What is your school offering in terms of zoom/assignments?

As online instruction is new to most of us, I wonder what your school is offering. Our daughter goes to a private K-8 school, Ecole Bilingue, and is in K. She gets 2 30-minute zoom sessions with her whole K class daily, plus another 2 20-minute zoom sessions with fewer kids weekly, for a total of just under 6 hours of zoom time per week. She also gets a lot of assignments. Our local Oakland public school offers 1 30-minute zoom session daily, for a total of 2.5 hours of zoom per week.

For us, more zoom time and fewer assignments would be very valuable. Assignments take up parent time; zoom frees it up. And we're very short on parent time. The assignments are pedagogically useful, to some extent, but there's also some value to zoom time, I think. This is especially because we're paying Ecole Bilingue tuition so that our daughter learns a foreign language that we don't speak at home. 

What have your experiences been? Is your school offering too much or too little? (I have heard through the grapevine that some schools have tried zoom all day and found it exhausting for the students, but don't know if this is true). Any and all advice welcome as we navigate this new world

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Our bilingual preschool, Colibri, is providing one 30ish minute Zoom call per day. They had been doing it all the classes together, but as of today switched to having the 2 year olds, 3 year olds and 4s seperated by class so that they could have smaller groups and interact more with their maestras. Today also they for the first time provided materials we could pick up for each child from the school parking lot during a particular window of time for the whole week. Before that they were just sending out lesson plans and activity suggestions via email. The parents also created a shared spreadsheet of educational resources, including bilingual and Spanish-language ones, that we're sharing to support our kids in their language learning.

Our children are younger than yours, but our experience is that Zoom doesn't actually free up parent time, as we have to sit with our kids and encourage them to participate and pay attention. I think this is mostly their age and our kids being on the more high-energy end of the spectrum and not the maestras being uninteresting. I'd be interested in hear what others experience is of young kids and Zoom.

Hi there! Our kids are in elementary and middle school at the East Bay German International School (EBGIS) in Emeryville. When the schools all started closing EBGIS moved right away to a really impressive online learning program. It’s been amazing for our kids and I hope other schools follow their example!

For my middle schooler, the daily class schedule hasn’t changed since they went online. Pretty much every class session starts with a video meeting (they don’t use zoom, but another platform called Microsoft Teams which is integrated with their school calendar and has all their assignments and teacher feedback on it). At the video meetings the teachers give instruction and an assignment and answer questions and sometimes also have group discussion. Then usually after maybe 20-30 minutes the whole-group session will end and the kids will do video calls with small groups of their classmates or will work on their individual assignments for the rest of the class time. Then the next class starts with that class’s teacher doing a video call with all the students, and so on.

That format has worked great for my kid and the couple others whose parents I’ve talked to. Having video classes like clockwork at the usual class times keeps the kids in the rhythm of the school day and keeps them from feeling isolated. And then having some interspersed offline time keeps the kids from being glued to the screen the whole day.

For the elementary school students, the faculty decided that it’s healthier to have less online time. So they have about three out of six class periods per day plus a one-on-one meeting with their homeroom teacher, plus their teacher is on call for an hour or two every day so kids can do a video call if they have questions. Every morning each kid receives a “daily plan,” which is a chart showing exactly what assignments they need to do in every subject by the end of the day. The kids submit all their assignments to their teacher -- they usually send a photo or use a scanner if they have one. The teacher gives feedback on the work at the one-on-one video call the same day or the next day.

That approach has worked really well for my elementary school kid, it’s enough video class time so he feels connected to his teacher and classmates and can stay pretty well on task. I’ve been super impressed with how the teachers have adapted to teaching online. The P.E. teacher is especially amazing, I keep finding my kid doing sprints up and down the stairs or ball games using rolled up socks or moving in other creative ways under the constraints we’re all under. My kid is making the usual progress in all his school subjects and is just as excited about school as he was before shelter in place.

I don’t know how much can be replicated in other schools because the teachers at EBGIS are pretty extraordinary plus the class sizes are really small, probably around ten kids per class on average. But it goes to show that school online can work! I hope some of these methods are helpful! Best of luck to you!

