Helluva Back-to-School

Are your kids learning at home or via computer? How is it going for you? Here’s us!

#myblogis1 #susanstrasser #susanstrasserblog #amwriting

Part 4: This week, I continue to reflect on the first year of my blog’s life. 40,000 families in Frederick County are doing virtual school like we are this fall. But many counties, districts, and states are not. Or are taking a hybrid approach. It’s a trip!

No sooner had we decided to keep our vacation plans for mid August, than I was studying the local news anxiously to see what Frederick County’s intentions seemed to be for the 2020-2021 school year. Would they try to open schools with a crazy distancing approach? Our kids were supposed to ride the bus together this year. How would that work?

Then our school district announced in July that it would be the parents’ decision as to whether or not to participate in full virtual school or a hybrid model. In the hybrid model, children would alternate going to the school building a couple of days a week with virtual the other days. So we debated that, always checking the Hopkins website for the latest data. I thought of essential workers and how I read how that they disrobed at the door and headed straight for their showers, etc. Would we want to do something like that just so our kids could see other kids?

As a family, we watched the July televised FCPS Board of Education meeting, where the ultimate deciding factor was discussed and left unanswered: How can the schools ensure us that masks will be left on?

Their answer (of course): they can’t. You cannot make every child wear a mask constantly.

Then a couple of weeks later, they changed their mind to all virtual schooling so it didn’t matter anymore.

I am blessed to receive furlough benefits and be home for our children. This has worked out well with my son being in kindergarten. But what if my work opens back up? I would be back on the road in my bus, missing Liam’s morning classes. Also, the kids get me during our staged “recess” where we go outside and ride bikes, take hikes, kick a ball, or simply take a walk.

My husband works an intense work-from-home job as an Aeronautical Information Analyst/Associate Manager supporting the FAA. My son has 5 to 6 classes daily, meaning 5 to 6 times daily he has to log onto Google Meets for his virtual lessons. Often, we have a follow up assignment to do, often where he video records himself or takes a picture of his work. My husband would have to monitor a lot of it between his videoconferences and heavy responsibilities.

But my son? My six year old is knocking it out of the park! He’s learned how to mute and unmute himself for videoconferencing, how to independently log on, and how to close tabs or windows.

It’s amazing.

My daughter, who’s in 5th grade, has been fluent on the Chromebooks that the kids have used for a couple of years. However, there was a big change from Google classroom to incorporating Schoology as part of it. She is doing a smashing job as well, independently attending and participating the Google Meets and completing assignments. She’s even getting her own email in Schoology! And learning how to check her own grades.

People complain about virtual or electronic school, but it is the safest thing for our children. Like every state in the nation, we are waiting for the number of Covid-19 cases to be “flattened,” as our governor said in the Spring, “Flatten the curve.” At least two weeks of it would be significant.

My kids’ teachers are giving 110% in these videoconferences and virtual lessons, too. It is powerful to walk around the house and hear the excitement, sternness, compassion, or respect in their tones as they address the class, and a testament to them to be able to hold my children’s attention.

Liam’s teacher is even stopping by with a pumpkin for them on Wednesday in lieu of the annual kindergarten pumpkin patch field trip!

Don’t get me wrong, though. He has had some tough moments. He goes through phases where he leaves during class to come see what I’m doing and I have to give him consequences. Or he’s doodling so hard while the teacher’s teaching I ask him what she just said or what she’s teaching. And he knows! But these times are the exception, not the norm. So, whew!

When I was a teacher, I used to marvel at the resiliency of children. Now I marvel at my own children’s engagement with this forced (but we were curious about how it would work, weren’t we? and hey! we’re doing it!) 21st century-style learning. I am a teacher’s aide, making sure they do that they are logged on and checking on them regularly.

Could my kids’ grades be better? Sure.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for them to be in school, surrounded by peers? Of course. But it’s not safe.

Our county is re-evaluating continuance of virtual school at the end of January, or mid-year. I do not envy the school board for this hard decision.

But just for today, we are home, we are virtually learning, we are healthy and we are happy (okay we miss the old “normal” a little bit lol).

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