July 22, 2020

Online Learning, Homeschool, Or Hybrid? Questions I Ask Myself

Online Learning or Homeschool?

Homeschool? Online learning? In-person school? Virtual school? Hybrid? With so many options, but really no “great” option, I like many of you feel at a loss about what to do for my kids this fall for school.

In an ideal world, my kids would physically be in school, learning in a classroom with their peers with a trained teacher, online learning or homeschool wouldn’t be a question…

I’ve served as co-room mom the four years Grayson has been in elementary school, and one year for Harper. I’ve seen firsthand over and over how incredibly powerful of an experience it is for kids to physically be in that environment.

However, with the current rise in covid infections across the country, this may not be an option for your children as it is not for us here in most cities in California. Despite being polled this summer asking for parent input with a variety of hybrid schooling options, that’s all moot now. The Governor in California deciding that schools cannot open until the infection rate gets lower.

That leaves three options: online schooling, hybrid school (in-person when allowed and also online) or homeschooling.

Homeschooling is not a choice I feel comfortable making at this time. While I have many, many friends who have homeschooled for years, I know myself. And I am not exactly the most patient person.

Okay, let me be really honest. Getting married and having kids has taught me to be infinitely more patient than single me was, but I have a short fuse. I get frustrated when people don’t understand what I’m explaining. I know this about myself, and I don’t want to set my kids and me up to fail.

I am intimately aware of my strengths and weaknesses as a person. I know I talk really fast, and many people don’t understand what I am saying. The thing is, my brain processes information really quickly. And so I’ve always spoken fast as a way to get it all out.

Just yesterday, someone asked me if I was from the East Coast because I talk and move quickly. Because I process information so quickly, I don’t totally comprehend why it takes other people longer. I mean, I know people learn at different paces. But knowing and understanding are two different things. And I often get frustrated having to explain things more once, so when it goes into the second time, the frustration is apparent.

I also don’t feel comfortable using a homeschool curriculum since I don’t have a background in education. I need more structure to feel confident enough to help my kids learn.

That leaves online learning or hybrid in-school / online learning options

I love the idea of school for kids. I love what school provides for kids. Socialization with peers, learning through and with others. The opportunity to be exposed to new people, new ideas and new ways of doing things.

Online Learning or Homeschool?

Being taught by someone who is not your mom, a trained teacher who goes to undergrad, gets a masters in education, a teaching credential and then passes tons of state testing is an incredible experience. As I mentioned before, part of the reason I worry about homeschooling my kids is that I studied political science and then went to law school.

I know very little about early childhood education apart from my experiences as a student and watching the teachers in my kid’s classrooms.

But what I can tell you is that teachers are incredible humans. Anyone who would dedicate their schooling and lives to help children learn and grow into amazing people has my immense respect.

But just because a teacher is an incredible in-peson teacher does not mean they are trained or even equipped to have the skills to teach, communicate and inspire kids through a computer screen. Many people called the form of education we all experienced this past spring as “crises schooling” because it was implemented without much planning, structure or process.

It had to happen that way because everyone was doing the absolute best they could under very difficult circumstances. But now we have the benefit of time to think about what will be best for our kids and ourselves.

Questions I’ve Asked Myself About Online Learning

These are the very important questions I’ve asked myself to determine the best schooling option for both my kids and me.

Okay I know that’s a LONG LIST! But I’m sure if you compile all of the things you’ve been thinking about, yours is equally long as well! Take some time and ask yourself the answers to these questions. Write down the answers.

Talk to your spouse, partner, friends or family members about these topics. I often find myself doing my best thinking aloud to friends over the phone, for me usually late at night. If you’re a good friend, you know I’m always up late!

Why I Chose Online Learning

Ultimately, I’ve decided to enroll my kids in an online learning school for the 2020-2021 schoolyear. I’m extremely fortunate that our new school district offers this alternative for an all-online academy.

Online Learning or Homeschool?