Great post/question! We have two very different experiences at home because of the age difference of our kids. My daughter is in 1st gr and my son in 6th grade at the East Bay German International School. My son's school day is basically the same with all his classes online and he is able to work independently and keep up with all of the 6th grade curriculum and the language (which is so important because we don't speak much German at home). So we have been thrilled with that. It is much more challenging with my daughter, just because of her age and strong will. I feel like the school has done an amazing job....they have a regular homeroom meeting every morning (I can get some work done!) and after that have a mix of online classes and independent work time (meaning assignments she can do with us at home) and then at the end of the school day they have another group meeting to reconnect, read a story etc. One thing I appreciate is that they have divided her class into small groups so that the kids who need to work more on their German can get small group help with that, and for the kids who are here from Germany and need more help with their English, they can get that. I also appreciate that they offer daily one on one help for any kids who need it and we have been doing that and it's been a big help (because I don't know any German and my husband, who knows German, is even more busy than I am with his work). All in all the teachers have put so much into it and really done an amazing job. I've learned when I can get my work done while she is doing her various online classes. The challenging part is that I think it's hard for her to be on the computer so much. Mostly she does fine with it but we are on spring break this week and they offered a  free online camp  for elementary students which I really wanted her to do, mostly to keep up with her German and because it looks fun, but she is super resistant and I can tell just needs a break from all the online teaching time......one more thing I'll add is that I appreciate that the teachers give us alot of structure and offer a decent amount of online classes, but sometimes I just have to let go of "school" and take breaks from it because it can be too much for my daughter (not just the school but everything!).  So I really appreciate that it's all there for when we need it but fine if we don't do it all.  take care, Melissa

I agree with you, it seems like since your daughter is in a language school, it would be beneficial for her to be in Zoom classes more than 6 hours each week!

My child attends a private elementary school and has about 8-9 hours of zoom time each week and then about an hour or two of independent work. Usually all work is done by noon and then there is nothing to do in the afternoons.  I have been disappointed with the education since they have gone to the on-line learning. I would prefer they offer more time on zoom with the teacher.

Our son is in kindergarten at East Bay German International School (EBGIS) and we have been using Microsoft Teams.  There is a daily 20-30 minute online session with a teacher and 3 kids focused on academics (for us right now it's about syllables and sounds in words).

There are also optional online sessions with different preschool and kindergarten teachers each day from 8:30am-2pm that all preschool and kindergarten students can join.  The optional sessions are for movement, art, story time, and project time.  We've only been attending an hour each day of the optional sessions since even those at first required parental oversight to stay on track - though he's getting better now about learning when to mute and un-mute himself.

EBGIS has also been sending a daily newsletter to preschool and kindergarten parents with links to stories/songs, arts and crafts projects, and learning objectives (e.g. it's spring and time to look for flowers) that match with the optional sessions.  The kindergartners have also discovered how to call each other on Teams so we've had a few mid-day play dates that way.

The assignments are pretty minimal (~10 minutes or less per day for us) and come from the smaller Teams sessions.  I can't imagine our son sitting still for a full day of online interaction at his age, so I like the offering.  We also speak German at home already though, so he hears it outside of school.

Our preschooler attends the East Bay Waldorf School. The older children are getting some in-person Zoom instruction from their teachers, but the early childhood teachers have basically transitioned to being parenting coaches -- they provide rhymes, recipes, articles, etc., as well as what has so far been a very responsive presence via text/email, regular evening conferences with parents, and an occasional brief one-on-one video call with students. This works OK for us as I'm home full-time with our younger child, and the preschool/kindergarten routine at EBWS isn't something that would transition very well to a virtual setting.

I think your point about assignments is definitely worth considering -- even setting the wackiness of my own kid's school aside (no academics in Waldorf until 1st grade, which I acknowledge is unorthodox by mainstream standards), I've seen dozens and dozens of educational professionals from all corners of the field talking about how these are not normal times, and homeschool is different from group instruction even under normal circumstances. The most important thing for your kid right now is to feel supported, loved, and like she's in a safe, predictable environment; the most important thing for you her parents right now is to do what you have to do to protect your own mental and emotional health so that you can be there for her through this challenging time. If that means your daughter doesn't do some, or most, or all of her EB assignments for a little while, I don't think that's crazy. I've also seen the point made many times that you shouldn't worry about your kid falling "behind" right now; everyone's school year is disrupted, everyone will be a little off when they start school again in the fall. They will figure it out together.

As far as the other part of your question, which I read as (at least in part) "am I still getting my money's worth out of my school?" -- I think the real answer is no, none of us are getting what we're paying for right now. I see it as much the same kind of thing as buying gift certificates from your favorite restaurant and continuing to pay your babysitter even if they can't watch your kids -- if you want your school to be there when this is all over, paying tuition, even for less-than-ideal offerings, is a hugely important piece of making it more likely that that happens.

