Homeschooling: I didn’t sign up for this!

OKEECHOBEE — I know what you were thinking, or at least what I was thinking: This homeschooling thing won’t be too difficult. I’m fairly intelligent and computer-savvy. I’ve got this.

Wrong!

It’s been one day and I’m already at my wits’ end, internally screaming, “I didn’t sign up for this!”

I’m one of the fortunate few who are getting to work at home during the coronavirus pandemic. I set my laptop up at the kitchen table and put one of my sons on each side of me with their Chromebooks. I gave them pencils and paper and thought it was going to be a breeze.

Within five minutes of signing into their Google classrooms, I knew it wasn’t going to be as easy as I had thought. By the end of the first half-hour, each of my sons had taken turns having a breakdown. I was trying to get them started on their assignments, trying to keep up on my own tasks, reading over the Okeechobee School Board’s Family Guide/At Home Learning Plan, and messaging my youngest son’s teacher on the Class Dojo app.

Lake Okeechobee News/Annie Wills
Aiden steps up and helps his little brother Liam with his e-learning.

My oldest son, Aiden, who is in eighth grade at Osceola Middle School, was having a hard time finding the instructions to complete the problems in his assignments. One of his teachers had set up a Google classroom, while the others were sending him emails. He was getting frustrated, feeling as though things weren’t organized. And the worst part — I realized I couldn’t help him with his math. It’s been 23 years since I studied algebra. I looked at one equation and knew I was in over my head.

My younger son, Liam, who is a second grader at Everglades Elementary, had a much clearer outline of what was expected of him, but he still needed my help to figure out which assignments he was supposed to do first. I found that some of the assignments weren’t coming up on iReady, an interactive program used in schools across the country that gives instruction based on each student’s abilities. With all of the people logging onto the educational sites, they were lagging behind. I reached out to his teacher on the Class Dojo app and found that it wasn’t responding. I had lost communication before lunchtime!

Lake Okeechobee News/Annie Wills
The kids gather around the kitchen table for the first day of home schooling.

My children were irritable and discouraged. Do they do this in school? I wondered. How do teachers deal with 20 versions of this all at once? My levels of frustration were through the roof.

I’m sure I am not alone. I have a feeling almost every parent in Okeechobee, and our country, is experiencing these same feelings right now.

How are we going to balance our own jobs while being teachers to our children at the same time, especially with so many technical issues to work out?

A lot of patience and a lot of coffee?

After my sons and I took a few minutes to collect ourselves, we were able to accomplish a lot more, though we were still behind schedule for the day. My oldest son even jumped in to help his little brother so I could get caught up on some work. The assignments eventually showed up, and communication with my son’s teacher was restored.

We made it through our first day.

My advice to other parents? Be patient, be understanding, keep an open mind, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Refer to the At Home Learning Plan that can be found on the Okeechobee County School Board’s website at okee.k12.fl.us/departments. Reach out to your child’s school and your child’s teachers. Remember that it’s OK to take a break and clear your head. That goes for your children, too.

Keep in mind, this is all new for your child’s teachers. Educators were given almost no notice as they were asked to completely redesign the way they teach their students.

This is new for us as parents. This is new to our children. Try not to be too hard on your children, their teachers, or yourself as we work out the kinks in this new style of educating.

The first day was rough, but we got through it. This will get easier. We will adapt.

One thing I know for sure is that I think all of us will walk away from this with a whole new appreciation for our educators.

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