The one thing that gives me major pause is commiting to an entire year. I mean, say a vaccine comes out in October. What then?! Okay, a vaccine will likely not be coming out in October. And last night I heard it could take 6 months – one year until it becomes widely available.

While I may be able to get an early vaccine because I’m immunocompromised, my kids are not. And I will not be bumping them ahead of others who like myself have very fragile immune systems.

At this point, I cannot imagine most schools in major cities in California allowing in-person instruction until at least January 2021 at a minimum. And you know what January brings right? Flu season!

Last year my daughter’s entire Kinder class got the stomach bug, twice in January. And several kids got the flu, some of them testing positive for type A and B (oh joy!).

So that allays my concerns somehwhat and brings up my next point.

Continuity is very important to me

When my daughter was in preschool, she started off going to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. No matter how hard we tried, we could NEVER get into a routine that year. Going to school only two days a week, on non back-to-back days, makes it very hard to get into a routine.

The next year she went to preschool Monday, Wednesday and Friday and we found that to be a bit easier.

But honestly, I prefer a steady routine to a non-back-to-back schedule. While I didn’t love teaching my kids in the beginning, it provided much needed structure to our days in quarantine. I mean, I never woke up and brought them to school. Which means I didn’t make my morning smoothie and coffee.

Mornings were spent doing all sorts of random things. The days we had school we woke up, I made my coffee and smoothie (okay in all honesty, my husband makes it on most days. And he occasionally reads my blogs so just throwing that out there!) and then we started school.

As someone who works at home, I NEED STRUCTURE. It helps me organize my days. After I finished teaching the kids we made lunch, and it was easy for me to switch over to work. I told my agency I was not available before 12 pm everyday, and I was really good about not checking my emails until then.

Having. my kids go to school say two to three days a week, while that sounds tempting, will likely result in that return to a disoderly week. After spring break, it took us several days to get back into a routine.

How are we ever supposed to get into a rhythm when our schedule is constantly in flux? When I know I need to do work, it just happens. I get it done. When I know I have to teach my kids, it’s go time. I put on my teacher hat, even though it may be lacking in patience.

I know that I can make the year commitment, and I also know how much my kids thrived when they learned at home from me.

My Kids Actually Thrived Learning At Home

I was completely flabbergasted how much I enjoyed teaching my kids, and how much they actually learned from me. Yes, I may not be able to do common core math.

Gray was supposed to do each problem 4 different ways. I always chose the carry-the-1 option and occasionally could figure out the second one. The other ones I tried to google and got glassy eyed and quickly closed the page.

But here’s the thing. If he can carry the 1, he already has a built in second option called the calculator on every phone and computer, right?

In law school my first year, they taught us how to find case law manually. It was excruciating. The library system makes as much sense as federal civil procedure (1L law school joke there!), and it took us MONTHS to really understand well.

And then the next day, once we all demonstrated that we understood how to do this, they introduced us to Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw. They are two online platforms to easily search all legal cases within seconds. I’m not joking when I say my jaw fell to the floor and I was like, you made us learn all of that, and it is THIS EASY?! Really?

That’s kids and calculators. I mean, I used to be good at math a really long time ago when I actually needed to know how to use it. But unless your child is going to be an engineer or a doctor, you can learn to teach them math. And even if they are on that path, I promise you that you can figure it out.

There is literally a YouTube video on EVERYTHING. And this Fall, teachers will be much more prepared and equipped to help struggling parents. At our school, each teacher keeps regular “office hours” like college professors do. That means you have easy access to the person who can teach those other types of math I will never be able to understand.

Kids with Special Needs Often Benefit From One-On-One Instruction

I’ve shared many times that Grayson was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was in Kindergarten. He sees an Orton-Gillingham trained tutor weekly to help him, and he also receives reading resource help in school. This teacher was also Orton-Gillingham trained, and LAUSD introduced a dyslexia program this past schoolyear.

