capable of a lot more than we either expect or believe. This isn’t a great situation for them or for any of us, but they can go a long way to helping us all make it the best it can be.

How about learning pods?

This is a topic that seems to becoming all of the rage. It is certainly easy to see why. If you can find a small group of kids that are all at the same age group and you can feel at least fairly confident about their health and well-being, why not put them in a room together to do their learning? They get the best of both virtual schooling and an in-person experience. The only question is who will do the teaching but that is something we are all already dealing with.

Can’t schools do a hybrid model?

This is what I want. Half the class goes to school for two days and the other half goes for two days. Kids that need extra attention go for a third day. This still presents huge challenges logistically but it seems to be the best of both worlds. I have no way of knowing if this is even feasible but I do not think it does not hurt to bring this up with teachers, principals, and administrators if for no other reason than to hear why they think they CANNOT do it.