Austin Families Homeschooling, Finding More Connection Through Intention

Last March, when the outbreak of COVID-19 struck, many families did not imagine it would still be affecting them this fall. But for the two families I had the opportunity to spend time with this week, the extra time at home and various school options has led them to both be more involved with their children's learning, and freed their families to do more of what matters: spending time exploring, telling stories, and being with one another.

The Duck family have adjusted their fall schedules to allow the elder siblings (6-year old twins) to complete their own lessons at home as opposed to attending zoom meetings with a teacher from the local school district. The mornings are full of activity as the youngest brother goes to pre-school, the nanny arrives, and everyone has breakfast.

Easton eats his breakfast and his mother, Rachel, busily packs her belongings for the workday.

The prior evening, she stayed up late preparing notes to speak at a webinar where her Property Tax firm will be represented.

Rachel's laptop and webinar notes for the day.

The three kids come come and go from the kitchen table, munching on their breakfast and chattering with each other and their mom.

Kenzie and Easton giggle while playing with their spoons.

Around 8:30, the children's nanny arrives and Easton is told to get his shoes on before leaving for pre-school.

Easton talks with his brother from the other room.

Jackson begins playing on the rails before telling his mom bye. Most mornings he makes a point to hug and kiss Rachel before she leaves for the day.

Easton and Jackson sit on the steps with one another.

The kid's favorite thing to do is explore outside on nature walks, looking for artifacts to keep in their secret hideouts. By noon most days, they finish school and are able to go out and play. This is much different than a normal school day, where they would spend 5-6 hours inside, and 1 outside for recess. While at home, their screen times are limited, with only about 20 minutes spent on devices or watching TV.

Kenzie plays on her tablet in the kid's cardboard spaceship they built the day before. In a few minutes, school begins downstairs and she must put it away.

Each week, Rachel updates what lessons are to be completed by the twins. They spend time reading aloud, completing math problems, practicing writing, and learning science and social studies with their nanny.

Kenzie and Easton's weekly lesson board.

Kenzie uses math blocks to solve her subtraction problems.

Jackson underlines his practice worksheet from the day's reading lesson.

With more time for each child to ask questions, there is also downtime to play in-between lessons.

Kenzie builds a castle after completing her math problems.

Jackson intently works on his own problems for the day.

Jackson practices word cards from his reading lesson.

After a busy morning, little brother Easton comes home and the outside activities begin. Eagerly, the kids gather with their neighbors and go searching for critters outside.

Jackson shows off the Frog and slugs that he found.

Friday's in Jyoshsna and Gkreddy's apartment consist of sensory activity and an "off-day" from the online school their 5-year-old son is enrolled in.

Jyo and her son Goutham pull up apps on his tablet, where most of his assignments are completed.

Eagerly, Goutham shows where his classmate's names are displayed.

Jyo and her husband explained that the best part of Goutham's school staying total virtual is how involved they get to be with his learning. They felt like there is an increased awareness of knowing what their son learns each week, and where they can supplement his studies.

Jyo's cooks an afternoon meal and prepares a ginger tea for me. Her brother joins us in the kitchen briefly, helping Goutham choose a snack.

Because her husband Gkreddy works from home, the whole family has the opportunity to spend the days with one another. Often, they go fishing or on hikes in the nearby trails. More time at home means more quality time together, which is important to their families' values.

Goutham shows off a toy from his sensory objects basket.

Once the pandemic's stay home orders extended, they chose to make his space as comfortable as possible. Goutham started using his father's previous work desk to do his weekly zoom meetings and keep his notebooks in.

Goutham's school desk, notebooks, and outdoor patio craft table. Pictured above the desk is his weekly schedule, with the online meeting times highlighted in blue.

Goutham's points to earth on his Solar System Craft.

While each family had to make different decisions for their children's learning this year, they share the need to make these choices because of the intrusion of COVID early in the year. Who knows what the next few months will look like, but for now, these families are grateful for the extra time spent with their children, the community around them, and the ability to have more freedom in day-to-day activities.

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