(My makeshift desk below for online learning.)
makeshift deskDistance learning starts back again in a couple of weeks for my soon-to-be 1st grader. It's going to be his second go at this. We're happy to be learning but distance learning means parent involvement is crucial from 9AM - 2:30PM on school days with more live meetings every day this time. It means mommy is also one of his educators again and we're going to have to do this as a team. We've learned how to make it work better for my son during the last go and I have been doing online school for myself as well for the last 6 weeks and will be continuing for fall. Here are some of my thoughts about online learning.

I have a new respect for live online learning and now in California, every college, whether you attend SDSU, Cal Poly, Cuesta College or Stanford, about half of their classes, if not more, are going virtual for fall due to precautions against Covid. This is how it's going to be now.

CONS
There are notable cons and pros to online learning. Without having to worry about gas and commuting time is nice but live Zoom sessions for 3 - 4 hours at a time for 3 days a week are totally different and can be tough with distractions compared to my traditional classroom years that I had experienced at SDSU. For instance, there have been occasions when my spouse just happens to be home while I'm on my live online classroom and he has asked me a random question that's totally not important right in the middle of my class. Because I put my headphones on, my husband can't hear the contents of my instructor's lesson or my group meetings but they can totally hear him if my mic just happens to be on. Furthermore, live classrooms online mean your webcam has to be on so every classmate has the option to stare at your face without you knowing for the entire session via live Zoom. Group work and sharing screens via web were clunky at first too. And importantly, if your internet is down in the middle of class, then that automatically logs you out of the class session and troubleshooting and waiting for it to get back on can be stressful.

PROS
Because classes are online, I don't have to find childcare for my kids. There were days when my kids would make a ruckus or need my attention (my little one is 4) while my mic and cam were on for group work discussions and I've had to excuse myself for a minute, but it's still manageable. Surprisingly, I still feel connected to my classmates, maybe more so than the traditional learning environment. I think knowing that we are all trying to get through this pandemic together, there is an energy that's different. We also get a glimpse into our classmates' personal lives without trying because we are sitting in our homes with the webcam on. Every once in awhile, a classmate's child makes a surprise appearance for a brief moment. My little one's arm made it to my last class meeting as he was trying to wave like any normal 4 year olds would do. This is something you don't see in a traditional in-person class setting.

If you or your kids are starting distance learning soon and don't feel all too good about it, just remember that there will be good and tough days. Give yourself some grace and sometimes where you pick as your desk space for you or your kids can make a big difference. We would move my older son's desk space to a different spot if he had a hard time focusing at any point last spring when we started distance learning last March through May.distance learning at home 

(My son doing distance learning for school last spring 2020 in the left picture)

Even for my own online learning, figuring out what personally works took a few weeks. I started out at the dining table and realized soon that when my husband is home too, he actually makes more noise than my kids. My fav spot is moving my end table to the front of my closet in my bedroom and then moving it back when class is over. I don't have room for an office desk in our home but really, I don't need one. Make-shifting makes it easy to move around, when needed. (See my top picture of this blog entry for reference on how I made my end table a makeshift desk for my online class meetings.)

I've tried my desk space outside once while my husband was home to watch the kids and it didn't work out too well for me. The glare from the sun that reflected onto my computer screen made it hard for me to focus on a lesson. It sounded like a good idea but in reality, it can be stressful if you don't have an umbrella like me in this instance. And the wind noises can be so distracting if you're speaking with your classmates and your mic has to be on.

Distance Learning can be challenging, but at the same time, it offers some conveniences to some families as well. Let's hope life can get back to a more normal by next spring but until then, hold on; we're in for a ride! You're not alone with the frustrations and adaptations with distance learning. Remember, as it's becoming a coronavirus Covid-19 slogan, "we're all in this together". And who knows, you might grow to like this method better.

Have a great Back-to-School week!