OFFSITE EDUCATION ON LIMITED RESOURCES
When “going to school” is not an option, today’s standard solution is easily stated: Exchange old-style classes for virtual classes. Easily stated, but not always easily implemented. There are numerous reasons why teachers, students, and parents may find the situation more complicated than simply clicking on an app:
- The family doesn’t even own a computer—and office/public library/community center computers are also closed to public access.
- The computer in the household (or the teacher’s household!) is several years old and not made to work with present-day virtual-communication apps.
- The computer user/users have no experience in the particular app required, and no confidence in their ability to learn it. Or, they don’t even know how to find and download it; or they’re terrified of being hacked.
- The household has more people than computers, and there are three kids and two adults whose schools/employers all want them online at the same time.
- The teacher is at a loss on how to adapt a community-oriented teaching system (group projects and personal attention) for all-virtual classes.
Small wonder, perhaps, that some politicians are pushing to “just put everything back to normal for next school year.” But even if improvements in the public-health situation make that feasible—which is far from certain at time of this writing—parental worries about child safety will deter many from rushing back into “regular” schooling any time soon. Plus, many families (and schools) are already comfortable with the virtual approach and in no hurry to abandon it altogether.
While we wait for a “new normal” to sort itself out, what can you do to keep your children virtually educated if you have any of the “limited resources” problems above?
- Get to know your children’s teachers—and school administrators—personally, scheduling virtual-chat (or phone) appointments to become familiar with their ideas, struggles, and concerns. Knowing them as people will help you both work out a win–win approach for your family.
- If you have a limited-access-to-computers problem, explain the situation to the school at first opportunity, and ask for their suggestions. (Make it clear you want to accommodate their concerns, not simply demand that they accommodate yours.) They may have extra equipment available for students’ families, or discount-purchase agreements with electronics stores.
- If your limited-access problem concerns a job that expects you to be virtually available during school hours, have a frank conversation with your employer as well. Whatever you see on sitcoms and social-media gossip, most employers don’t think in terms of “do it my way or get out”; if you’re any kind of effective worker, and make it clear you sympathize with company concerns, they’d rather make accommodations than go to the trouble of replacing you.
- Don’t be afraid to suggest the possibility of keeping up via the lower-tech methods: email, telephone, even snail mail. (Children in traveling families got adequate education via the latter long before home computers were invented.)
- Keep a positive attitude and believe that others will be cooperative and you will find a solution. And that you, as well as your kids, will learn to work with virtual education—even when it includes new-to-you apps!