Here are the four things we’re doing with our kids for school this year:
1. Trying not to stress the eff out.
2. Remembering there is no such thing as “getting behind” because a) “on track” is a manufactured and ever-changing target based on an imaginary student’s potential for “success” in an outdated world, and b) EVERY student is currently affected by this crisis.
3. Prioritizing safety, kindness, health, and equity before academics.
4. Looking out for ALL the kids in our community, not just our own.
And here’s how we’re doing it, practically speaking:
1. Even though we’ve homeschooled for the past couple years — and even though folks with wealth and privilege are leaving public school in droves and turning to homeschooling and “pods” — we’re doing the opposite. We’re enrolling our kids in public school because public schools need to be well funded in order to serve the children who need it the most — those who experience disability, those who experience poverty, and those who are not safe at home. This is the time to be POURING INTO public schools and social support systems, not taking out. And while I don’t fault ANY parent for pulling their kids in an attempt to ensure their students are properly educated and healthy, I also KNOW IN MY BONES that now is the time to be looking out for ALL the kids — especially the vulnerable kids — and not focusing on just mine.
2. We don’t feel that in-person schooling is safe from a health perspective at this point in the COVID pandemic. At least not where we live. Not for the students, and especially not for the teachers. Fortunately, our state governor and school district agree. Since we haven’t locally met benchmarks of lowering the infection rate to a point where there’s low risk in opening in-person in some sort of reduced manner, our public district is offering two options — a) comprehensive distance learning (as differentiated from last spring’s abrupt yet heroic “Hail Mary” attempt at distance learning), and b) a “hybrid online learning program blends online instruction and regular contact with highly qualified teachers while parents maintain a leadership role in their child’s education…” in other words, online homeschooling with teacher help. We’ve selected option “b” which allows us to continue much of what we were already doing for our kids but puts funding back into public schools. Honestly, it’s a hassle for us to do this — we have to figure out a whole new system of tracking and monitoring, my kids have to do extra check-ins with staff, we have to meet different standards — but that puts us in THE SAME BOAT as 99.99% of Everyone Else. We’re all Doing New and Unexpected Things. Will it be a pain in the ass? Yep. It’s ALL a pain in the ass right now. Would it be easier to just hunker down with our own program? Also yep, but that doesn’t benefit others. I’ve already explained to my kids that they’ll have extra tasks this school year in order to plug back into public school. And I will tell you the truth — they were NOT THRILLED with that news, but they also understand and agree it’s the right choice.
3. We’re working with our adult kids to create learning support for students in our community. They’re calling these “Distance Learning Clubs” and they’re a kind of anti-pod, or pod antidote. Limited to groups of 10 total, including 2 adult mentors, the clubs provide assistance for students to manage their distance learning. Not everyone has a parent or adult at home who can track what’s needed to progress through an online school program — whether it’s the homeschooling option or the one with way more teacher support. That’s where our adult kids come in. Each club is 3.5 hours/week, uses masks and up-to-date health protocols including remaining outdoors as much as possible, and is open for anyone in the community to register at as low a cost as we can manage. They’re raising funds to provide scholarships to students with self-identified financial need, and we’re working with a guidance counselor at one of the local schools to identify students who might need that assistance and this program. To be honest, it’s a lot of work and means quite a lot of sacrifice — it’s a financial loss for us because we’re subsidizing it, the adult kids will each receive a modest stipend, and it takes time and commitment to make it happen. But if we’re going to make it though this situation — and if we care about having a healthy and safe community — we have to do this together, Ohana style. And in the immortal words from Lilo and Stitch, “Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.”
Listen, I feel for families right now as they try to make impossible choices. IMPOSSIBLE, imperfect, hard choices. And I’m not suggesting in any way that others should make exactly the same choices As us — there are infinite possibilities out there right now and infinite challenges. Every family’s needs are different. Every student’s, too. But I AM suggesting we can work hard at making choices that benefit more humans than just those we call our own.
Love to you and waving, waving in the dark,
P.S. Here’s the system our adult kids have put together. I’m sharing it here so you can copy it if it meets your community’s needs, because it’s time to share ideas, not hoard them:
We’re excited to offer this Distance Learning Club for students from 1st through 8th grades.
As students move from in-person models of learning to hybrid or distance learning, there is an increased need to learn time management skills, goal setting, how to keep a detailed assignment calendar, proactive communication, and more.
At a 4:1 student to adult ratio, in a group no larger than 10 total in keeping with State of Oregon public health recommendations, and with plenty of fresh air and breathing room, Distance Learning Club is offered in an open space with attentive adult mentors who can help students learn the skills to be successful in the new school model. You can choose which day you want to attend: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays. Or register for more than one!
COST: Distance Learning Club is offered in 5 separate sessions — Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays — and costs $625 for Fall Semester. If preferred, payment can be made in 5 equal installments of $125 per month.
DAYS AND TIMES: Choose which day you want to attend: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays. Or register for more than one! Distance Learning Club is offered weekdays, 8:00am-11:30am, during Fall Semester (September 8-January 29). Clubs will be open on public school conference and in-service days. Clubs will be closed during public school breaks and holidays. We follow the public school for inclement weather cancellation.
HEALTH PRECAUTIONS: We take the current global pandemic very seriously and will follow all public health requirements and recommendations from the State of Oregon. In addition to a limited group size — maximum 2 adults and 8 students — students and adult mentors are required to wear masks. Club will be held in a sheltered outdoor environment to allow fresh air flow. Propane heaters will provide warmth on cold days, and students will be asked to dress warmly. Restrooms and common areas are disinfected between groups. Each student will receive a temperature check upon arrival, and students with fevers, cold and flu, and/or coronavirus symptoms will be asked to remain home. These precautions reflect requirements and guidelines at the time of publication; we will update club members whenever there is a need to update these parameters in order to ensure ongoing compliance with public health authorities.
PLEASE PLAN TO BRING:
*100+ page spiral notebook dedicated to Distance Learning Club for organizing assignments and communication with parents
*Electronic learning device provided by school district or parent (i.e. Chromebook) and associated passwords
*Any supplementary supplies required to complete distance learning assignments (i.e. notebooks, pencils, crayons, etc.)
*Clothes appropriate for staying cool or warm in an outdoor, sheltered location
*Snacks and filled water bottle
NOTE: We can also provide access to any of the items above if needed.