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How to make remote learning work? Unmute!

This article is part of our latest Learn special reportsFocuses on how remote learning shapes the future.

Once upon a time, at a home in Englewood, NJ, gray paint had come off with age, but there were three children who had been homeschooling for 14 years.

Their parents, Cassia and Roland Davis, met in New York long before the children arrived, but all three in 2010, from when Zachary was seven, Luke was four, and Sophia was two. I started homeschooling. The Montessori school is crowded.

“We complained and they kicked us out,” Davis recalled. He and Davis were “not impressed” by the local public school, he said. “And we didn’t think we could get financial support for private schools as white middle-class people,” he added. (A couple, a massage therapist, met while working at the Hamptons Spa.)

To prepare for homeschooling, the couple read a lot about the Montessori method. “The main idea we’ve covered is to create an environment that encourages children to learn,” Davis said. They also read parenting books, especially the classic “speak as children listen, listen as children speak” and “speak so that children can learn” by the same author, Adele Faber. — At home and at school ”. And Elaine Mazurish.

From the beginning, Davis shared both the big picture of children’s education and the choice of minutes, and took advantage of their very different educational experiences. Davis commute from New Jersey, attend a private Horaceman School in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, and graduate from Harvard University. Davis attended public schools in several different states and took several college classes, but did not have a college degree.

Eventually, after four years of homeschooling, Davis learned that his family was actually eligible for a scholarship. First all three at Elizabeth Morrow School in the neighborhood, now Zachary, a 12th grade student at Loomis Chafy School in Windsor. For Connecticut and Luke, a ninth grader at the Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, this fall he provided his family with the long-awaited computer for remote learning. Choosing to return to homeschooling later, Sophia, now in her sixth year, wants to win a similarly competitive boarding school scholarship when the time comes.

In an interview in their backyard, we asked Zachary (now 17 years old), Luke (15 years old in November), Sophia (13 years old) and their mother (who considers the school a “principal”). I asked him what advice he would give to his family who are currently homeschooling. Or I am doing school at home. Not surprisingly, teenagers also advised parents and other adults.

This conversation has been edited and summarized.

What is your greatest secret to making home study work for you?

The Curry I realized that zooming takes courage to join a conversation because you actually have to actively click the unmute button when it’s muted. There is a long silence in discussion-based classes because I found it adding another layer. If you leave it unmuted, you don’t have to go through the steps of clicking the mute button. It’s more natural.

If no one can see or hear you, is it like floating behind the class and being this lazy?

The Curry Yeah, that’s not an exaggeration. People like me who speak a lot in class are calm from what they were in the classroom before.

So the idea is to be seen and make it easier to pipe spontaneously? Sophia, does this apply to you too? Is the pod you are with other students as a home schooler, of course, zoomed?

Sophia Yes, I had a similar experience of turning off the camera, turning on mute, and not engaging. I felt disconnected when everything was off. For example, I wasn’t in class and I wasn’t learning anything. I was daydreaming, googled things, and watched Netflix.

Then I turned on the camera and started to speak out as much as possible. And it’s not easy and it really changes how you feel, even if you’re nervous. If you’re unmuted and your face is visible on the screen, it’s definitely a better experience, like in the classroom.

The Curry Children also need a workspace where they can talk in Zoom and come and go with their classmates and teachers without fear of unmuting.

Speaking of Luke, workspace, please tell us a little about how to set up this semester and why.

Luka last spring [when classes went remote], I was downstairs in the basement and turned off all but one light. Both my parents told me not to do that, but I didn’t ask. I’m just in the dark and I think it really ruined how I felt. The spring semester was really bad.

And now are you starting your first year of boarding school from home?

Luka Now I have a big window in front of me and my space in my room has a lot of natural light. And I’m doing much better.

So what are some of the practical challenges of learning in a home environment that you have addressed, or perhaps still addressed?

The Curry If you have your own space, it may be really easy to live almost exclusively. By 8 pm during my spring semester, I find that my day was essentially in my room. There was no change in the scenery and it became monotonous. It affected how much I woke up every day and how much I could concentrate.

So going to another place in the house, changing the scenery a little and regaining a little energy is a very easy hole and I think it’s very important between classes. Also, if you have noise problems in your house and have trouble staying focused, work outside if possible.

I also had a bad posture, a pain in my back, a headache, and a little pain in my eyes. One of the ways I’m dealing with everything is to use a book and a computer stand to lift the computer. That way I won’t bend down. It sounds like a small thing, but I think it helps with your posture and mood.

Luke and Sophia, you are young, so what role do you think your parents have to play when homeschooling and schooling at home?

Luka Parents must clearly play a more practical role in school at home than homeschooling. Also, be aware that Zoom can be really tiring to sit in front of your computer all day during class or homework.

Sophia I think it’s best not to control too much. But if the child is not working, is really separated from the world, or is just in the room, check the child as they are isolated from the world at home, away from friends and not allowed. Please give me. Get out.

CASIA And I think the way parents can help is that we have to be flexible. I want everything to be clean, neat and organized. I just have to let go because my three kids are at home all day and rushing between classes. Did you see the pizza skin in Zack’s room? I have to be okay with the food upstairs and the reality of the busy three kids. And part of that is to love children more than to love the way I want a home.

Please tell us about the conflicts that have arisen between families over school education at home.

The Curry Luke, he’s absolutely amazing, so you’re not in conflict with your brother, right?

Luka (False shock) Absolutely not!


The Curry The main thing is spatial conflict — there are several places in our home where it’s easier to work than others. And it was hard to negotiate.

Sophia I would say: Be aware of the situation of other people, especially if you are a large family and other people also have classes. It cannot occupy the entire space.

Luka After years of saying, she can’t play the violin in her room! (Lol)

Sophia In summary, we are always fighting!

Luka Oh, that’s great to get into the New York Times!

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