What a crazy school year!
Our district opted for a phased model this year, so we started in Phase 1 with my girls going to school two days a week (with early release) and doing online learning the other three days.
This week, we’re moving into Phase 2 where they go to school Monday through Thursday with early release and then do online schooling on Fridays.
Phase 3 is regular, five days a week with early release once a week, but there is no telling if we’ll ever get to Phase 3.
The other fun thing is that we can move between phases at any time so just because we’re currently in Phase 2 doesn’t mean we can’t get tossed back to Phase 1 at any moment.
After the madness of online school back in March, April, and May, I knew we needed a better setup for a full school year so we’d be prepared for the ever-changing school situation.
We don’t have a dedicated schooling space, so I ordered a little rolling cart from Staples (actually, Ani, who loves anything to do with building and tools, put the whole thing together, recruiting Tally to hold some of the pieces in place for her while she tightened the bolts. It was the cutest thing ever) to hold all our school supplies in one place.
I can roll it out to our dining room table on the online school days and have everything right at hand, and then wheel it back into my office after we’re done with school and keep it there on the days when the girls go to school in person.
Each of my three older girls were issued a laptop by the school district and they’re expected to bring them charged to school on the days where they are in-person. Keeping track of them and keeping them charged (especially in our 70 year old house with minimal outlets) was tricky, so I ordered this sturdy file sorter and used mounting tape to attach it to one of the shelves of the cart. On the other side of the shelf, I mounted an outlet strip so all the girls can plug their laptops in to charge and I only need one wall outlet. It’s so nice to finally have a landing spot for them after a few weeks of laptops floating everywhere.
I also added these plastic magazine folders (I needed ones that wouldn’t rip!) to the top shelf and designated one for each girl so they have a place to store their papers and worksheets and anything else that’s going to and from school.
I have all the school supplies they could need – pens, pencils, scissors, etc – in a caddy on the bottom shelf.
On the days they do online school, I block out about 2.5 hours in the morning.
Everyone eats breakfast, gets dressed and makes their bed, I do their hair, and I put my phone away for the morning, so they have my full attention.
If we’re ready early enough, we start out with a 10 minute walk/bike ride around the neighborhood and then come settle in around the kitchen table and in the living room.
Ella is super self-sufficient so she doesn’t require a lot of help from me.
I put Post-It page markers on the side of Ani’s magazine folder to list out all the things she needs to get done and she can pull them off as she finishes. She’s a super visual learner, so this is helpful for her to see exactly how much needs to be done and then she can decide what order to do them in (and I know what she’ll need help with).
When Star does Savvy Reading in the mornings, she goes into my office so she doesn’t disrupt the other girls.
I also use this time to reading practice with Star or read with Tally on the couch.
Both the little girls also love to sit at the table and color since it feels like they’re one of the big girls doing school work.
I ordered a huge box of printer paper and some new colored pencils, plus we just replaced our seven-year-old printer with a new one, because for whatever reason, coloring pages printed off the internet are 10x superior to a coloring book.
If they get through their assigned work before lunch, we’ll use the extra time to read together or do puzzles or listen to a podcast or memorize poems.
It’s really easy to feel overwhelmed by online school and learning the new tools that schools are using.
My main goals are that my girls continue to love learning and that their foundational skills (math and reading) are strong. If the school work starts to feel oppressive or causes tension, we take a break for a while or shorten assignments.
No one benefits from feeling crazy anxiety over a 2nd grade assignment about llamas.
How are you managing school this year? What’s working well for you (and what’s stressful)? I’d love to hear!
And if you need school supplies either for in-school learning or at home or some combo of the two, check out Staples for the best deals on everything you could need. Plus, they offer 1 day Free Shipping or you can order online and then pick up at your local Staples store.
If only online school was that simple.
Photos by Heather Mildenstein