The six-week school closure announced by Gov. Kate Brown last week has suddenly given some parents a lot more time with their children than they were expecting.
For some, it might be a time for relaxation or chores, but others are looking for ways to continue their child’s education at home.
Kari Goodheart, of Hermiston, said she is currently working on picking out a curriculum for her 12-year-old twin boys to study for the foreseeable future. There are a lot of homeschooling options out there, she said, from secular private schools to public online charter schools to Christian-based homeschooling.
She said she is excited to turn her home into a learning environment, and to be a part of her children’s’ learning experience.
She thinks the experience will allow her sons, who often get bored at school, to work at an accelerated pace, but said she thinks once school is back open they will choose to return for social reasons.
“I will let them decide, but I have a feeling they will want to see their friends again,” she said.
Amber Street, of Hermiston, who has homeschooled in the past but hadn’t been doing so this year, suggested that parents forcing children to sit at a desk all day going through a structured curriculum might not be the way for stressed-out parents to go right now.
“I made a list with my son of what he wants to learn about, and of course, there are dinosaurs, but there are also things like the country of Israel,” she said. “That’s what we’re going to be working on, and theoretically he’ll be more cooperative.”
She said there are ways to incorporate learning naturally throughout the day — learning measuring and cooking skills while helping in the kitchen, for example, or learning through reading and games. And even if parents are holding more formal lessons with students, the “school day” can be much shorter.
“When you’re home, a lesson that might take an hour at public school might take 20 minutes with your kid because they have that really good one-on-one time,” she said. “You don’t need to explain things multiple times for the kids not paying attention in the back.”
Street said if parents are just looking for ways to temporarily provide educational opportunities for their children, and not committing to a homeschooling lifestyle permanently, there are plenty of free resources online they can use instead of investing in expensive textbooks and other materials.
One of those resources, locally, is the Hermiston Public Library. While the library building is currently closed to visitors, people can still call to order books for pickup outside, and the library offers a long list of digital resources, found at https://hermistonlibrary.us/os.
Library director Mark Rose said it’s not too late for Hermiston residents to get a library card to access such services — just call 541-567-2882 to provide the necessary information and be issued a library card number. For people who don’t live in the city, some of the resources listed on the library’s website don’t require a library card to access.
“Because of the state library and other things of that nature, we have huge amounts of resources,” Rose said.
Those resources go beyond just audiobooks and e-books and include services, such as Bookflix, which help young children read a digital picture book along with a narrator, and offer questions afterward to gauge their understanding.
“We’ve had pretty good use of it, and I think it will be a good resource for people now,” Rose said.
TumbleBook, an online library that also includes videos and comic books, is making its services free to all Americans during the current outbreak, along with a collection of math activities on TumbleMath.
Another resource for families is Beanstack, a reading challenge service that allows people to track their reading hours.
Rose said now is the time for parents to get creative about keeping their children informed and entertained. He said if people are looking for a specific resource on the internet to help them do so, but haven’t been able to find it, librarians at the Hermiston library are happy to take their call and help them out.
“Finding things online is supposed to be easy, but it’s not always, and our staff have experience in that,” he said.
As families wait to hear whether Oregon students will actually return to the classroom on April 29 as planned, some parents have written in community forums on Facebook that they plan to withdraw their child’s enrollment from their local school completely and switch to a virtual charter school, such as Connections Academy. It is unclear yet how the Oregon Department of Education will handle that phenomenon, as schools usually get funding from the state on a per-student basis, meaning drops in enrollment hurt districts financially.
Hermiston School District has put together a list of some educational resources parents can use on their website, at bit.ly/2UaOaXn. District communications officer Maria Duron stated in an email that the list was not the answer to questions about what learning will look like for students throughout the outbreak, but is meant to be a resource for caregivers looking for ideas.
For parents who are just looking for ways to keep their child entertained in an educational way over the break from school, many companies and nonprofits are stepping up.
Scholastic, for example, has launched a free Learn at Home program that offers “20 days’ worth of active learning journeys designed to reinforce and sustain educational opportunities for those students who are unable to attend school,” according to their website.
Students can take a virtual tour of now-closed museums and zoos around the world by visiting artsandculture.google.com, which uses the same technology as Google Street View to allow users to “walk” the halls of everything from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Australian National Surfing Museum. Or they can use street level mapping technology through www.geoguessr.com to race to guess where in the world they have been “dropped.”
The American Dairy Association North East is offering virtual tours of farms, catered to different age levels.