By Carol Mowdy Bond
Because of the COVID-19 crisis, Oklahoma public school buildings are closed for the remainder of this school year. But distance learning plans went into effect this month. The plans allow for parents to help their students complete the schoolwork assigned by their teachers for the remainder of the semester. With some parents working from home, or working unusual schedules, families are handling the situation in manners that work best for them.
JAVIER AND ROSALIA’S FAMILY
Javier and Rosalia own Pecina’s Mexican Restaurant, 316 S. Choctaw Ave., in El Reno, where Javier works full time. Because of the pandemic, Pecina’s is only open for curbside pickup and daily delivery in El Reno, with Thursday deliveries to Yukon.
Their children are 13-year-old 8th grader Lily, and 12-year-old 6th grader Xavier, both Yukon Middle School students. Omar is 11, and a 5th grader at Lakeview Elementary. Their baby sister, Selena, celebrated her first birthday on April 11th.
The family is taking distance learning seriously. Rosalia explains, “The week after spring break, I created a schedule for them that started at 8:30 a.m. and we would finish by 1:30 p.m. or so. I included: Moment of Silence and Prayer, geography, home economics (which is making breakfast), math, reading, writing, strength and conditioning, and the last thing we do is get lunch prepared. I set timers so we can change class subjects, and that helps the kids stay organized. We sit at the table. They have their folders, pencils, reading books, and no drinks. There are too many distractions that can cause spills. They’re not allowed to get any snacks until we are completely finished.”
But Rosalia helps Javier several days a week in the restaurant, and tells, “My kids know if we don’t have class in the morning, we have it later in the day.”
About accessing their assignments, Rosalia describes, “I am getting the kids’ work from the YPS website, and it is easy to navigate. It is broken down by grades, then by class subject. I have come across some work that is assigned through Khan Academy, which is great, because that’s what I was using before we started virtual learning.”
The family isn’t having problems with home learning. However, “The kids get distracted when the dogs bark outside, and they go outside to check on them. Then after a few minutes, I have to go grab them and start class again,” Rosalia tells. “Then Selena wakes up, and even though they’re working on an assignment, they all want to play with her, fix her hair, give her cookies, change her outfit. Whew! We are blessed to have my mom live with us though. She helps me with Selena until we are at a stopping point.”
Through this experience, Rosalia realized that her sons need a lot of one-on-one help. “I assign a worksheet, go over instructions, and I expect them to do it. However, when they answer the question, it is answered halfway. I have to reiterate the importance of reading instructions and understanding them before getting started on an answer.”
Rosalia says the children enjoy home learning, and tells, “They like the little bit of time to sleep in, rather than riding the bus to school.” But they miss their friends and school athletic teams.
“The kids have started chores that they should have been doing a long time ago, like doing dishes, vacuuming, laundry, cooking, and baking!” Rosalia says, “I do have to watch their cooking though, because if they could cook bacon every day, they probably would!”
Rosalia takes their phones away during most of the day. And the family lives on five acres. So, everyone stays active. They golf, fish in the ponds, climb trees, and feed the family’s farm animals. They’ve even helped their dad build a tree house.
The suspension of classes, Rosalia says, “was abrupt, so I didn’t get to mentally prepare for this. But I am loving every minute of it now!”
A single mom, Ashley has two children. Second grader Emmy is 8, and first grader Alli, is 7. Both attend Tuttle schools.
Ashley is known around Yukon because she works for the Yukon Chamber of Commerce. In fact, she tells, “The girls helped me plant flowers at the Chamber yesterday, and today we went on a nature walk. They found leaves and identified bugs, etc.”
“I am working full time from home for the Chamber,” Ashley explains. With the girls, she says, “It’s very challenging as far as getting work done. There really isn’t much you can do if one of your children needs something, and you’re on a Zoom meeting. I just have to turn the video feed off and take care of them. They are still so young that they need my help with many things. Balance is something I have not mastered with this ‘new normal’ yet!”
Ashley tells that, “My girls’ teachers just started sending work for them to do via email this week. A challenge for me personally is I don’t have a printer! My children do most of their reading on their own, but require my help for other lessons. This is challenging when I have time-sensitive work that I need to get done. But I can put their work off until after my meetings or projects are done. But a con is that they aren’t occupied during these times! Very challenging.”
Her daughters are pleased with doing their schoolwork from home. But Ashley doesn’t see that lasting very long. “The hardest part on my children is not having the set schedules that they have at school,” says Ashley.
Both girls miss their teachers and friends, but they enjoy sleeping later in the mornings and having parent access around the clock.
Ashley purchased next school year’s workbooks for the girls, and says, “We will likely continue to work on this throughout the summer.”
CHAD AND JINA’S FAMILY
Chad and Jina have two sons. Payton is a high school junior, and Charlie is a seventh grader. Previously in Yukon schools, both are now in Bethany schools. Chad is the facilities coordinator for Crossings Church in Edmond.
“Bethany schools started distance learning on April 3rd,” Jina explains. “We got a call from teachers saying, ‘Let’s get on line and get this going.'”
As for Payton and Charlie and their commitment to finishing the school year, Jina tells, “My kids are leading the charge on this. They don’t have to be hounded. They know this is important.”
Their classes and lessons are handled through Google Classroom or email or Zoom. “It’s great because they can’t hurt their grades, if students choose not to do the work,” Jina says. “But if students do choose to, there are no punitive measures. In fact, it can help their grades if they do the work. So far the boys’ online classes haven’t conflicted with each other.”
On Saturday afternoon, April 4th, Charlie did his first Zoom class with his teacher. “She is giving them instructions on the lesson, and she is lecturing like in a classroom,” Jina tells. “He will have this for each individual class. If they miss the time of the Zoom, they can go back and watch it on Google Classroom.”
Charlie says, “I miss friends, and going down the hall and being able to say ‘hi’ to some random person. I just did the Zoom meeting with my math teacher. She just went over pretty much what we are going to be working on, which is stuff we’ve kind of touched on a little bit, but we haven’t really gone into any in depth on it. So, she’s going to be actually teaching us through Zoom, and she’s going to post a video through Google Classroom.”
When the videos are posted online, Charlie explains, “We only get that information that she posts on the video. We can’t ask her questions like we can in class. If we’re in Zoom, we can ask questions. And the IXL learning website tells us what we’re doing wrong, but it’s hard to understand sometimes. So, you have to email the teacher, which can take a long time.”
Charlie likes being at home so he can see his family. And he says there are less distractions learning at home than in the classroom, “because all your friends are in the classroom,” he chuckles. But he tells, “The lessons are kind of harder because we don’t get the in-depth information.”
Charlie misses playing baseball, and all the sports. He adds, “I think it’s beneficial to do the work, rather than not do the work, just to make sure you don’t have to catch up. But if given the option to not do the work, I would still do it.”