Home schooling in COVID-19 era

When Bret Harte Elementary School closed its doors in mid-March due to the coronavirus, students and their families faced the challenge of completing the school year at home.

After a one-month break, during which teachers developed an online curriculum, distance learning began April 13. Students were issued Chromebooks that allow them to log on to the city schools’ website to access the educational portal.

A Fourth Avenue family shared their initial experiences. Adrianna Gonzalez and her husband Oscar Uribe have three daughters – Sofia, Olivia and Eva (age 4). Third-grader Sofia and first-grader Olivia have resumed their lessons using their Chromebooks.

“It’s been sort of tough to home school three young kids,” admitted Adrianna. “One in third grade, [one in] first grade and keeping my 4-year-old busy while helping the older ones with school work.”

Oscar is a CPA and while tax season winds down, he’s working 10-hour days six days a week.

Each day by 7 a.m. teachers post assigned classwork utilizing the school district’s educational online portal. Sofia and Olivia have apps and programs such as i-Ready (Bret Harte’s supplemental reading and math curriculum) and Google Classroom. Other available programs include typing, math and reading, educational game websites and coding programs.

The girls were assigned 30 minutes of reading and math through the i-Ready program that records every log in lesson completed and quizzes. Teachers can see how long a student was on the program, what lessons are completed, and the student’s score at the end of each lesson.

Continuing their in-school practice, Sofia and Olivia start their academic day with a mindfulness activity. The girls are assigned independent reading for 20 minutes each day. They must also complete 30 minutes of typing, which they enjoy.

The family devotes mornings to reading and writing. Afternoons seem better for math.

Beginning the week of April 20,teachers started using Zoom for daily class meetings. “Both my girls are very excited about using Zoom because they get to hopefully see all their friends online.”

Third-grader Sofia misses “playing with my friends at recess, learning new songs on the recorder in music class and my teacher, Mrs. Nunez.” First-grader Olivia likes doing schoolwork at home, “but I miss my friends and teacher. I miss sitting in the cafeteria at lunch with everyone the most.”

Given this new challenge, Adrianna believes the family is doing what they can, and she is not putting too much pressure on herself. “Sometimes we do school work for a few hours and other days we just bake and play in the backyard, go for a walk and watch a family movie and call it a day.”

And for coping tips, “take lots of breaks,” advises Adrianna. “The girls love to craft and draw. They play together constantly, which helps them with the lack of socialization with friends.”

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