Our K-8 is not a language immersion school, but only has one 30-minute Zoom a day for K (though more for older grades). Frankly even that is a challenge because our internet is so overwhelmed, so sometimes we can hear everyone and sometimes we can't. Sometimes it just won't connect at all. I would not want more than an hour a day on Zoom, max. So just a different perspective--those on different technology and internet speeds experience Zoom quite differently. Our school is primarily doing brief academic lessons (pre-recorded video intro from teacher and then 15-minute paper-based activity), no more than a couple of hours a day max, which is consistent with what they do in "real" school since so much of kindergarten is play-based and social-emotional learning. I do think it's interesting that you say that the assignments take up parent time while Zoom frees it up; our experience has been the reverse. I wonder if part of the challenge you're having is that the assignments aren't structured in a way that the kids can do them independently. That is something our teachers have had to tweak, but now that we're a few weeks in, most activities are pretty self-directed and while we have to help with transitions between activities, our child generally does the activities themselves independently. You might reach out to your teacher to share that concern and see if they can structure the assignments to have less parental involvement. Our school also encourages connections between individual kids, which can be (but don't have to be) on Zoom or FaceTime; I wonder if that might be helpful for your situation to have more Zoom time and also have the kids practice the language a bit more?

Our kindergartener goes to EBGIS, East Bay German International School in Emeryville (K-8). Instruction is bilingual, and no German language skills are necessary to join the school, especially in the younger grades. Just like in-person instruction, the curriculum is bilingual German/English, and inclusive of non-German speaking families to help their kids navigate the program (e.g. instructions in English even though the assignment might be in German). 

The school has created an amazing program within a crazy short amount of time! The full online curriculum was created and available within a few days of school closure. 

The program is divided into Early childhood (Preschool & K), Elementary, and Middle School.

Our kindergartener has a school readiness check-in with his teacher every weekday for 20 minutes in a group of 3 students. We receive both printed and downloadable materials for the kids to work on. In addition, the early childhood program offers a variety of sessions including morning movement, morning circle, arts & crafts, and storytime for every weekday from 8:30am-2pm. All sessions except for the school readiness sessions are recorded and made available to enable families to use them whenever it works with their individual schedules. All communication, including videoconferencing, is done in Microsoft Teams. 

The Early Childhood program also sends out a daily newsletter (anyone can sign up for it at ebgis.org), which includes a preview of the daily program as well as additional suggestions for family activities. 

I think this depends on your kindergartener but I can't imagine them having the patience and attention span for the kind of online instruction you're envisioning. My kindergartener at an Oakland public school certainly does not. His zoom time now is amounting to 2 hours per week and that's enough. He also does assignments, goes through online lessons via Google classroom (watching his teacher's pre-recorded videos and completing assignments), and also gets time on ST Math, Lexia, and Freckle. And we offer him ABC Mouse too. He also has GoNoodle for some PE as well as what we do for him. Most of the stuff I referenced above, he can do on his own without too much intervention from us. Maybe you should look into supplementing your kids' instruction in other ways because that amount of Zoom time is just not realistic for that age level. 

Our child at Berkeley High School, classes fell off a cliff.  Only two of his classes assigned any significant work.

Our child at a private school they lost three days, and are up and running.  They keep the regular schedule with the entire class on video chat (not zoom), and then break into kid to kid video sessions for assignments.  They "turn in" assignments by holding them up to the camera.  Working pretty well.

The Wall Street Journal op-ed "Every child left behind in Berkeley" mirrors our experience, except without the learning disability angle.

Hello! We have two kids, a first grader and a fourth grader, at The Academy in Berkeley and we couldn't be more impressed with their online curriculum. 

The Academy transitioned seamlessly to online learning the Monday after SIP went into effect. Their preparedness allowed our kids to maintain the standard educational M-F schedule and made the transition much smoother since they didn't have a period of downtime in which to lose their routine.  

Each Sunday, the following week's schedule is distributed, along with a day-by-day list of the lesson plans and homework.  We print out the calendars and post them in the Family Command Center (a repurposed easel that sits prominently in the family room...don't judge! with three kids and two working parents, our grip on sanity is tenuous at best), and we put the lesson plans into their binders.  My first-grader starts at 9am with independent work that is assigned the night before.  He then starts direct instruction (Zoom) with his class at 10am.  My fourth-grader starts with her class via Zoom at 9am.  Following their morning classes, the kids have various sessions with their primary and specialty teachers that last for the rest of the day (until 3pm, or 2pm on Wednesday).  They get breaks for snack and lunch. Twice a week the teachers have breakout sessions with small groups to allow for more active discussions. 

