Now distance learning is required…at least temporarily

New Information regarding Distance Learning – Harmony School of ...Last week I wrote about having to choose between in-person and distance learning for my two children. Three days after my post, my school district made the decision to start the school year out with three weeks of distance learning.

Now this is not the distance learning of the final quarter of last year – or so the district assures us. When we began staying home last time, the teachers had a week to scramble and set up distance learning. They had no clue what type of technology or internet access their students had and while the schools offered devices to those in need, many parents and students struggled with the technology and assignments.

A typical week in the old way involved a project for each class in the middle school. Sometimes it was just reading a passage or watching a video and answering some questions. Sometimes it was a project that took more time, but it was simply one project per class and most often there was not direct contact with the teacher.

Lexie’s classes were very simple and she was done quickly. Jase’s projects were harder, but even he said he wasn’t learning as much as he would had he been in class. The good thing is that this all happened in the final quarter of the school year. Topics were being wrapped up before review started for the state STAAR test that students needed to pass to advance to the next grade. Well, the test was cancelled so that left them spending time on projects but not with the intensity or wealth of learning that would have taken place had the students still been in class.

Overall it was a great effort by the teachers in such a short time period but I think we – parents, teachers and the older students – knew it wouldn’t work in the long term. And luckily, the district saw that and made changes.

Now when they return to distance learning, they will be actually attending classes online – 4 per day in the middle school and 3 on one day/4 on the other in the high school. Attendance will be mandatory. And there will be homework and tests. While we have seen the proposed teaching schedules, there are still many questions that haven’t been answered.

But even though distance learning has improved, I would still rather my children have in-person instruction. And if all goes well – if the district finalizes their safety plan and the COVID-19 cases are no longer on the rise – the kids will have the option to return to school after Labor Day.

Quote of the Week – July 15

Amid these trying times, we need all the positive thoughts we can muster. I particularly like this song – Better Days by OneRepublic.

Oh, I know that there’ll be better days
Oh, that sunshine ’bout to come my way
May we never ever shed another tear for today
‘Cause oh, I know that there’ll be better days

To hear the rest of the song, check out the video.

Choosing between in-school and distance learning

If you are a parent, you may be struggling with the momentous decision of whether your kids should return for in-school learning this school year. With cases of COVID-19 rising across the United States and the school year fast approaching, many parents are left wondering what this school year will be like.

Some school districts have taken that decision out of the parent’s hand by only offering distance learning. Yet with the President and Secretary of Education declaring school should be open, some school districts are hemming and hawing about whether it comply or to go with the safer option of keeping students at home for this school year.

It is hard to say which is best. It isn’t as easy as saying that children need to be in school. Yes, most will learn better in a classroom setting, but the safety of the students, teachers and staff is equally important. Kids may not catch COVID-19 or suffer severe symptoms, if any, depending on which report you read. But teachers, custodial staff, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and front office staff can certainly be vulnerable.

And whether it will hit them lightly – as a mere cold – or harder where they are sick for a week or even more serious where they need to be admitted to a hospital or worse yet ICU with a ventilator is anyone’s guess.

My local school district has yet to announce their full plan for this school year. I know they are sending students back to school, but they are also offering distance learning for those parents who don’t feel it is safe for students to return to the physical building. And they have declared that the distance learning will be different than it was back in March, April and May.

But the details on both options are definitely lacking. They haven’t said how they plan to do social distancing at the schools or what will happen when someone tests positive. They haven’t said how distance learning will work. Will there be attendance taken while students learn in a Zoom classroom?

It is just 5 weeks until school starts and I – like many others – am eagerly waiting for details. The district did send out a survey asking which one we thought we would choose. I put down that my kids would be going back to in-person learning. Both kids are on board with that decision as they didn’t like distance learning.

But it isn’t that my kids are getting to make this important decision though I did take their feeling into account. Jase did really well with distance learning as he can easily be expected to sign in and do the assignments. But even he thought he was learning less online than if he was in a classroom. And there are some classes – orchestra and P.E. come to mind – that it is hard to do at a distance. Jase signed up for an outdoor adventure PE class where they should be learning fishing, building a tent, rock climbing, and biking. Yep, I can’t see that happening from a distance.

As for Lexie, she has ADHD and really needs the structure of a classroom and an attentive teacher who can redirect her. With distance learning, she and I both struggled. I had to constantly hound her and follow up with her on her assignments. She of course wants to return for the social aspect of in-person learning even though I have warned her that nothing will be like it was before.

And as much as I feel confident in my decision in sending them back, there is a part of me that is worried. Will they be safe there? What will happen if they do get severely ill because of my decision? Of course, there is no guarantee that if they stay home they will be safe. My husband or I could bring the illness into our household. There are no guarantees either way, but I don’t want to do anything that will put them in harms way if I can avoid it.

But what I need right now is details from the school district. They are meeting tonight so I am hoping they will be announcing something soon. Until then, all I can do is wait and keep reading up on what other school districts are doing and the rationale behind their decisions.

Trying to stay on task…again

You would think with the COVID-19 pandemic run rampant in San Antonio, Texas that I would have all the time in the world to write, to finish my first draft of my latest book. We are after all supposed to be staying home…again. Yet, here it is that time is slipping by and I am not getting as much done as I would like on the writing front.

Sigh. This is a typical problem for me. And I am sure it is a problem for many Independent Authors who do not write full-time. It is my other life that is encroaching on my time. As I have said before on this blog, I have a problem saying no when it comes to volunteering. I am involved in four different school related boards – 2 local Parent-Teacher Associations (one in which I am president), our local council (that oversees 56 PTAs in our school district) and the high school orchestra board. Yikes, that is a lot.

And in addition to those volunteering opportunities, I also work part-time for my husband’s law firm and am the mother of two children – ages 12 and 15. (Yeah, and the 15-year-old is learning to drive so that is taking up my time too.)

So instead of being tempted by Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, I am finding these other obligations interfering with my writing time. I feel like every year I write about not having enough time and it looks like this year is no different.

As always, I say that I am going to buckle down and start writing. My plan is to set aside an hour a day for writing with the goal of finishing my first draft by the end of the month.

Whether I will be able to keep up with this and not feel the need to spend my time soliciting donations for an upcoming silent action (though so many companies won’t be in the place to donate) only time will tell.

For the rest of you, here are links to other posts to help you stay on your writing task.

Tips for avoiding internet distraction (including email) – click here

Tips for setting and keeping writing goals – click here

Good luck to us all! And stay safe and healthy!