With a whirlwind of confusion and panic looming over the upcoming school year, many parents are looking for answers. Austin Mayor Steve Adler has recently stated that virtual schooling is likely to go beyond the initial Sept. 8 plan, leaving many parents wondering what to do next. We’ve got resources to help you navigate schooling during COVID!
Teachers are also greatly affected by the uncertainty of the upcoming school year, and some recently protested at the Texas Capitol and TEA Headquarters in Downtown Austin to make their voices heard. But despite setbacks, disagreements, and uncertainty, Austin parents and teachers are uniting to create a stable, productive school year for children.
Here are a few questions to ask, places to connect with other parents, and find community support.
Resources to help you navigate schooling during COVID | Teacher-Led or Parent-Led?
One of the biggest decisions parents are facing is whether to be their child’s guide through virtual schooling, or hire a teacher to assist. For many parents working full-time jobs within or outside the home, multitasking between homeschooling and work is not an option. Some parents remain concerned about the lack of socialization their children might face. Other parents may not feel they have the capacity to be a teacher to their child, especially if their child typically receives special education services at school. Dual-language students with parents who are not bilingual also face unique challenges in the road ahead.
Resources to help you navigate schooling during COVID | Virtual Schooling Resources
Fortunately, homeschooling has been well established in Texas for many years, and there are hundreds of great options for parents looking for support to help navigate their journey ahead. In addition to the curriculum given by public school administrators, there are many supplemental resources available to parents.
Khan Academy offers many free classes and resources for parents, including daily schedules for families to help navigate their virtual schooling days. Khan Academy offers classes from Pre-K to college level, including “get ready” courses that help children prepare for their next grade level.
Outschool is a network of online classes and camps, with over 50,000 classes available for kids of all ages. Classes range in subjects from English to Life Skills to Coding and Tech. One section of classes is entirely dedicated to learning with Minecraft, with classes such as “Aprender y Jugar a La Vez! Learn Spanish While Playing Minecraft”. Many history classes offer teachings of varying perspectives and cultures, such as “Black History from a Decolonized Perspective” and “Peace and Conflict Studies — Irish, African, and Indigenous Alliances“.
Local group Girls Empowerment Network is an established program for girls in grades 3-12, including those who are trans and non-binary. GEN offers virtual check-ins, virtual girl connect, parent/guardian workshops and more.
For parents of smaller children who want to supplement their education with additional learning, many educational apps are available. Homer is a personalized early learning program that is accessible on a tablet and grows with your child’s level of learning. Skybrary is an interactive library of books, including educational videos hosted by LeVar Burton. Vooks brings storybooks to life with read-along animations and additional activities for parents to engage with their children.
Resources to help you navigate schooling during COVID | Learning Pods
Many parents have joined together to create learning pods — small groups of children who are close in age or are enrolled in the same grade, who share a private teacher. Parents split the cost of the teacher or tutor, making the option more affordable for some. Facebook group South Austin Quaranteam recently formed to connect parents, teachers, and available resources. A survey on the group page helps parents to identify their family’s risk tolerance level based on the family’s activities and lifestyle. By identifying families’ risk levels, parents are better able to form pods that minimize the risk of exposure within the pod.
Learning pods come with their own gray areas, however. Legal protections and regulations are still unclear to many parents wanting to form pods, and there are many questions that remain unanswered. While many parents have shared their own research in the South Austin Quaranteam group, it is best to seek professional legal advice to stay within the state’s guidelines when forming pods.
Resources to help you navigate schooling during COVID | Finding the Right Group
In addition to considering risk levels, parents are also forming pods based upon specific needs such as dual-language or dyslexia, as well as location. Since the South Austin Quaranteam formed, more Facebook groups have been created. Hays County Quaranteam has formed, as well as smaller age-centered groups such as South Austin Kindergarten 2020-2021. Stronger Together ATX, created by parent Diana Haggerty, “offers working families in Austin & surrounding areas with information, guidance, and support as they navigate the changing social and educational landscape.” School at Home-Austin is a local service that helps Austin families create learning pods based upon their needs by connecting parents and teachers.
While the upcoming school year will most certainly present its share of obstacles for all of us, the ability to virtually connect with teachers, resources, and the community around us is perhaps the biggest benefit we share. Parents connecting with each other who would have otherwise never known each other, teachers meeting students they never would have crossed paths with under normal circumstances, and the Austin community binding together in ways it never imagined it would have to do — these are beautiful beginnings of our storm of uncertainty.