Millions of families have chosen alternative options for the upcoming school year, and the Drugo family is one of them. Read on to read all about Nicolle Drugo's experience in setting up a school pod for her daughters.
Our family includes myself and my husband Scott, our 2 daughters (7 - 2nd grade, almost 9 - 3rd grade), 2 dogs, and 2 cats. We live a bit north of Harrisonburg in the Rockingham County school district. The girls attended Cub Run Elementary until this year. I work from home and have for the past 3 years. We are a chill family that enjoys taking Karate lessons, watching movies, playing in the pool, and hikes together.
What gave you the idea to start a school pod this year?
Ultimately, with my work schedule, the early information we were getting regarding how the virtual option would look in regards to time and parent engagement looked very rigid and during my work hours. We initially intended to do the hybrid option, but as Harrisonburg went full virtual, I reached out to my girls' best friend's parents (they are Harrisonburg school district) to ask what they planned to do. They said they were homeschooling and I immediately asked ‘want to do that together?’ Their emphatic yes sealed the decision, and here we are now figuring out homeschooling for this year!
What will it look like- in terms of numbers of students, location, etc.?
It will be 3 students (our 2 daughters and their 4th-grade daughter). All four of us work full time and are invested in their education, so we decided on 2 days and an overnight at each house. That gives each of the parents a night off too which is a bonus! We are so fortunate to be so close already with their family that the girls all feel like sisters so they are really excited about schooling together.
What are some of the greatest challenges you've had in setting this up?
Knowing where to start and determining what and how to teach them. Coordinating between a few parents and figuring out the technology for us to streamline the experience and maximize it are all things that took research. Additionally, there are the upfront costs for their technology and licenses to the programs we are using as well.
Do you have a specific school curriculum you're using?
We are using IXL (which is used already in Rockingham County Schools) as our diagnostic and ‘scaffolding’ for their curriculum. We're then building a curriculum including the Singapore method for math, Education.com for reading and science, and also including apps such as SimplyPiano and DuoLingo for piano lessons and for the girls to learn Spanish. We decided that we want to keep our options open this year to really explore learning in a totally new way while still utilizing technology and aligning with Virginia SOL standards to ease the transition back into the public schools when/if the time comes down the road.
Do you have any guidelines for the families in the group in terms of social distancing outside of the group?
Use your best judgment. I don’t think a single one of us can say we don’t know anyone who could be vulnerable to this virus. There is still so much to learn about it, especially asymptotic transmission rates with kids. You can’t live in a bubble but a mask is a small thing and may help! Does it really hurt?
Try to find a family you share the same perspectives around things like manners, expectations, etc. Be open to different ways of learning and teaching. I promise your kindergartener playing for the next year and not having rigorous academics will not ruin your child. Know everyone is doing some sort of learning at home, so you are not alone. Breathe, and give yourself grace. You have got this and children are resilient!
We love the way that Nicolle and her family have done such a wonderful job in planning for the year, but also encouraging other families in their educational journeys. In addition to setting up this curriculum for her family, Nicolle has also organized a Facebook group for other families in the Harrisonburg/Rockingham, VA area who are also weighing their educational options in 2020. It's a fantastic resource for families as they make plans for the year.
Are you part of a school pod? Or are you trying out a new style of learning this year? Let us know on social at #getfamilyapp or #ourschoolstory!
And for more stories of families' school options, be sure to check out FamilyApp.com!