In January, we started the school year with a plan. Each of the kids was matched with the school we felt would serve their needs and interests best. Everyone was excited.
Then Friday, March 13th came and our entire education plan fell apart, just like everyone else’s. We learned a lot of lessons from distance learning and now we’re making changes to our 2021 school plan.
Distance Learning Whiplash
When we picked our kids up from school on March 13th, we didn’t expect it to be their last day at school for the year. They had only begun the new school year about 2 months earlier. Nine months later, everyone is still at home.
Our staff’s biggest challenge this year was creating a functional school setting in our home for 36 children.
Normally, we stagger homework time in our little classroom after school with our teachers. Everyone gets the help they need and everyone’s homework gets completed without mass chaos. Distance learning didn’t fit into our normal routine.
Going from classes at school to classes at home was like having distance learning whiplash. Immediately, we needed enough computers to accommodate their classes, enough space for everyone to be in class at their scheduled times, and enough bandwidth for everyone to be in class without Zoom freezing. Coordinating when each child needed to be online, keeping up with everyone’s work, and communicating with multiple schools was difficult.
The pressure on our two teachers, Miss Lucky and Miss Jenny, was intense and even with help from other staff members, their workload was suffocating. Partway through the year, we hired an additional teacher to relieve some pressure and give even more support to our kids. Plus, our teachers moved on-site to make sure they were available to help the kids when needed and avoid the strict travel restrictions at various times. They are amazingly dedicated to their jobs 😍.
Lessons from Distance Learning
One of the most interesting lessons we learned this year was that some of our children seemed to do better in a homeschool type environment than in their regular school setting.
We feared that the complete upheaval in their lives would make learning even more challenging for many of our kids, but the opposite happened. For those who do best in smaller classes with fewer distractions and those needing more flexibility in how they learn, learning from home was a welcomed relief. Although they did not all enjoy participating in class online, they enjoyed the freedom and additional help at home.
Having everyone home with us may have been the best option for our kids in this situation. We incorporated more time with our psychologists and social workers into their activities to make mental health a normal part of their daily routines. They spent time doing yoga and practicing mindfulness to help relieve their fears and worry. And, they seem to be closer and better connected after facing this year together.
Also, they very much enjoy getting to sleep later each morning. Normally, our mornings start very early to guarantee everyone is up, ready, and at school across town on time. Now they can make it to school in 10 seconds so their alarms don’t go off nearly as early.
Our 2021 School Plan
With the uncertainty of the pandemic still looming over us, we’re making some changes to our school plan for next year. When school starts again next month, we’ll have most of our children closer to home.
As of now, no matter which school our children are enrolled in, they will be starting the school year online. By spring, they should be attending school in-person part-time.
Our plan is still evolving, but so far we anticipate sending all of our preschoolers and a few other elementary-aged children to our local public school. Myra and Aracely will continue their studies at their current high school. Ten of our elementary and middle school children will attend a local bilingual school. And, fourteen of our children will be homeschooled.
We believe this plan will best meet the needs of each child and help them excel in their studies during this difficult year.
A Message from Our Director Alejandra
“Education is one of our key pillars at Dorie´s Promise. We have been praying and looking for options to get the best for each one of our children according to their specific needs. Having them at home during this time has given our team the chance to closely evaluate all the areas where they have grown, as well as the areas where they are struggling. All of our staff—medical, psychological, social workers—and I have been working together to plan the changes necessary for homeschooling so we can be successful next year.”
As we approach the start of a new school year, we appreciate your prayers for our children and staff. We have prayed about what is the best schooling option for each of our children. God provided a great staff who loves our children. We are trusting him with our children and relying on his guidance to make the best decisions in these difficult circumstances.