“I don’t like online school, when is it over?” ~ Unnamed children in my household.
Does that sound familiar? The COVID-19 pandemic continues to play with our kid’s education like a yo-yo spinning up and down between in-person and online school. Everyone in our house was done. We were ready to return to the real life classroom, hopefully for good.
This week, the province sent kids back to in-person learning in the three major hot spots, which includes Toronto. Our two boys are very excited and relieved to be sitting in the same room as their friends and even their teachers once again.
We will admit, this stretch of online learning went much better than last spring when we were all just figuring it out. For the first six weeks of 2021, parents, kids and teachers had it more figured out and continued to do their best.
Now, you don’t have to scroll Twitter to know those same parents, kids and teachers have been stretched thin to the point of breaking. Every day I see parents tell their stories online about balancing it all and worrying about the future.
But that is not what I want to focus on. You want the negative, you know where to go.
Instead I want to take a step back, look at how spring 2020 went and how winter 2021 has gone when it comes to online learning. What are the positives that we can take away from all of this and use going forward. Yep, there are quite a few once you look behind the stress curtain.
So before one of the kids needs the Ipad password or they can’t reach the snack cupboard, here are five positive takeaways from online school.
Extra family time (like it or not)
When you work all day, you miss out on so much of your child’s day-to-day life. If it’s one thing we have learned from this pandemic, it’s that we now know practically everything that is going on with our spouse’s work, the kid’s reading groups and everything in between. Zoom photobombing became a legit form of entertainment.
For us, we live in a pretty open house, so whether we like it or not, we are a part of each other’s office or classroom in a way. But I have to say, the extra family time will be something I look back on one day and be happy it happened.
Before, it was breakfast and rush out the door, see you for dinner. Now, there are family walks, small breaks to have a laugh and moments to build each other up after a tough day. It’s a nice bonus to get to see your favourite people when you want and they are only a few steps away.
There are certainly bumps in the road and we certainly irritate one another at times, but man, it’s made the family dynamic tighter. My wife and I are thrilled that the boys still like each other and continue to cement their bond. It would have been a whole other scene if they were at each other’s throats. They will have these memories forever. The time we all didn’t leave the house for months and still had a great time.
We now eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together. Most meals are homemade and served warm. I know the boys will miss that now they are back to cold sandwiches and trying to find time to munch while talking to friends in their very brief time for lunch.
There will be those that disagree with all the extra family time being a good thing, but in our house, it’s been a definite positive of online school.
Kids becoming tech savvy – quicker
The current batch of kids have grown up with tech in hand. As soon as they are born, they just know how to use an iPad. So it’s no surprise that kids pick up technology quick. But tech for the most part was always “fun” tech.
Video games, Facetime, YouTube, Among Us and whatever else the kids enjoy at screen time in our house. They never had to learn and manage technology in an educational setting. Sure, teachers have access to some pretty cool gadgets, but for kids at school it was more of a watching dynamic.
With online school, particularily in March 2020, they were thrown in the deep end of Google Classroom, email and a wide assortment of online learning apps. It was chaos, with each teacher doing their own thing. At one point to get an assignment submitted, you had to do this crazy emailing/scanning chain of events that went through three to four people to get the job done.
The latest session of online school was much better organized and structured, but there was still a lot of IT support needed for kids. Navigating the UX differences of a desktop or tablet. Is the Wi Fi working when the entire house is on a Zoom call. How do you move work you did in one program back to your Google Classroom so you can submit?
Oh and don’t get me going how many times our boys forgot to actually submit work because it was a multi-step process. There is proper etiquette for being on camera. Being on time before getting locked out for attendance. And what to do when it all just fails and you don’t want to even be there. When in-person you just can’t leave.
Yes this is adaptabilitiy no kid signed up for.
But when you wipe away the tears and let them scream it out, these kids are going to be ready for anything when it comes to tech and figuring it out.
Again, a great positive to come out of the pandemic and online learning.
Oh man one of the true benefits of working from home and doing school from home is the added sleep we get each morning. For the adults it’s almost an extra hour for five days, for a whole year (or almost).
For the kids, they really got into the whole sleeping in thing. Now with school back, it’s back to getting up a bit earlier to start the day, make lunches and treat it more like it used to be.
But, we don’t have to walk the kids to school anymore, so at least there is no mandatory going outside for us until we return to office life. We can wait until it warms up a bit.
If and when we start working in offices again, losing that sleep time will be one of the hardest things to change back to. Unless you work at Salesforce and a number of other companies.
You learn how your kids learn
In the past, I always felt I was making things worse when I would hep the kids with homework. I was not doing it the way their teachers showed them. Why? Cause I am not in class to see how the experts do it.
With online school, it’s much easier to listen in or even watch the teachers do their thing on camera. How they show how to do fractions. Or how to format a paragraph. Things the parents know how to do but not necessarily in the best learning format for kids. Shout out to YouTube videos that teach these things.
We also get a lot more access into how the teachers communicate with the kids because everything is entered into Google Classroom. Before we would have to rely on the kids to describe what their homework was. Which for anyone who has tried that, it’s a bit of a broken telephone situation.
Now we can go right to the digital classroom and read the teacher’s actual instructions. Very helpful! Something you would not have with in-person school.
Finally, like I said we live in a pretty open house. So on many occassions I got to hear the kids talking, answering questions and presenting. All things you don’t normally get to hear. It’s fascinating to hear kids talk about very grown up topics but in their own way.
You can hear how they figure something out or explain it to a classmate. You also get to hear things that you can help them with later. Now with in-person school we are back to not knowing much and are back to “good day, it was a good day.”
Fast forwarding their future
The pandemic has changed our lives in so many ways. That is obvious. For many things, it has thrown plans that were years away, into hyper-speed.
Whether it’s Voila being ahead of schedule for robots picking your groceries, or Starbucks hitting the go button on changing course to have less coffee shops, COVID-19 has hit the fast forward button on so many things.
Charlie is in Grade 3. I doubt it was the school’s plan for him to be well versed in Google Classroom, email and Zoom calls at this point. That would be closer to university in the grand scheme of things. But online school has given him strong tech skills years ahead of schedule. He has shown me a few tricks with Zoom for example.
While we all stress about screen time, let’s be real. These kids are going to be living on computers and tablets and whatever the next great innovation is. So it makes sense they get real-world applications to learn how to do school work and later, a job. Their skillset will be much better crafted by the time they hit the real world than I ever was.
Who knows, all this early access to online platforms and technology will inspire them to code, have a podcast or create the next Facebook. Why not right? I won’t mind retiring early.
Online school – the verdict
Being thrown into online schooling without a lot of preparation or time to think about it was hard. It really showed how much work is needed to roll it out properly. But after time, everyone settled in and progressed.
While there have many challenges and hurdles, the periods of time the kids learned from home via a screen did show benefits that we can all take with us.
More quality time together, learning on the fly, getting more rest and developing future skills quicker than expected have all been wonderful.
Online school is not the worst thing as some like to label it as. But as we are well into the first week back to in-person, it is amazing to see the difference in our kids. They are much happier to be out of the house and learning in person.
Online school or remote learning is the future. I am not blind to that. But even the growing list of benefits won’t outweigh the most important factor.
Children’s mental health. I don’t see anything replacing the feeling of community and bonding that sitting all together in a classroom together can provide. Save the isolation for the future when we are all working from home.
I will save that one for another day.
How was your experience with online school? Are you liking it better than in-person? Let me know in the comments, especially if you have a few more benefits to add.
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