Home Schooling Continues

I’ve lost track of whether we’re under a “Safer at Home” or a “Shelter in Place” order, and how much difference there really is between the two. Technically, no one is supposed to be outside their home unless they work in an essential industry (like the Kilted Wife is) or are on their way to get good or medical services. You wouldn’t be able to tell that by the roads, or the stores which are busier than I’ve ever seen them at any time of the day.

And now schools are guaranteed closed here until at least May 1st. But I suppose the other option is the lazy one which Michigan took: cancel school for the rest of the year and just blanket advance everyone to the next grade so that everyone will be behind at the start of next year. At least here the students are still getting most of the education he would have.

So how is Home Schooling going?

I give the Duval County School System a lot of credit both for attempting to convert their entire student body over to online learning and for being able to pull it off within a week of deciding that they needed to do it. After two weeks of doing it, however, the execution (especially at the level of the individual teacher) is an extremely mixed experience.

Morning announcements happen every day at 8:30 with the principal leading a video chat of the pledge, the school’s “cadet creed” and any special update. About half of the time is spent just telling students to mute their microphones because they simply won’t shut up making the announcements a futile effort as many days as they work. Thursday with “office hours” on Fridays. His math class is good and easy:  do 5 online iReady lessons each week – no problem. He’s been doing 2 per week for this class so this is an easy, work at your own pace, no strings attached prospect that fits easily within the school day.

His Computers class and his Learning Strategies (basically a study hall) are just as easy. His Civics class is almost as easy – log into the class chat, answer a “bellringer question” to confirm your attendance, and then move on to some online assignments that fill the class time. Leadership is almost the same as Civics, except that the teacher uses video chats and requires the students to remain on the video chat during the whole class period while doing online – which sometimes works, and other times is a complete distraction when students ask random questions through the whole class period.

Science is a little trickier because the teacher tries to deliver lectures via video chat which take up most of the class period before releasing kids to online assignments which need to be done at another time. But she’s a good teacher and keeps it mostly relevant. Unfortunately, her class overlaps with one of the merit badges (which we registered for before we learned about required times for school work) so we have occasionally had both science class and a merit badge class running on different screens.

Finally, there’s ELA (you may know it as English or Language Arts). It was always my least favorite subject in school. It is the Kilted Kid’s least favorite. And his teacher’s use of the system only reinforces how much of a pain ELA class can be. This particular teacher has 5 different discussion channels set up for this class (most have only one, and those that use 2 only use the second for logging attendance), and she doesn’t use them consistently. The first week’s assignments are posted in the General discussion, and the second week’s in the Q3 Discussion. Her Assignments tab (where all the other teachers post the assignments) only says to look in the discussion threads for the assignments. On the first day, she logged on 15 minutes late (said she went over time with the previous period) then spent over 30 minutes complaining that her computer was too slow for her to post the assignment if anyone else was using the discussion board, so that the assignment wasn’t posted until there was only 5 minutes left of class time (a completely wasted hour – had she posted it over the weekend, students could have completed the assignment during that hour).

In the second week ELA had an assignment to read an article online, answer a batch of questions using the “ACE Method” and then complete a “Double Entry Journal” using the “Three Lenses.” All three of these terms in quotes are things I had never heard of, the Kilted Kid claims he has never heard of (she may have never explained them to her students before, or he hasn’t picked it up in the first 75% of the year) – however, the Kilted Wife (who was an English teacher for almost 10 years before going into corporate training) had never heard of them either. The assignment also required the students to give their opinion of the article on discussion board and to comment on three other student’s posts for credit. With class over for the week, the Kilted Kid is the only one who attempted a comment, and her response was to shoot it down for not directly citing the text with a quote (which was not in the instructions) and not referencing all three lenses. Despite being the only one who has even posted a comment about the article, I’m sure he’ll also lose points for not commenting on any other posts.

Deep breath…

There is also one general complaint about Microsoft Teams. Now I don’t know if this is a Microsoft issue, a School District Issue, a School Issue, or Training Issue (from rolling this out to teachers so fast) but there is a big problem with attachments in Microsoft Teams. For the first two weeks, teachers are posting their assignments as Word or PDF documents on the assignments tab in their class. But almost without fault, students are unable to download them, open them in Word, open them in Word Online, or edit them once you do get one open. To complete assignments, students are either opening them, printing, completing, scanning and emailing assignments to the teachers, or the students are just making their own forms for answering questions.

I’ll take an aside here and explain that I fully understand that this is “his” schoolwork and I am using the word “we” a lot. Here’s my reasoning:

  1. We’re both here so of course I’m going to help him.
  2. I can answer his questions easier than waiting for a teacher to get back to him.
  3. He’s using the main computer because it’s the best and fastest.
  4. I can’t use the main computer because he’s using it.
  5. The inconsistency of application makes it difficult to figure out where assignments are posted.
  6. If I wasn’t here, he’d lose track of time and play games or watch YouTube instead.

Besides all the schoolwork we’re also doing a lot of Scout work. Several Boy Scout Councils are offering merit badge instruction online and as a family we have decided to capitalize on it while its available. So far, he’s scheduled for 6 badges and likely to take more. This week he just finished Public Health and American Business. Next week he’ll be taking American Labor and Safety. In the coming weeks he’ll be taking Cooking, Journalism and Graphic Arts. Beyond that, we’re not sure but probably a couple more.

So how’s it going? Basically, I’d say we’re making it, but it is taking a lot more time than it needs to. It also means that I don’t get a lot of time to focus on any of my work. So far, I’m pretty much tied to the position of educational assistant from 8:00 AM when we have to start logging on for morning announcements (it took 45 minutes to connect yesterday!) to 4:00 PM when the second Merit Badge class ends. Sure, I can get up and move around, but more often than not I need to be here paying at least enough attention that I can answer his questions.

Then an hour and a half later, the Kilted Wife comes home and wonders what I’ve been doing all day. Big fun! At least today I’ve been able to get some writing done while sitting next to the computer.

Can’t wait to see how the rest of the month shapes up with the schoolwork.

1 Comment

  1. It sounds very frustrating! Of course, anything to do with computer programs assembled so quickly during the emergency is going to have “bugs” in it. Still frustrating. Sitting next to him, but still working on your stuff on a different computer makes a lot of sense. You can still monitor as needed, but still get some work done.

    Good luck! (better you than me! HA!)


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