We’re adjusting to ‘homeschool’ — again

Our kindergartener, Nayvie, sulked over a reading assignment at the kitchen table Wednesday morning.

“You can get up when you’re done with it,” my visibly exhausted wife, Nicki, told her after a nearly hourlong battle to get her dressed, fed and at the table.

Two weeks ago, we struggled to get Nayvie to learn at school.

Now, we’re struggling to get her to learn at home — again.

Our kindergartener, Nayvie, sulks over a learning packet while our first grader, Emerie, works through a reading exercise.

For the second time in seven months, our three daughters are adjusting to homeschooling.

If you can call it that.

Last week, increased cases of COVID-19 prompted our school district to adopt a partially at-home learning model — after just one week of a full return to the classroom. For at least another week, our girls will be in school Monday and Tuesday and at home with two working parents Wednesday through Friday.

Who knows what happens after that.

The back-and-forth is just one more disruption to our 5-year-old’s introduction to public education. Aside from a global pandemic, we’re expecting a baby in December. And we recently moved out of our home of five years and into a rental.

Our efforts to inject normalcy into back-to-school 2020 have been far from perfect.

But we made some headway in recent weeks.

By Monday, Nayvie was going into her classroom almost on her own.

Then, a gift from the back-to-school gods.

On Tuesday, a little blondie named Olivia approached Nayvie and me en route to her classroom. “We’re best buds,” the kindergartener announced, clasping Nayvie’s hand and walking with her into class.

Nicki about choked up when I told her what happened. I took full credit for helping Nayvie find her first friend at school.

Time in the classroom was translating into other high notes at home.

“Yes, ma’am,” Nayvie told Nicki in response to a request to pick up her toys Tuesday night.

Ma’am? I checked her forehead. She said she learned the word from her teacher.

So I don’t blame the little one for being confused and upset Wednesday morning when we pulled her out of bed to tell her she was learning at home … with us, not Olivia.

Homeschooling was a struggle at our house last spring, and I’m sure the girls haven’t forgotten.

But we have learned things since then. So have their teachers.

The learning packets we received Tuesday were much clearer and more concise. Our third-grader did nearly all of her online reading assignments on her own in the bedroom Wednesday.

Then there’s Nicki, who is by far better at making time to help the girls than I am. As I write this, she’s sounding out words with Nayvie on the couch.

It was Nicki’s idea to let the girls venture out to other parts of the house to do some of their work — a game changer for our 6-year-old, Emerie, who’s endless energy makes her a tough wrangle for at-home learning. (Her favorite subject at school is recess, she declared Monday.)

On Wednesday, she worked diligently through a timed math exercise on our bed.

I checked her forehead, then let her catch grasshoppers outside for an hour.

Emerie works through a math exercise on our bed.

So we’re surviving all the uncertainty, thanks largely to Nicki — and jobs that allow us to work from home.

The situation is more dire for others.

For my day job at Idaho Education News, I met a family Wednesday with a first grader and kindergartener at home.

When I knocked on the door, the little ones were watching TV with Grandma. The effects of COVID-19 prompted the family to keep the kids home for the year, she told me. But “not much” learning was happening with both parents working outside the home to keep up on bills.

I met the kids’ mom later that day. She admitted things are “rough” but didn’t want to talk more because “I’m afraid people will judge us if they knew.”

Everyone’s experience is different. Feel free to share yours with me at [email protected]

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow and the Idaho Press Club's 2019 print reporter of the year. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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