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South Valley Journal

Families adapt to school at home

Mar 26, 2020 10:10AM ● By Jet Burnham

Students access school work from home. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

It’s a job they didn’t go to college for and yet, overnight, parents became teachers for their children as Utah schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers transferred face-to-face learning to an online format and parents juggled their own workspaces and schedules to accommodate school at home.

“I'm grateful for these teachers because this homeschool thing is rough, and frustrating and overwhelming but we are all in the same boat together and we will get through it together,” said Herriman resident Amy Stewart, mother of a kindergartener, fifth and seventh grader.

School at home for Jordan District got off to a bumpy start March 18 with an early morning earthquake and problems with connectivity with district-issued Chromebooks. Things have improved since then, with families adapting for what works best for their family.

South Jordan resident Chelsea Brown said no one is doing this alone.

“We still have a teacher who is attached to every bit of our learning who will still give us a grade and who is still available to us,” she said.

Brown created a designated space for school work for her first and third graders.

“We've created a classroom,” she said. “That's where school happens so that my kids know we aren't doing YouTube right now. We're not playing games. We're in the classroom.”

She also works with one child at a time to keep them on task. While waiting their turn, the other child keeps engaged in learning with programs they’ve used in school such as Lexia and Moby Max. There are also many online learning sites which are offering free access while schools are closed.

Students are familiar with online learning formats because teachers have been using them all year. Marinda Wessman’s third grader always does math homework online and now that the English worksheets are digital, they are still familiar to her.

“It's the same work,” Wessman said. “It’s just figuring out how to do it online versus doing the paper and pencil. I just really appreciate that the teachers are being so organized and putting all the assignments in an easy format.”

Two of Wessman’s children are in the Chinese Dual Language Immersion program at Monte Vista Elementary in South Jordan. The DLI teachers have been providing regular video instruction through Zoom.

“The teachers are really good because they know that they're kind of on their own when it comes to the Chinese stuff—they can't rely on parents to help,” Wessman said.

Dominoe Hammond, who has children in high school, middle school and elementary school, is impressed with her children’s teachers.

“I'm amazed how they were able to pull this together in no time,” she said. “They're connecting with their kids, even through all of this, and they've been so responsive and so helpful to answer our questions. I'm just so grateful.”

Her older students keep organized with calendars and assignment lists. Her younger ones are comfortable with the online format and can complete their work fairly independently.

“Even my first grader is managing it on her own with very little help,” Hammond said. “So my energy can be focused on all the bonus stuff, the extras, the fun things afterwards.” 

The Hammonds, who live in West Jordan, hold fun family PE classes and baking lessons and play games once school work is done.

“We are just trying to get through this the best that we can for ourselves and our families and it's going to look different for everyone,” Hammond said.

In Herriman, Amy Stewart schedules regular breaks for her three kids.

“I feel like with as much time as they will be looking at a computer, I want them to take breaks to move their body,” Stewart said. “Essentially, after about 30 minutes of work, we take a five-minute break and have them move.”

The kids do quick ladder drills, cosmic yoga, or a hand and foot game she printed off the internet. The family holds recess after lunch and plays together outside in the evenings.

As of this writing, families did not know how long schools would be closed. Most are optimistic that they will get better at this new normal with more time. They are also enjoying the slower pace of their lives.

Wessman, who lives in Herriman, is enjoying the break from driving her children to and from their schools in Riverton and South Jordan and to their extracurricular activities.

“I've enjoyed having my kids around, and I really love having our evenings open,” she said.