One great advantage of The Academy's system in the online format is the specialty teachers (French, Science, Music, Art, and PE).  Because these subjects are not taught by their primary teacher, the kids get to see a variety of faces and teaching styles each day.  This variety keeps my kids engaged, which is an impressive feat to achieve with a 9-year-old, and positively amazing with a 6-year-old.  Another advantage is that class size is capped at 12.  The small classes allow the teachers to keep visual contact with all the kids via "gallery view" on Zoom; they can thus raise their hands as they would in class, and group discussions are manageable.    

Following the school day, they typically take an hour of down-time, have a snack, do some exercise (the PE teacher has put together an optional running/training schedule for a future 5k) and then get their homework/music/art projects/reading/etc done.  My first-grader has about 30 minutes of homework a night, while my fourth-grader gets about an hour.  The assignments are manageable without parental input, which we both appreciate.

The communication between parents and teachers has been excellent--just the right amount of information, and only a couple emails per week.  The overall tone has been ideal: positive, encouraging, and empowering.  They have struck a nice balance between maintaining standards/expectations and allowing families the latitude to acclimate to this new process.  The Head of School, John Lynch, has continued to be a beacon for both teachers and parents. His weekly newsletter and essay are a high-point of my Fridays.

I hope this description is helpful. Overall, our take-home has been that maintaining a strict M-F schedule and encouraging (nay, forcing) the kids to work independently whenever possible frees us up to get some work done ourselves. Failing that, there's always Dragon Prince on Netflix!

I feel so sad about the educational disparity that is again apparent here. We are at OUSD with K and 1st graders. No online learning system was implemented until after April 20 or so and it's been a lot of trial and error. Disorganized and unrealistic. Frantic information sharing. The teacher just started online class meeting for an hour for a class of 25 kids which was a disaster. They're now doing 30 min. sessions twice a week for the whole class and once a week small group class. Teacher emails assignments and learning plans that are expected but not mandatory. I have felt completely abandoned by the school until now. 

With young kids, these classes mean parents must take time off and be with the kid to help with tech, help stay engaged, etc. 

We are allowing our kids to stand up if needed and have a small sized snacks and fidget toys to make it through the larger group calls. 

Our daughter attends The Academy School and is in the third grade.  We have been live with remote learning since March 18, and she has been live with her teachers daily on Zoom. The school has maintained the same block schedule that the students are accustomed to on campus, and all classes have been a combination of Zoom live lessons and projects, plus daily assigned work, some due during the day and some assigned as homework.  I feel that the balance is good between the live Zoom classes (on-screen time) and off screen time for assignment and projects.  I’d say that she’s on Zoom with her homeroom teacher between 8-9 hours/week, plus another 5-6 hours/week with her subject teachers.  The teachers have all really adapted to the remote learning and are doing a great job of trying to balance the amount of live/screen time with assignments that foster learning off screen, and will adapt assignments and Zoom time weekly based on how the students are doing.  I’ve really been impressed by The Academy’s swiftness and efficiency in getting the school on line, working with the parents to help create as much of a balance as possible, being tuned in to the students not just academically but emotionally, and keeping us informed and up to date without overwhelming us with emails or unnecessary information.  We couldn’t ask for a better school to be in during this new way of life.

My children go to The Academy in the Elmwood district. It is also a K-8 private school, which happens to also include French classes for all ages. They do a mix of Zoom and non-screen activities. My first grader needs a bit of guidance, but my third grader can do her whole school day entirely independently (with some alarms set for her to remind her when her classes are).  Too much Zoom is not a good thing, the screen really wears on both the students and teachers, and you don't quite get the same group atmosphere of discussion- too many distractions and technical issues.

My third grader gets on average about maybe 3 hours of zoom a day - including subject classes like music and science, and 3 non-screen hours. It's a pretty good balance, and she can do her assignments independently. There is a good pacing. My first grader gets maybe closer to 2 hours, with more down time in between activities. That's good for her because she gets tired more easily. Her assignments are still largely independent but of course she needs a bit more guidance from me to keep her on schedule- this is to be expected in a situation like this.

Zoom all day is NOT something you want for your kids. It's exhausting. I think as parents we have to accept that we are going to have to be more hands-on with our kids during this time. That being said, the Academy really pulled together to get a digital curriculum in place. Everyone worked as a team, so there is coherence. I'm actually very impressed at how quickly they got everything together and how hard they worked. Is it as good being in person? Well, no. None of us can have that right now. Even homeschoolers have outside activities. But from my understanding, the Academy handled it much better and much more professionally than most, especially in the public sector. It seems like your school is doing fine as well. Since your daughter is in K, less screen time makes sense, and ramping it up per grade level seems to be the norm.