September.

Here we are, six months later, at the start of the school year. Six months ago, we were at the start of March Break, which effectively became the start of COVID and remote learning for the rest of the school year.

Today, we anxiously wait to hear from school teachers and our first learning session. They’re already asking for packed lunches and using their backpacks, even though we’re still at home; they’ve also have surprised me with doing workbooks on their own. What a difference 6 months makes in developmental skills for our youngest: he had zero interest in a book that required a lot fine motor skills before (cutting, pasting, line work), but now he happily is going through it himself!

Where did summer go? Well, this summer, we stayed in town; we participated in 3 or 4 virtual VBSes and Cantonese classes, enjoyed a visit from cousins, a dentist pulled out Bean’s tooth that wasn’t getting loose fast enough, Little Brother learned how to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels, and we enjoyed some staycationing time with our bubble family friends who moved to a new place with a pool.

By the end of summer, we learned that there were 3 education options this school year (more than what BC had!):

  1. Back to school with classroom sizes being at 30, distancing at 1 metre apart instead of 2, masks required from JK up as mandated by the school board, after initially being Grade 4 and up from the province
  2. Remote learning / distance learning online
  3. Remote learning / distance learning technology-free / paper option
Results from the first “mandatory” survey that was sent out

Well, it turned out that over 83% of parents/students chose to return back to school (before the masks rule got changed to include all students) and of those opting to learn at home, only about 12% choose the paper option; this translated to over 8500 elementary students in this school board doing distance learning. We took the remote route, because we can (that’s my privilege talking); we’re working from home for the most part, and my employer is pretty flexible about when I need to be working, which I’m grateful for. I’m also not working full-time so it’s slightly more manageable, and we have a house with room to spread out. We’ll monitor the school situation (in terms of COVID numbers) in the next couple of months, their learning progression, and we’ll re-evaluate then. To be honest though, as a mom who considered homeschooling our kids, I really enjoyed being able to go alongside their learning journey with their teachers this past spring. Although juggling work and school was taxing, it was also a great experience and blessing to be able to support their learning up close.

From conversations with other parents and the clues we see, it seems like there are more split classes at the schools this year (“collapse of classrooms” due to less students going into a school building), with select teachers working from the school but delivering remote learning teaching. Remote teachers seem to have large classes (30 in kindie) as well, with students that can be from up to 5 different schools. In initial phone call, it seems like the assigned teachers are not aware of which school the student is from or what grade they’re going to (e.g. JK or SK), until they ask the parent that question. Strangely enough, our kids’ teachers aren’t even at their school’s staff list, so it makes me wonder if they are relatively new hires.

The province mandates 300-450 minutes of synchronous learning a day for their age group and asynchronous learning for the rest of the day. As much as I like technology and am tempted to think that the screen can babysit our kids, I know how my youngest reacts after too much screen time, so I opted for the technology-free, paper option. Thankfully, the teachers aren’t that extreme and are offering to post online resources and short interacting opportunities throughout each week to connect with each student as a supplement to the paper option, but they are also respective of parents’ wishes so if parents do want zero-tech, they will go that route as well. I’m not sure how synchronous learning will work though, and how much parental involvement is required, but we’ll see I guess…here’s to new adventures!

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