Finding Some Inspiration for At-Home Learning This School Year

Some parents might need some motivation to get through this week and the rest of the semester as they wear more hats than ever before

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Several school districts are going back to school on Monday.

Nearly 20 school districts are starting classes either virtually, in-person or a combination of both.

In Arlington ISD, the superintendent is even “zooming” in to online classes to welcome back students.

While teachers are preparing their own online classwork, parents are having to fill the role of “teacher's assistant" at home. Many of the online courses -- even for elementary age children -- are partly done through video conference calls with the teacher but the rest of it includes independent instruction that a parent will need to help their child with.

Some parents might need some inspiration to get through this week and the rest of the semester as they wear more hats than ever before.

"My hat comes off to all parents right now,” said Lacy Gregory, an Arlington ISD first grade teacher.

Luckily, there are teachers like Gregory to the rescue with some tips to get us all through it.

"It is what it is. We can't change it, but we might as well steer into it a little bit,” she said.

Gregory caught the attention of the school district when she pivoted quickly to the pandemic last school year.

She's keeping storytime going for her kids by editing her own videos on iMovie and uploading the links on YouTube for students to watch at their convenience throughout the day.

Lacy Gregory
Teacher Lacy Gregory is recording storytime for her first graders and uploading the videos online for them to read along.

No matter what else happened -- schedule changes, fire drills, assemblies or whatever – we always read a story together," she said. "I didn’t want to lose that and I didn’t want them to lose that. So I started using iMovie to make little recordings of reading stories aloud to the kids."

Her daily teachings include themes parents can mimic with their kids at home.

“We’re trying to figure things out and see how it goes, it’s so much trial and error. We’re having to give ourselves grace. The kids are having to give themselves grace. And that is no exception for parents either,” she said.

If students are feeling stumped on a particular assignment, Gregory said it's important for parents to step in like the teachers usually do and take a movement break.

“If you’re getting frustrated if your child is getting frustrated don’t be afraid to put it down for a little bit," she said.

A helpful tool Gregory uses is a YouTube channel called GoNoodle, which includes movement exercises and meditation practices for kids to take a break.

Gregory said fun seats can also make things more interesting. She's using yoga balls instead of a regular chair.

Lacy Gregory
Lacy Gregory's virtual set up for teaching her first graders online in Arlington ISD.

But she adds that creating a routine is more important than the furniture.

“Kids thrive on predictability. They do and when they know what to expect it’s easier for them, they wake up knowing what’s going to happen that day,” she said.

That's what mom and blogger Autumn Reo is doing for her kids as they prepare for a virtual semester with HEB ISD.

“No one had a plan for something like this,” she said. “We’re doing this together. Some days are going to be easier than others, and that’s where that grace came in. Some days are grace, some days are grit and I know that it’s just going to cycle like that. It’s the best we can do.”

She's setting alarms throughout the day to keep up with the kids' schedule and her own work schedule.

“Realizing that also meant, let’s move. We couldn’t just sit in front of screens for eight hours or 10 hours,” she said. “I couldn’t just go, ‘Here’s a computer. Please go learn. And I’ll see you in a couple of hours.' It had to be a multitasking experience.”

Reo runs her own blog called Mama Challenge. She’s documenting her experience and just posted a blog with thoughts and advice on at-home learning.

“Understanding that we’re all going to work through this together. Some days are going to be great and some days are going to be not so great and that’s OK,” she said.

She's adjusted her hours to wake up earlier than the kids to get most of her work done first.

"At 4 and 5 o’clock in the morning you’ve got a lot of quiet time. You can get more done in that short amount of quiet time before things went to space where you had to be able to support the kids,” she said.

She also understands where her priorities are when it comes to finding a work and home balance as a parent.

“Here’s where the flex is, here’s where I’ve gotten to know that my most important job is honestly being a parent,” she said.

At the end of the day, teachers say take what you're given and make it work for your family.

“It’s not going to look the same for everybody and that’s OK. And we don’t want families feeling like it has to look exactly like this in order for it to be successful,” said Gregory.

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