Learning from home for COVID-19: follow this Ontario family’s 8-part education journey

Families all over Ontario are figuring out how to support their school-age kids as they learn from home during COVID-19.

For two weeks CBC Kitchener-Waterloo tagged along as Carin Lowerison and Matt White helped their three girls learn from home.

All three of their kids are in elementary school: Clementine, 5, is in senior kindergarden, Heidrun, 9, is in Grade 4 and their eldest, Berkeley is 11.

It all started just after Easter when their local public school board formalized home-based learning. That meant assignments from teachers, deadlines and daily feedback.

Carin Lowerison and Matt White have three “boisterous, creative, amazing little girls”: Berkeley, 11, Heidrun, 9, and Clementine, 5. Like parents all over Ontario, they’re bravely embarking on a journey of home-based education as their family is kept home for COVID-19. Here’s a look at Day One. 3:34

Day 2: Managing screentime when school goes online

One of the challenges of learning from home is the heavy reliance on devices: tablets and computers. Carin Lowerison says she’s trying to take some of her girls’ computer-based lessons offline, but it means being more hands-on. (Submitted by: Matt White)

As the girls’ teachers continued to send daily assignments and even feedback, Carin and Matt discovered managing screen time is more difficult than expected.

All communication, assignments — even the family’s decompression time together — involves time in front of a computer, tablet or TV. 

And taking classwork offline comes with a tradeoff: more hands-on work for the parents.

Carin Lowerison and Matt White have three elementary-school age girls: Berkeley, 11, Heidrun, 9, and Clementine, 5.CBC is following their family as they navigate home-based education. Here’s a look at Day 2 and the family’s philosophical struggle with screentime. 3:41

Day 3: Even parents who teach are finding school difficult

Carin Lowerison and Matt White are sharing their adventures of schooling their three girls, Heidrun, 9, Clementine, 5, and Berkeley, 12, from home during COVID-19. The two oldest are in French immersion, which can be tricky when only one parent can help with school work in that language. (Submitted by: Matt White)

As it happens, both Matt and Carin have a bit of experience teaching.

Carin is a yoga instructor and Matt teaches the odd course at the University of Waterloo. But teaching kids is something completely different, he says, as he struggles to digest some of the curriculum, and break it down in a way his young daughters can understand.

On top of that, their two oldest girls are in French immersion, but only one parent speaks French.

Kitchener couple Carin Lowerison and Matt White are among many people in Ontario juggling the roles of parent, worker and now teacher amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. Even with laid-out lesson plans, many parents are finding it much harder than they expected. Both Matt and Carin have a bit of experience teaching, but Matt says he’s struggling to digest the curriculum, and break it down for his young daughters. 4:28

Day 4: Setting reasonable expectations

With the first week of more formalized at-home learning behind them, Matt White and Carin Lowerison have some ideas about where they went wrong, and where they can improve week two for their three daughters: Clementine, 5, Heidrun, 9, and Berkeley, 11 as they stay home from school due to COVID-19. (Submitted by: Carin Lowerison)

Like many parents, Matt and Carin are finding learning from home is harder than they expected.

The daily assignments from teachers are taking longer than anyone hoped; what was supposed to be a simple hour-long self-directed activity takes much longer. That’s on top of the regular parenting, work, feeding everyone and keeping the house clean.

Here’s the whole family’s take on how week one went, and what a fresh start will look like for week two. 

If you’re feeling home-based is hard, you’re not alone. Daily assignments from teachers may be taking longer than you’d hoped — an assignment that was only supposed to be an hour, morphs into three. Kitchener couple Carin Lowerison and Matt White are among many people in Ontario juggling the roles of parent, worker and now teacher amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s their take on how this week will hopefully go smoother than the last. 4:39

Day 5: Overcoming conflict in close quarters

Carin Lowerison and Matt White are trying their best to help their three daughters – Berkeley, 11, Heidrun, 9, and Clementine, 5 – get through the rest of the school year, or physical distancing. Whichever comes first. (Submitted by: Matt White)

For week two of learning at home, Carin and Matt decided to try something a little different: get schoolwork done early and one at a time, so each one of their kids has time to concentrate on their studies solo.

