What started as a Twitter thread has now become a blog post. Home schooling, distance learning, remote learning, whatever you call it, in this house, it’s been a struggle. Never a battle mind you because I just don’t have the energy for that, but it’s a daily, guilt-ridden struggle. Why? Because I work all day. I sit in front of my computer planning and monitoring our virtual classroom, creating content, etc., etc., etc. I find it extremely difficult to engage in anything else, when the work to do list sits in the back of my mind. So “homeschooling” here starts when I’m done. The other half of the struggle is the engagement factor on my daughter’s end. Plain and simple, she wasn’t engaged. So the daily, “okay, time for some school work” was met with sighs and ughs and whatever other dramatic sounds come along with that feeling of I don’t want to.
I had to find ways to supplement textbooks and worksheets and YouTube instructions. We started with adding tech elements to the assigned tasks. iMovie procedural writing assignments, green screen PSAs, creating content for her YouTube channel…anything that involved something beyond a pencil and paper and watching YouTube instructional videos.
It must be noted that her amazing teacher was extremely supportive of my efforts to keep her engaged any way I wanted. We submitted all of the work we were doing at home into her digital portfolio, even though it didn’t follow any of the assigned instructions. She learned the content her way. And all this happened after my workday into the evening. Not looking for sympathy, just being transparent. When I called it a struggle, it was my struggle, not hers.
When video editing got old, we moved to Minecraft. She’s built an entire universe for every animal and human she knows. My Mother’s Day gift was a personalized Minecraft mansion, equipped with a personal assistant and flowers “that won’t die, because, well you know Mommy, you’re not that good at that.” She’s not wrong, but I digress. It was all self-taught. She pushed buttons, clicked boxes and figured out the entire program based on her own exploration. She was busy, I could work. She was engaged. I felt settled.
Then we moved to Scratch. A weeklong virtual camp gave her enough knowledge and confidence to build her own game. She built a game called Squirrel Catcher that involved a squirrel catching peanuts and tacos. So much math and computational thinking. A ton of trial and error. A huge amount of learning.
We ran with the whole squirrel thing. They’re all over our forested neighbourhood – so many real-life connections to be made. We built a squirrel picnic table that I’d seen all over the Internet. Why? Well, why not? Hands-on learning that involved building, measuring, problem solving. We got to be creative, work outside in the sunshine, all the while learning a ton, having fun and staying six feet away from the world. We solved all of life’s problems chatting in our driveway that day too. Bonus!
Then what? Well. We set it up in the backyard and we waited. We’d watch out the windows every morning. We’d fight over who got to use the binoculars. Watching them eat was fascinating. Then came the “Mommy! I know! Let’s set up a camera to watch them!” Pretty sure they make reality tv shows about people like us, but hey, I thought it was a really good idea!
And so began operation #SquirrelCam. We spent our morning gathering materials, setting up extension cords and making decisions about the best possible set up location to get the most out of this experience.
And then we waited.
We’ve been watching live feed of the squirrels having breakfast all morning. We’ve been watching their interactions up close and personal. We can’t go outside, they run away. The #SquirrelCam, in the few short hours we’ve been at it, has been a huge amount of fun.
So. What’s the point of this post?
It’s for parents…live life with your kids. Learning will happen as a result. Ask questions and talk to them. Learning will happen as a result.
It’s for teachers…keep posting in your virtual classrooms. Learning will happen as a result. Try not to get discouraged at lack of participation. (And trust me, it’s hard, I know). But maybe, just maybe, you’ve set the wheels in motion for one family’s own version of our #SquirrelCam experience.
This post isn’t about squirrels. It’s about our kids. They’re going to be okay. It’s about our teachers. Do the best you can for your kids. Encourage them to explore outside of the virtual classroom. Let them play. Encourage them to share their discoveries with you and their classmates. It’s about our parents. Let go of virtual classroom neglect guilt. Live life with your kids as best you can.
Explore. Play. Discover. Trust me. Learning will happen as a result.
And finally, here’s some squirrel cam footage!