Pandemic Schooling 2020 350Hey parents, is school going well so far? Our son’s school year started 2 weeks ago and it’s better than I thought. Earlier this year, his school shut down in March and never reopened for spring. That was a tough quarter for everybody. The teachers weren’t prepared, the parents had to juggle work with monitoring homeschooling, and the kids were out of control. We all muddled our way through the best we could, but the whole pandemic schooling experience gave us plenty of scars. Summer break couldn’t arrive soon enough. Unfortunately, summer is over and it’s time to go back to school.

The beginning of this school year was full of uncertainties. We had no idea if the school would be online, in person, or some combination thereof. Oregon was doing pretty well with Covid-19 and many parents wanted school to open like normal. I can understand that. After 6 months of having the kids at home, we are all ready for some normalcy. However, our district decided to go 100% virtual. This is not ideal, but it is the best option for now. We’re fully on board with the plan. At this point in the pandemic, I’m not comfortable sending RB40Jr to school in person. Even if masks are mandated, kids probably can’t keep their distance very well. What happens when some kids and teachers get sick? They’d probably shut the school down anyway. It’s better to go virtual and get that right from the beginning, IMO.

Online schooling

I’m happy to report that online schooling is a lot better this quarter. (Homeschooling was hell in the spring.) The teachers and administrators had 3 months to prepare. The result is a smoother experience for everyone. There were some hiccups, but they have been minor so far. Also, our son is in 4th grade. I think this is the sweet spot for pandemic schooling. He would have needed more help if he is younger and he’d be more rebellious/bored if he’s older. Okay, let’s go over some points.

2 weeks of soft opening – Our school had a 2-week soft opening to give teachers an opportunity to get to know the kids while slowly introducing the online format. This was a great idea. Everyone took it easy and worked together through all the kinks. The class had several technical issues and his teacher was able to solve the problem or find an alternative. Our district also has a dedicated IT support line you can call. Less tech-savvy parents can get help if they need it. The kids spend only a few hours per day on school over these 2 weeks.

Minimal parental supervision – IMO, the biggest problem last spring was the degree of parental involvement. I had to sit with our son about 75% of the time when he was learning online. He needed help to figure out what to do next. Also, he needed a lot of prodding to stay focus and keep going. This year, the teachers are trying to set up virtual schooling so the kids don’t need as much supervision. Our teacher recorded several tech lessons and they were very helpful for our son. These lessons are helping the kids to study independently. This is the best change so far. RB40Jr still needs help occasionally, but I don’t have to sit next to him as much. Now, he can navigate various apps and sit through the lessons without goofing off so much.

Reduced class size – We got a big surprise when school started. The number of kids in our son’s class dropped from 32 to 20. Wow, that’s a huge reduction. I think some parents formed pods with several kids and hired private teachers. Some probably sent their kids to private schools. Those schools are more flexible and some are holding in-person classes. Lastly, our school had many international students last year. The parents attend college in town and brought their kids with them. Most, if not all, of these international kids are gone. Anyway, a smaller class is better for any kind of schooling.

Social interaction – In my opinion, the worse thing about online schooling is the lack of social interaction. Our son has a class meeting every morning at 8 am. (Training for real work?) It’s good to participate with the whole class, but each kid only gets to talk for a few minutes. Next week, they’ll start splitting up into small groups. The kids will be able to talk more so that should be good. Each group will work on problems together and build a rapport, hopefully. Also, online interaction can’t beat real-life personal interaction, so our son meets up with his closest friends on the weekends.

FIRE makes it better

Honestly, I was dreading the beginning of school. However, virtual schooling is better than I thought. The first 2 weeks of soft opening were great so far. Next week, the school will ramp up and the kids will be busy from 8 am to 2:15 pm. Hopefully, our son will be able to focus and learn without a lot of parental hovering.

Luckily, we’ll be available if our son needs help because we are home. My wife is working from home and my time is very flexible. Some of our friends are having a lot more problems with online schooling. Several families have multiple kids in different grades. Two families can’t work from home and can’t assist their kids with school. Online schooling is a lot more manageable for us because of financial independence.

Oh, one last thing. I want to take RB40Jr to Thailand for a couple of months this year. He can attend the 8 am meeting and do most of the school work later. I’ll have to talk to his teacher to see if we can work something out. I want to visit my mom as soon as possible. She has dementia and her condition is deteriorating rapidly. We applied for his passport renewal in July, but we are still waiting for it. The system is all screwed up right now. Hopefully, we get it by November so we can go.

Okay, that’s it for today. I assume you are a parent if you read all the way to the end. How is pandemic schooling going for you?

Image credit: Dilan Bandara

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