It started out smoothly, but when they tried to encourage one of the girls to be more independent, it didn’t go over well.

That got Matt and Carin thinking about overcoming conflict while cooped up in close quarters.

Carin Lowerison and Matt White are among many people in Ontario juggling the roles of parent, worker and now teacher amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. Their three daughters all go to elementary school in Kitchener. Their youngest, Clementine is in senior kindergarden and she’s been somewhat forgotten as Carin and Matt focused on their older girls’ studies. So today the family got a little fresh air, and focused more on the little one’s learning. 4:19

Day 6: When fresh air helps focus the mind

Though she’s learning every day, 5-year-old Clementine’s official assignments have fallen by the wayside as her parents focussed on their older girls’ studies. Today Matt took her and her oldest sister Berkeley on a bird vs. squirrel count in their neighbourhood. (Submitted by: Matt White)

For the better part of the last week, the family’s focus has largely been on Heidrun, 9, and Berkeley, 11, and their schoolwork; making sure they had time, space and energy to get the work done. 

The result, say Matt and Carin, was Clementine, 5, kind of got lost in the mix. So, on Day 6, the family got a little fresh air, and focused more on the little one’s learning. 

Like parents all over Ontario, Carin Lowerison and Matt White are bravely taking on home-based education as their family is kept home for COVID-19. As they enter week two, Carin and Matt tried to encourage their eldest to do some more independent learning but it doesn’t go over well and that got them thinking about overcoming conflict when we’re all cooped up in close quarters. 3:40

Day 7: Working through stress and anxiety

Heidrun, 9, and Berkeley, 11, get some school work done at the dinner table while the family’s ‘ball of chaos’ Clementine, 5, and her dad Matt ham it up in the kitchen. (Submitted by: Carin Lowerison )

Up until March Break, all three girls spent their days at Sheppard Public School, in downtown Kitchener, Ont.

Then the pandemic closed the schools and ever since, Berkeley, Heidrun and Clementine have been doing their lessons at the kitchen table, in the attic — wherever they can find a quiet place to study. 

But never far away is the reality that they can’t see their friends and they can’t really play outside like they used to. That creates stress and anxiety that kids are only somewhat equipped to deal with. 

Especially empathic ones, like Heidrun, who are prone to worry. 

We get an update from Kitchener’s Carin Lowerison and Matt White as they try to help their three girls learn from home as schools stay closed for COVID-19. Today they talk about helping their middle child deal with her anxiety, and the supports being offered through the school district. 2:36

Day 8: Endings and beginnings

Normally, Clementine, 5, Heidrun, 9, and Berkeley, 11, attend Sheppard Public School in downtown Kitchener but COVID-19 has them learning from home — possibly until the end of the school year. That means Berkeley, who graduates from Grade 6 this year, may not have a chance to say goodbye to her school and teachers before moving on next year. (Submitted by: Matt White)

Carin and Matt’s eldest girl, Berkeley, 11, graduates elementary school this June — and was really looking forward to it. 

She had hoped to have a chance to say goodbye to her school, her teacher and her friends, before moving onto a bigger school where she’ll only know some of the kids.

It’s just one more thing she, and her family, are adjusting to as schools stay closed, but Carin and Matt say, it is getting easier and if they need to keep it up until the end of June, they’ll make it work.

For the last two weeks we’ve been tagging along as Kitchener’s Carin Lowerison and Matt White have helped their three girls learn from home during COVID-19. And though their segments are coming to an end, home-based learning isn’t. There’s still no news on if the kids will finish out the school year at home, or in their regular classrooms and that means their eldest will miss out on her very first graduation. 3:40

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