In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ralph Northam has shuttered the schools, and parents in our community, with help from teachers and administrators, are adjusting to the new reality of temporary homeschooling.
For Jennifer Pease, an assistant professor at University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education with a focus on secondary education, two parts of her life have collided in her living room.
The city school mother organizes a set of tasks that her children have to complete each day, ranging from worksheets to digitally-focused activities and experiences.
Virtual museum tours, reading to children, measuring portions while cooking and adding and subtracting while grocery shopping are among ways she and other experts from the UVa’s Curry School of Education are encouraging parents to incorporate their children’s learning into daily life over the next few weeks.
Additionally, nonprofit Wildrock is also providing outdoor learning resources to the community on Facebook.
Pease said she only recently learned about the Jefferson Madison Regional Library’s app, Libby, which can be downloaded on a phone or iPad and allows people to check out virtual books.
She also pointed out the abundance of online learning tools, including coding apps like Tynker, Scratch and Hour of Code. Her children have been excited about virtual field trips, she said, which allows them to visit national park or museums.
Charlottesville City Schools announced Tuesday afternoon plans to distribute Chromebook computers and Wi-Fi hotspots, so all parents will have access to online learning tools like the ones Pease mentioned.
Albemarle County Public Schools said it has extended Wi-Fi access in school parking lots. Those with personal devices can use the ACPS-Public network, and those using school-related laptops can use the ACPS network, the division said.
Annie Suttle, another city school mother, has been taking advantage of springtime to teach her children through tasks, like assigning her children to write down observations, jumping rope and counting, building their own obstacle courses or finding objects that start with letters of the alphabet.
“As the weather gets nicer, it will be great to set up more of an outside classroom,” Suttle said. “Even if that’s just setting up a chair or blanket in the yard and reading there.”
In addition to outdoor learning, Suttle has enjoyed using online resources recommended by friends and peers.
“That stuff is spreading like wildfire on social media and among friends. Frankly, it’s overwhelming,” Suttle said. “Everything from virtual field trips to the Khan Academy classes to art lessons.”
Judy Paulick, an assistant professor of elementary education at the Curry School who specializes in literacy, said there’s a lot that parents can do that does not directly involve replicating a traditional classroom.
She doesn’t think it’s productive to spend six hours working on materials students should be learning at schools.
Parents may have deep knowledge about concepts from chemistry, or mechanical skills, she said.
“The things that parents do in their everyday life that makes the household run are all skills that kids can be getting involved in,” she said.
Adjusting to home school and new daily routines are just part of handling the disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis and school closures.
Mirentxu Meyer, a mother of two, said she has been happy with the learning materials she has received from the city schools, but the uncertainty of the situation is weighing on her.
Meyer and her husband have been taking care of their children at home, and she has been working at night after she puts the kids to bed.
Meyer joked that she’s just trying to stay alive — her family has been avoiding the playgrounds because the virus lingers on surfaces for hours. But they’ve been going out for regular walks.
“Parents aren’t as concerned with the education aspect,” she said, adding that many of her friends are just focused on trying to keep their children happy and making sure they get outside time.
Here is an amazing collection of online resources compiled by Abigail Amoako Kayser, postdoctoral research associate of the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education. Literacy/Language Arts
Billy Jean Louis joined Charlottesville Tomorrow as its education reporter in April 2019 and is a graduate of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jean Louis speaks English, Haitian Creole and French.