For many reasons, kids with special needs often thrive MORE in public schools because they have to follow IEPs (I understand tbis is not the case everywhere, particularly not in New York City). But here in California, many kids with special needs are given more access to services in public school.

Gray’s tutor mostly sees kids in pricey private schools, and he tells me often we are in the best place for Gray. So yes, again, I would love Gray to attend school in personand benefit from these services. But he still received services (after 7 weeks and several emails) this Spring.

And his new school has a resource teacher who will help him with his online learning.

Grayson’s teacher in second grade made several accommodations for him without my prompting. One thing she did was to have him read while the other kids did their spelling test, and then to quiz him one-on-one in the back of the class.

By making this small change, he went from regularly misspelling 2-3 words to always getting 100%. You see, Grayson thrives leaning one-on-one. Spelling is REALLY hard for kids with dyslexia. He sees pictures for words, and spells things phonetically.

A word like school to him should be spelled skul. When he is focused, he can get all of his words correct. But when he is unfocused, he struggles.

By me teaching him one-on-one, I was able to make tons of accommodations for him that a teacher to 24 – 27 kids would never have the time to make. For instance, when writing stories, Gray gets completely caught up on how to spell a word.

He gets so tripped up, that he languishes on the first or second word for a long time. Then he loses focus because this is so hard for him.

The point of writing a story in second grade is to learn the parts of a story. The introduction, character development, climax and ending. Why would I let Gray’s difficulty with spelling interfere with his storytelling ability?

Gray LOVES to tell stories. He thrives at creative work. In the same time it would take him to write a few words, he could tell a completed story. So what I did was write the story down that he told. Then, once he was done, he re-wrote the story, copying the words I wrote down.

He was still the author of the story. He still wrote the actual story. He just needed some support in getting to the completed product.

Moving into third grade, Grayson gets a speech-to-text accommodation for this exact reason.

I did similar things with Harper. I quickly learned her strengths and weaknesses. She was writing some numbers backwards. So on the days she did that, I had her write lines of the number the correct way.

She thrived on doing CVC words, so I made sure to do them daily to build her confidence. She loves flash cards, so I made rainbow ones with her rainbow words. Gray even helped me make them and would quiz her some days.

He felt confident that he knew the words and could help her, and she loves doing anything with her big brother.

Creating Pods or Bubbles

I’m going to share more on this in a future topic, as this issue has gotten more complicated for me recently and I will share why. But I’ve shared often in stories how we created a quarantine bubble with a few other families, and it’s been our absolute saving grace during quarantine.

It’s my hope to create new pods or bubbles once we move so my kids still get to socialize with a few other kids, who are not being exposed to others outside the “bubble.” This allays my fear about socialization.

And some pods are planning to homeschool together, either by hiring a turor, or having parents teach one day a week. More on that in a future post soon!

We May Not Be Able to Make a Perfect Decision, But We Need to Feel Confident in the One We Choose

Right now, we’re all faced with less than perfect choices for our kids. Do we send them to school and potentially expose them to covid? Do we do a hybrid model? Do we move to an online school? Or switch to homeschooling?

Whatever decision you decide to make for your family, I hope you trust that you are making the best choice you can. Don’t second guess yourself. Try not to worry.

If every child is “behind” than really no child is behind, right? We’re all in this suboptimal situation, and we all have to figure out what’s best for our unique situations.

Please try not to judge others for their choices. Some parents may work outside the home and may not be able to afford childcare. There are countless situations that can cause a family to make the decisions that are best for them. I like to think that parents are all trying to do the absolute best that they can, in their situation. So let’s try not to judge, and instead focus on making this schoolyear as effective as possible.

2 responses to “Online Learning, Homeschool, Or Hybrid? Questions I Ask Myself”

  1. […] year, we’ve committed to exclusively virtual learning at an online academy.  As I explained in a Blog Post a few weeks ago, I think this option will provide the most consistency during this difficult […]

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