Homeschooling during pandemic: Mom and teacher share their experiences
Over the last month, teachers and parents have had to adjust to changes in their students' education, making both groups deserving of recognition during Teacher Appreciation Week.
Back in March, Caitlyn Scaggs was a regular working mom who thought she'd only have to play teacher for a couple weeks. When it became clear that wasn't going to be the case, she learned intentionality would be the only way her family would get through this season together.
Inside her family's home in Riner, the play room is now a classroom.
"It's a space that is their space, and I don't over control their desk or what they put on their desk. I let them have ownership of it," Scaggs explained.
Like many parents, she had to adjust quickly to the new normal once schools closed for the remainder of the year.
"That was a surreal day!" She said.
Doing her best to take the situation in stride, Scaggs said finding a rhythm that works has had its challenges.
"There was one day when my son looked at me and said, 'Can I have a different teacher today?'" she laughed.
But one of the ways Scaggs found success as a new home-school parent was sneaking learning into their play.
"Doing a board game," Scaggs said. "You could say that's not classroom learning, but they're counting, they're thinking and they're using logic and taking turns, and social interactions."
She loves joining her kids in play.
"I just try to hold on to that inner child and not let go of it, and they give me the opportunity to embrace it and be part of the fun," Scaggs said.
She also loves coming together with her kids', Harper (8) and Peyton (6), teachers to keep her kids' learning on track.
"I don't feel alone in this," Scaggs said. "I don't feel like I come down to this classroom and it's up to me to pass or fail as a teacher. I'm one piece of the puzzle. And we're all in this together as a group around my kids."
Because for her it's not just about making the grade; it's about making memories that will last.
"We need to make time for fun and be lighthearted, and to focus on emotional health and trust that the learning and the classwork is going to follow," Scaggs smiled.
She also offered this nugget of advice that's worked for her family: Scaggs said she's learned to let her kids do assignments in bite-sized chunks, let them play for a bit, then do another bite size assignment. She said their attention span only lasts for a little bit, so breaking down the homework keeps them from being overwhelmed.
And while every kid and every family does things differently, Scaggs hopes everyone remembers the blessing it is to be with their kids, even when things get tense in the classroom.
Over in Roanoke County, Meagan DiYorio is a second-year kindergarten teacher and an expecting mother. While both have had their challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, she has one message for students, teachers and parents alike: finish strong.
Like many teachers around the commonwealth, DiYorio's new coworkers have a bit more fur on them.
"C'mon bud!" She yelled to her golden retriever, Folly, while Stevie the cat sat on a mat, eyeing the outdoors.
DiYorio's kitchen table is also now her desk.
"Hellllooooo!" She sings as one by one her students log into their video conference call.
It's show-and-tell day with her Mountain View Elementary School kindergarten class.
"I also have a Nintendo Switch," one little boy said proudly.
Activities like this are some of the few she's able to do in the virtual setting.
"I've recorded myself reading books to them," DiYorio said. "They send little videos back to me. We web conference and do some fun things."
She said as a teacher, striking the right balance can be hard.
"Not to be overwhelming to the parents and the students, but also accommodate their learning and keep the learning going."
While learning to read is a fundamental goal for students before they can enter first grade, COVID-19 has shifted some of those expectations and put a lot more work on parents.
"It's not just homework now, it's everything," she said. "And I really commend them for taking on that huge responsibility and doing the best they can."
Soon the year will be over, so with the time you have left, DiYorio said, "Be there for the kids. Let them have fun. Let them play outside. Read as much as you can. Once we get back in the classroom, we're going to figure it out. It's going to be fine."
And that's probably why her kids often say-
"I love you, Ms. DiYorio," one little girl said over the video chat.
"I love you too," Ms. DiYorio echoed back.
Most school districts throughout Southwest Virginia only have a few weeks left until summer break.