Home-schooling about to become the rule, not the exception, on Vancouver Island

Experienced home school parent offers advice as kids prep for classes, but not classrooms

With suspension of in-class instruction taking effect across Vancouver Island school districts this morning due to COVID-19, a parent says there are numerous ways for children to keep learning.

She should know. Home schooling her children was a thing for Susanne Lee long before COVID-19 moved into the neighbourhood.

B.C. Minister of Education Rob Fleming directed kindergarten-Grade 12 classes to halt indefinitely upon the conclusion of spring break, with districts to develop plans to ensure learning continues.

Lee, part of Nanaimo Community Home Learners, says parents experiencing learning from home for the first time, and in stressful circumstances, should be mindful of anxiety children may be feeling from the coronavirus pandemic. The focus should be on joy, simplicity and leaning into relationships. Extra reassurance is needed.

“Learning can look so different than just printing off math worksheets and what not … if your child is keen, grocery stores that are still open have Canadian standard workbooks for the elementary grades, or there are so many online resources right now for more formal and traditional learning,” Lee said.

RELATED: B.C. to suspend K-12 schools indefinitely due to COVID-19

In a letter to union membership, B.C. Teachers’ Federation said teachers will return to school after spring break ends, despite the suspension of in-school instruction.

Denise Wood, president of the Nanaimo-Ladysmith union local, said generally speaking, face-to-face learning is right for most students, but said there are other issues to deal with right now in a time of crisis.

“Kids are going to be under a lot of stress. Parents are going to be under a lot of stress. It’s not ideal learning conditions for anybody,” she said. “I don’t think that maintaining classroom instruction and meeting curricular competencies should be the top of mind right now. I think we should be thinking about kids’ mental and emotional health. Academic understanding is probably the furthest thing we should be worrying about right now.”

In an e-mail, the B.C. Ministry of Education said because the province is diverse, it is offering districts the opportunity to develop their own plans that best meet the needs of students and families. Continuity of learning opportunities will also look different for various age groups, it said.

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Lee said puzzles, baking and board games are excellent ways for students to learn math. Reading, keeping a journal and writing to friends and family are good for the language arts. Virtual museum tours and travel documentaries can teach social studies. Kitchen experiments, online documentaries and learning about viruses can be used for science and making crafts and music or writing a play can be ways to teach fine arts. In terms of physical education, it can be as simple as a hike, according to Lee.

“We’re out everyday at a different beach,” she said. “We’re kind of avoiding Neck Point and Piper’s (Lagoon), which are close, because they’re tending to get quite busy, so we’re hunting down different trails and different paths. Today we just went around for a walk-run around the block and we’ve been doing some online fitness classes as well, YouTube’s full of them.”

RELATED: SD68 developing plans after COVID-19 suspension

Dale Burgos, Nanaimo school district spokesman, said with teachers returning this morning, the district will take the time to work with educators and senior management.

“We don’t have a plan just yet, but we will take our time once we get back to make sure that we have a delivery of instruction model that will work for all students,” Burgos said. “That includes students that can work remotely, … children of essential service workers, for example, and then our vulnerable students, as well.”

If parents are stressed out about suspension of classes, Lee recommends reaching out to a home-schooler. For more information, go to www.nanaimocommunityhomelearners.org.


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