Monday, September 7, 2009
The Virtues (or Lack Thereof) of Virtual School
They say homeschoolers are a different breed of parent. I completely agree. In fact, I would go so far as to call them certifiably insane parents. Yes, I said that, and you can take that to the bank.
The kids' school was closed by Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection for 7 days in response to "an upward trend of in student absences due to flu-like symptoms." Don't even get me started on over-reactions, or this will be whole different kind of post. We were notified of the school closure around 7:50 pm last Monday evening and a collective groan swept across American households in Hong Kong. On Tuesday morning, we were notified of the start of the "Virtual School" program where teachers would email assignments to the kids to complete each day at home, and a collective shriek of horror swept across American households in Hong Kong. No, we don't want our kids to lose an entire week of school. But NO! we don't want to teach our kids ourselves. That's why we enrolled our kids in school - because we aren't certifiably insane homeschoolers.
Because this is what "Virtual School" means.
Each day, Guinness, now in third grade, had to read 20-30 minutes and keep a reading log. Easy peasy. Then he had to play a couple math games on the computer. Even easier peasier. By this point, he was usually starting to get a little restless, so I let him take a snack break. Luckily the games are on the computer so it didn't take long for me to talk him back into work. And then each day he had a different specialist assignment like a science crossword puzzle or a pattern project. Still easy peasy. Except by then, Ellington was usually done with his homework and had moved onto computer games or was watching tv, and Guinness would decide that now is the perfect time to tell me just how unfair life is. Every day.
And then each day, he had to write a minimum two paragraphs about some special time that he has spent with his family or friends, or about a special place. Which should be easy peasy. But of course by then, he was so irritated with me and with life in general that nothing could be considered special, so he had NOTHING to write about! Every day! On a good day, we would sit there staring at each other until he caved and started writing. On bad days, we would start to yell at each other until he caved and started writing. And I won't even mention the Chinese homework, because the bad attitude (on both our parts) involved in getting that done is not unique to Virtual School.
Cayman, now in 2nd grade, had to read 20-30 minutes every day and keep a reading log. Except her teachers decided against providing a simple reading log form and let the students be creative in making their own. Anyone who knows Cayman also knows that her creativity knows no bounds. So just making her reading log took 30 minutes, after which she needed a break before she even began the actual reading.
Then she had a writing assignment. We were given the choice of doing something simple like writing a list of words or doing something more challenging like writing about a special moment. This is where I made a critical Virtual School rookie mistake. I chose the challenging option, thinking that over the course of 7 days, I could help her brainstorm and write about catching frogs over the summer. Do normal homeschooled kids go storming to their room in tears over a writing assignment? Because Cayman did. Every day.
And math games. Call me a bad parent, certainly a horrible homeschooling parent, but I just cannot take playing Top It (like War with playing cards, but adding two cards together to determine the winner) over and over. Every day.
Even Ellington had homework. I had to read to him for 10-15 minutes every day. We have an entire library of children's books in our house, so this should not have been a problem. Except Ellington loves dinosaurs. And we had to read the same two dinosaur library books over and over. And he asked the same question over and over.
Why did the diplodocus have spikes on their back? Well, like I told you yesterday and the day before yesterday, it was probably to protect him from the dinosaurs who wanted to eat him. Why did they want to eat him? Remember from yesterday, and the day before? Because some dinosaurs are meat eaters. Why are they meat eaters? I already told you yesterday. And the day before. That's the way they were born. They have to eat meat. Just like you. Let's move on....
Ellington also had writing work to do. And even there, my little spirited child gave me pause. I found a website that would allow you to choose the words and it would create D'Nealian style handwriting sheets. The first day, I let him practice his name. The second day he chose to work on his teachers' names. The next day, he choise random words like vitamins and trees. Today he decided to move onto more interesting words. Bum bum, pee pee. No potty words. Penis? No. Toilet. Oh fine!
And some day, my kids will post on Facebook about how they always help their kids with schoolwork and how I never helped them with theirs, and how awesome they must have been to have done everything on their own. And I'll just refer them back to this post and refresh their memory. It was all good until Virtual School.