Learning from home for COVID-19: follow this Ontario family's 8-part education journey
Families all over Ontario are figuring out how to support their school-age kids as they learn from home during COVID-19.
For two weeks CBC Kitchener-Waterloo tagged along as Carin Lowerison and Matt White helped their three girls learn from home.
It all started just after Easter when their local public school board formalized home-based learning. That meant assignments from teachers, deadlines and daily feedback.
Day 2: Managing screentime when school goes online
As the girls' teachers continued to send daily assignments and even feedback, Carin and Matt discovered managing screen time is more difficult than expected.
All communication, assignments — even the family's decompression time together — involves time in front of a computer, tablet or TV.
And taking classwork offline comes with a tradeoff: more hands-on work for the parents.
Day 3: Even parents who teach are finding school difficult
As it happens, both Matt and Carin have a bit of experience teaching.
Carin is a yoga instructor and Matt teaches the odd course at the University of Waterloo. But teaching kids is something completely different, he says, as he struggles to digest some of the curriculum, and break it down in a way his young daughters can understand.
On top of that, their two oldest girls are in French immersion, but only one parent speaks French.
Day 4: Setting reasonable expectations
Like many parents, Matt and Carin are finding learning from home is harder than they expected.
The daily assignments from teachers are taking longer than anyone hoped; what was supposed to be a simple hour-long self-directed activity takes much longer. That's on top of the regular parenting, work, feeding everyone and keeping the house clean.
Here's the whole family's take on how week one went, and what a fresh start will look like for week two.
Day 5: Overcoming conflict in close quarters
For week two of learning at home, Carin and Matt decided to try something a little different: get schoolwork done early and one at a time, so each one of their kids has time to concentrate on their studies solo.
It started out smoothly, but when they tried to encourage one of the girls to be more independent, it didn't go over well.
That got Matt and Carin thinking about overcoming conflict while cooped up in close quarters.
Day 6: When fresh air helps focus the mind
For the better part of the last week, the family's focus has largely been on Heidrun, 9, and Berkeley, 11, and their schoolwork; making sure they had time, space and energy to get the work done.
The result, say Matt and Carin, was Clementine, 5, kind of got lost in the mix. So, on Day 6, the family got a little fresh air, and focused more on the little one's learning.
Day 7: Working through stress and anxiety
Up until March Break, all three girls spent their days at Sheppard Public School, in downtown Kitchener, Ont.
Then the pandemic closed the schools and ever since, Berkeley, Heidrun and Clementine have been doing their lessons at the kitchen table, in the attic — wherever they can find a quiet place to study.
But never far away is the reality that they can't see their friends and they can't really play outside like they used to. That creates stress and anxiety that kids are only somewhat equipped to deal with.
Especially empathic ones, like Heidrun, who are prone to worry.
Day 8: Endings and beginnings
Carin and Matt's eldest girl, Berkeley, 11, graduates elementary school this June — and was really looking forward to it.
She had hoped to have a chance to say goodbye to her school, her teacher and her friends, before moving onto a bigger school where she'll only know some of the kids.
It's just one more thing she, and her family, are adjusting to as schools stay closed, but Carin and Matt say, it is getting easier and if they need to keep it up until the end of June, they'll make it work.