Home life, homeschool: the series, Part III: Older students, friends at home too

| June 3, 2020 | 2 Comments

HOUSEGUEST Julian Rappaport, a sophomore studying jazz at The New School (NYC), and Priscilla Duggan, a freshman studying at Barnard College (neuroscience), work at home in her parents’ back yard.

At this point, every student (and family) has come to terms with the fact that schools in Los Angeles County will not reopen their doors this school calendar year. As of our April 2020 edition, some private schools were
still on the fence. Not anymore; with stay-at-home orders still in place, homeschool has become the norm. Google classrooms, where curriculums have moved and homework assignments can be posted, have replaced real classrooms, and Zoom functions as the conduit to virtual teaching.

For this, the third part of our coping-with-COVID-19 series, we also get a window into the homeschool lives of the college-aged set, which appears markedly different from the elementary and preschool tales featured in previous installments as well as this one.

Should you wish to have your child’s / family’s experience of homeschool featured, please submit to caroline@larchmontchronicle.com.

The questions asked:

PRISCILLA DUGGAN in a Zoom science lab from Barnard College.

1) What are the names, ages, and grades of your children? 2) How are you structuring your days? 3) What remote learning strategies are you employing and what (if any) materials / resources did the school provide? 4) How are YOU coping (as parents)?

Hedy Hutcheson, South Lucerne Blvd., wrote:

RHETT HUTCHESON, ninth grader at Loyola High School, practices soccer in the backyard.

1) My three children are Emerson Duggan, 22, senior at NYU Tisch School of the Arts; Priscilla Duggan, 19, freshman at Barnard College; and Rhett Hutcheson, 14, freshman at Loyola High School. We also have significant others “stuck” living here (!). They are Grace Leichter, 22, senior at NYU, and Julian Rappaport, 20, sophomore at The New School.

2) Days start early here because we are dealing with school hours from both coasts. Best-laid plans to get up late by all my college students have morphed into 8 a.m. classes for all! Mostly everyone is finished with structured class hours by 2 p.m., whereupon cooking, swimming, exercising, and video games ensue.

3) Zoom is the name of the game here.

EMERSON DUGGAN, a senior in film school at NYU Tisch, and Grace Leichter, a psych major also at NYU, “homeschool” in her parents’ back yard.

4) My husband, Andrew Hutcheson, an institutional consultant, is busier than ever and contemplates working from home forever. I find myself happily getting to be more aware of my young adults’ impressive lives as I sneak views of student film projects, hear about current neuroscience research of antidepressant compounds, understand analysis of personalities in psychology, listen to jazz riffs drift from the upper floor, and watch pre-professional soccer workouts take place in the yard and house Monday to Friday.

We all enjoy dinner together every night. It reminds us of community — we share our thoughts and feelings of the day. There is laughter and argument, but mostly true support of each other’s passions and the all-important private space in such a full household.

I hope the community of others returns for all of us sooner than later.

Rachel Bonkovsky and Laura Santiago, Gower St.

SANTIAGO-BONKOVSKY family’s homeschooling schedule for one day in May.

1) Eva, 3rd Grade, Center for Early Education (CEE / The Center); Hanna Louisa, preschool (EC1), Center for Early Education.

2) We start our morning at 8:30 a.m. with “morning meeting” and then split the day into 30-minute time blocks for each child. It looks pretty different for each child because they are in very different places developmentally. Our older daughter, Eva, is able to work independently for a fair amount of her day. She needs some help when she gets stuck or when she craves human interaction (!), but once she’s going on an assignment she can work through the end of her time block. Our preschooler, Hanna Louisa, needs a lot more from us — essentially what would be best for her right now is playing with her peers and exploring social interactions and early reading strategies. It makes us all sad that this isn’t possible. Today, in the middle of the day, we spent 20 minutes cuddling in bed … that was not on our schedule, but it’s what made sense for her in that moment.

Early on, we enlisted grandparents on both sides of our family to help, and that has been lovely. Each girl gets one-on-one time with a grandparent (or two) two-to-three times per week. It’s fun to see those bonds strengthen. Along with giving us parents a minibreak (enough time to load or unload the dishwasher!), it also gives the grandparents something to look forward to, albeit over Skype / FaceTime.

We also feel incredibly blessed to be part of the CEE community. Right from the start, the teachers sent along developmentally appropriate plans for the week. These included well-structured lessons with embedded videos and with platforms and apps the students were already familiar with. As the weeks have gone by, CEE has layered in more structure and synchronous, or live, options that we appreciate but don’t always use. Eva, our third grader, is already learning about “Zoom fatigue,” and Hanna Lou, our preschooler, doesn’t really connect to the live classes. What she does love are the engaging, fun daily videos her classroom teachers, librarian, music teacher, and PE teacher post. Sometimes she will watch a read-aloud two or three times!

CEE has been very upfront about the reality that this is not education that stands up to their philosophical underpinnings. None of us parents would have blessed four hours of screen time a day, and certainly not The Center! But here we are! The Center has made concessions to meet the needs of the COVID reality and has managed to stay as true to their core mission as is possible. Over the last month they have really focused on continuing to maintain community both for the students and the parents, and we are grateful. A wonderful, stress-relieving mantra that is often said by teachers and administrators at The Center is something along the lines of: “Don’t worry, follow your child’s lead and do what is right for her. We will meet your child where she is when we return to campus. No one will be ‘behind.’”

3) Part of what was so reassuring about those words from our daughters’ school is that this is so very hard. The last thing we could have handled was the feeling of falling behind in schoolwork. Both of us work full-time, and we are in a partnership — we try to be very cognizant of supporting each other’s work demands. So what that really means is that between work and homeschooling we can get up at 6 a.m. and go to bed at 10 or 11 p.m. every day and still feel behind. It sucks. We have both been trying to carve out time to exercise and take care of ourselves … and we are somewhat successful. The stress is a lot on so many fronts.

4) Coping? Ugh. I work with LAUSD, and as we plan for August reopening, it’s hard to know what is solid footing in terms of public health guidance, etc. Every day there is new guidance and new information about COVID. There is really no great option out there for school re-opening. So we all soldier on and try to find the best solution within a really tough situation. My partner is high risk, so there is that added layer of stress for our family. We don’t want to bring sickness back to our household, and our basic feeling is to stay isolated for as long as is necessary. It’s not great, but we have to believe that this too shall pass!

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  1. Hedy Hutcheson says:

    😉 , but you f a name mix up here—Emerson is Julian, Julian is Emerson, and Grace is Priscilla, and Priscilla is Grace.

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