Can we just talk about distance learning?

OK, this might get whiney.  Let me preface by saying that I heart our teachers so much, and I truly appreciate all that they are doing.  I’m really not trying to whine about the teachers.  It is more me struggling with how to act in an unprecedented time.  We’re definitely struggling, and I know many other parents out there are as well.

To recap, my older two boys attend a small-ish private school.  They are 5 and 7.  Here, they are in Year 1 and Year 2.  In the United States, they would be in kindergarten and first grade.

Their school seems to have prepared for the possibility of distance learning, and they launched into this immediately once schools were closed.  Kudos to them.

There is plenty that they are still figuring out.  The system is not completely uniform.  This means that we’re getting lots of emails and that the procedures are a bit different for each kid.  Everyone has embraced google docs more or less.  Some have embraced folders.  Lots of folders.  Subfolders.  You get it.

We’re also getting messages from the PE teacher, the Mandarin teacher, the Visual arts teacher, and the Performing arts teacher.  Times two.

The work currently comes in a day at a time on the day that it is to be done.  Which is fine.  But it means that we can’t look at stuff the night before and plan ahead.  We can’t look at a week’s worth of material and get a sense of what is coming and what we should focus on.

There are a lot of worksheets that need to be printed.  There are a lot of videos that need a computer.  There are a lot of tasks that the kids can’t do independently.  There are a lot of tasks period.  There are attempts at videoconferencing.  Times two.

Basically, it seems like the school is trying to create a full day’s material for each child.  This would be challenging for one kid, but doing it twice is a lot.  Not to mention the toddler who is bumbling around getting into everything.  He wants to pound on the keyboard.  He wants to uncap the markers.  He will not be ignored or denied.  So we’re down one parent right away to get the toddler out of the room.  (He’s also down to one nap per day, which is when we’re trying to get a break as well.)

This is also assuming that we have high functioning parents.  I can assure you, we do NOT.  There is a reason we are snacking like there’s no tomorrow and binge-watching TV every night.  We’re not in the best place right now.  We’re stressed, and we’re coping the best that we can.

(As an aside, I just fell down a rabbit hole about the proper spelling of binge.  Is it bingeing or binging?  Neither seems quite correct.  I can tell that other writers have struggled with this because many opt for the “binge-watching” or “binge-viewing” tactic that I also employed above.)

So it’s a lot of work.  The bigger issue is that I can’t even decide how much to worry about all of this.  As I mentioned, my kids are pretty young.  Not as young as they used to be, but they are really just at the start of the school careers.  I’m trying to visualize a kindergartner from my day who had to miss some school.  I just can’t picture that there was a lot of homework or makeup work involved in that.

I’m a big fan of free play.  Unstructured time.  I think that there is great value in the kids doing their own thing, and I don’t just say this because I’m lazy.

I do know that there is a limited amount of parental energy at the moment.  If we are attempting to figure out how to teach our kids to tell time and get them on the class video chat at the right time, there is less energy leftover for board games, Lego building, and baking.

I’ve seen the posts on IG from educators and psychologists suggesting that it is not worth stressing about distance learning too much.  We’re all struggling they say.  This isn’t the time to fight with your kid over a worksheet.

I wish I had more clarity from the school’s teachers on why this is happening.  Is it because they believe this much work is necessary?  Is it because the school is making them?  Is it because parents expect it?  Is it because they think a smaller break could be OK, but we should watch out because this could be more longterm?  I suppose I could ask them, but the question definitely puts them in an awkward position and I don’t expect a straight response.

Based on school parent WhatsApp groups and other social media, I know many parents are trying to figure this out too.  We’ve been on spring break this week, and it has been really nice not trying to force anything.  We’ll see where we end up next week.  I predict it will be similar to before.  A hybrid of trying to follow things, but leaving a lot left undone.  I’m not secure or confident enough in my decision of not worrying about it to just not pay attention.  But I also don’t think we need to be worrying too much about it.  I don’t want my kids to be behind, either at this school or their next.  But I also don’t want to have crazy amounts of family stress to get all of this done.

Are you doing distance learning of some type?  What has been your approach?  Any tips on what has worked for your family?  

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