01 October 2020 (updated)

Our School Story: Surviving and Thriving

How are you doing school 2020? Across the country, we're making creative and innovative choices to chart out the best educational course for their family. Read on for some school stories from families like yours.

Our School Story: Hope in the Days of COVID

When I think about the school year, I keep waiting for Tim Gunn to show up, give me a slightly exasperated look, and say, "Make it work"! Because whether our kids are doing virtual public school or a homeschool co-op, we've all got to figure it out.

COVID outbreaks and various external forces are causing people to really think about their education in ways they haven't before. It's hard not to feel somewhat discouraged when looking at life in a corona-filled world. But it's been so encouraging to hear how many parents and educators are rising to the occasion during these trying times.

We've talked with people all over the country, and no two school stories are the same. For every story of a successful school pod, there's another one of someone who had to readjust their plan at the last minute because their teacher backed out. Or maybe the group couldn't agree on shared guidelines.

Even though every family's school story looks a little bit different, they all represent parents committed to providing the best education for their families. Read on to hear how families nationwide are making it work.

Reid Family homeschool Ace

The Reid Family School Story: Downington, PA

Charlotte Reid had always been impressed by the way the homeschooled kids she met were "smart, well rounded, love people, hold conversations, and explore deep passions and interests." But she didn't think it was possible for her family just yet. "Homeschool was a dream that we were hoping to start when our kids got bigger, mostly because I didn’t think it could work with all our babies at home."

So when COVID-19 meant kindergarten son would be learning from home last year, "it gave me confidence that homeschool could become a reality for us."

After researching many different options, they've chosen a classical Christian curriculum. In addition to learning at home, are part of a co-op with 7 other families. This gives them more flexibility and socialization during these days of COVID, as well as wisdom from veteran homeschool moms.

Read more about the Reid Family's homeschool adventures here.

The Drugo Family School Story: Harrisonburg, VA

The Drugo family initially intended to do a hybrid school option this year, but when their district announced that they were starting the year with virtual learning, Nicolle Drugo reached out to her girls' best friend's parents who were already planning to homeschool. Nicole immediately asked, "Want to do that together?" She said, "Their emphatic "yes" sealed the decision, and here we are now figuring out homeschooling for this year!"

The pod will just have three students, with the families alternating between the two houses, as well as a weekly overnight-- so the parents will get a night off, too! "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." 

After much research and coordinating between a few parents, the Drugo family "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." 

Read more about the Drugo Family and their plans for the school year.

The Copley Family School Story: Atlanta, GA

When their Atlanta school district decided to go virtual, Meredith Copley and her family started looking for alternatives. They're still using their school district's virtual curriculum. But they've joined forces with other families in the neighborhood to provide a more interactive learning environment.

They "discussed the idea of a pandemic pod as a way to utilize each parent's gifts, to meet the need of kids whose parents feel unequipped to facilitate learning around certain subjects or criteria, as well as provide a needed outlet for social and emotional interaction that we had been greatly missing during COVID-19. We felt like we could assist some parents who needed to work full time, as well as provide a safe gathering with a limited number of kids and families involved."

With 28 kids in grades K-5, the kids rotate between different houses. So there will be about 4-8 kids per grade in a house. While some of the parents stay at home, in other households, the parents work full-time. These parents have "offered to 'outsource' their volunteering spot in our pandemic pod by paying for tutors or college kids to come in and help since the parents can't be there due to work." 

Within the pod, families have agreed "to maintain a very small circle of family friends that they will interact with outside of the pod, and to agree to wear a mask when out in public when it's not possible to socially distance themselves from others." 

You can read more about the Copleys' school pod.

The Robertson Family School Story: Los Angeles, CA

Robertson kids micro school

Caitlin and Willis Robertson in Los Angeles, California were planning to enroll their kindergarten daughter at her local public school. But when their district announced that they would be strictly virtual, they looked into starting a micro-school with six other kindergarten families. Caitlin firmly believes that "Kindergarteners need social connections and lots of physical play. At age 5, kids are just learning how to learn by asking questions and exploring the world around them." So a micro school offered the best option for their family. 

For Caitlin, "starting a micro school is harder than any business deal I have put together as a marketing executive.  One of the biggest challenges is staying up to speed on the fluid situation that is COVID. As state and local officials learn more about COVID, the local guidelines could change "weekly (if not daily). With each new regulation or mandate from the city, county, or state, we've had to flex and evolve our micro-school to ensure we're being safe and acting responsibly. For example, in California, the rules on wearing a mask change based on the county you are in. Face shields are different from masks. Teachers must wear them, but kids do not...the list goes on and on."

Despite these challenges, the Robertsons look forward to a great school year, with a program that combines safety, education, and social interactions.

Read more about the Robertson Family's micro school.

Making It Work

Ready to start a learning pod, micro school, or co-op, but don't know where to start? It's not too late! Here's some great advice from these families.

"Get a group of parents together and talk about what your goals and desires would be for a pod, and then what the hindrances may be. Our goals were other people teaching our kids when we didn't know how to explain something or our kids did better listening to other adults. We also wanted social and emotional interaction." -Meredith Copley

"If you’re considering homeschooling, my recommendation is to go for it. . .  Regardless of whether you choose to homeschool or not, it’s wise to be closely involved in your child’s education. Know that we are all educators— teaching them things through conversations, experiences, and love. -Charlotte Reid

You Can Do It!

"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 you, your kindergartener playing for the next year and not having rigorous academics will not ruin your child. Know that 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!" -Nicolle Drugo

"Starting a micro school is all about communication -- with the other parents, with the teacher, and with your child. Our understanding of the coronavirus changes daily as we learn more about transmission and long-term effects. Be sure that the parents in your micro school are aligned on social distancing expectations, health protocols, and more. Talk through all scenarios so that none of the parents are surprised when something happens. The one thing we know about COVID is that we cannot predict the future. So building a foundation of trust via communication is crucially important. -Caitlin Robertson

What's Your School Story?

Resilience, planning, flexibility, and passion seem to be some of the main threads weaving together this new school landscape. While school might look different, we've been encouraged by all the different ways families are making the most of the school year.

What's your family's school story this year? Let us know on social #getfamilyapp and #ourschoolstory. We'll continue to hear from more families as the year continues, so be sure to check back for more! And be sure to check out FamilyApp.com for more school stories.