Let me start by saying I feel for the teachers trying to figure out what the fresh hell to do about online learning and virtual classrooms right now. This is uncharted territory that, frankly, isn’t easy to navigate at the best times but with the stress of, y’know, a fucking global pandemic and a myriad of issues related to tech-access, I think we can all agree that the online learning thing can be summed up in two words: hot mess.
In theory, it’s great. In practice, there’s just not enough wine.
We lost an entire day – and I mean literally an entire work day – to troubleshooting IT issues and signing up for approximately 7000 accounts we’d log into probably never again. We lost the better part of a morning trying to figure out what the fresh hell the instructions were on a writing task and our child is in grade 4. My partner has a master’s degree and I’m a professional communicator and we still couldn’t figure out WTF our 10-year-old was supposed to be doing for Writer’s Workshop.
So yesterday, I said, “fuck it.”
I packed up the computer and we put it away. I emailed our teacher and said we were concentrating on worksheets and other home learning based on the guidelines she’d created, but we would not longer be using the online portal. For the past few weeks, we’ve included baking or cooking and other life skills into our days and we’ll continue to do so. I invested in some workbooks when COVID-19 closures initially began (Canadian Curriculum & BrainQuest, specifically) and decided that moving forward, we’ll run our own Grade 4 class.
Today alone, our little academic completed six work sheets – about twice as much work as he’d have had with his online workload – and also spent an hour drawing and another hour reading. There was less pushback, zero tears, and – perhaps most surprisingly – a lot of “Hey, look at all the work I did!” Without the computer screen, he got more work done and was more engaged with the work he was doing.
For some kids or families, I’m sure online-based learning is going great. But for us it just wasn’t. When my partner and I weren’t monitoring every minute of tech time, online learning with assigned work quickly became online learning via YouTube videos of people testing theories on whether or not being stung by a wasp is going to hurt. It’s completely unreasonable to expect him to remain focused at home, surrounded by distractions. Why? Because even adults are struggling to do just that, and we’re all giving them and ourselves a break.
We also decided to let him choose what kinds of work he wants to do each day, within reason. Every day must include time spent on spelling/ vocabulary, reading/ writing, social studies, math, and science. He gets two hours of creative time – drawing, listening to music – and he has to do some sort of physical activity, from walking the dog to joining me while I workout in the living room.
By the time the computer was put away yesterday, there’d been crying and fighting and yelling and threats to lose privileges (as if there are any left). Today, everything was harmonious and productive.
So, fuck this curriculum. Or something.
We’re going to make it up as we go along. And that’s just fine.