Distance Learning in Middle & High School

Parent Q&A

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  • Unable to do school using Zoom

    (1 reply)

    Hi. My daughter is almost 16 years old and just finished 10th grade. She used to be a great student but failed most of her 10th grade classes with Fs due to anxiety (and possibly depression) which started during distance learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our public schools were closed for 1.5 years. My daughter is now back to her old self and doing well in school, but during distance learning she was unable to keep up with Zoom classes when she had to work in small groups. She used to disconnect without warning and said she couldn't handle being on Zoom working on small teams. Even though she seems to be doing well now with in-person school I am worried that if her class(es) are quarantined, and they have to again go back to Zoom, the same pattern will repeat again. So, I am trying to see if somebody might be able to diagnose the cause of these issues so, if we face a similar situation again, we may avoid the same outcome. Any suggestions on how to find out what caused this behavior and how to prevent it in the future? Any recommendations? Thanks in advance!

    Hi. Your description of your daughter's situation is pretty high level, so I don't feel as though I can offer very specific input in response; but there was enough resonance that I thought a brief description of my own daughter's challenges might serve some purpose for you.

    Our kid was a top student through 9th grade; but her 9th grade year wasn't also absolutely traumatic. She wound up withdrawing from her local private day school and going across the country, to a private boarding school--at her own insistence--for 10th grade. She barely scraped through a semester there before she had a pretty profound collapse (depression, anxiety, disordered eating) and came home, completing her 10th grade year at a local one-on-one learning academy. From there, despite the fact that we had her working with a psychologist, eating disorder specialist, and psychiatrist (again, per her own request), things only got worse.

    To make a long story somewhat shorter, after three years of trying treatments for anxiety and depression, and three more school placements, she finally, finally was given a diagnosis of bipolar II, and was also given meds appropriate to that diagnosis (as opposed to the wide variety meds she had been given over the previous three years for depression and mitigation of OCD). 

    MAGIC. Oh my gosh, just world-changing.

    She's now living independently and attending community college away from home.

    All of this is to say: Don't spend your time worrying about whether or not there will be quarantine days ahead. Stay focused, even now while daughter is feeling good, on making sure you have systems in place that will help you and her get to the clearest possible understanding of what underlies the depression/anxiety she experienced in the quarantine times. It's possible that it was exactly what it seemed on the face of things, but a broad inability to cope with having to be present in small-group interactions over zoom....that could be something other, and more specific, than generalized anxiety. 

    Good luck to you and your daughter.

  • Hi

    My son who will be a HS sophomore will be severely immunocompromised in the Fall and will need an online or remote school option for approximately 6 months.  We live in Oakland.  I am wondering if anyone has experience with any remote/online curriculum or public school based Home/Hospital school?  My son is not a particularly motivated student but looking to keep him on track.


    We used Acellus Academy this past year and it worked extremely well for my son. He is not a motivated student and has some learning issues, but it was so clear and organized that he had no problems at all and got great grades. He also learned more than he did in his in-person school. They have a scholarship option (open to all) that makes it very affordable. 


    There's a lot to consider when your child is immunocompromised or has a chronic illness. My daughter was in the same boat. There are lots of online schools that you can look into. However, you first have to see if your son can keep up with the curriculum. My daughter started at Vista HS which is in the West Contra Costa school district. She's meet with teachers weekly, review homework, get assignments, etc. It worked for a bit until her health needs changed and she could no longer keep up with the curriculum. At that time, she switched to home/hospital and the district sent a teacher to our home xxx hours per week. The teacher can adapt the curriculum as needed based on your child's learning abilities at that time.

    To do this through the district, you need an IEP or 504 plan. The IEP is through the special ed department and a 504 is through the general education program. They are different and have different timelines and gatekeepers and parameters. If you think he'll need help for a short time (1 school year), then I suggest you look into a 504 first. As the school year just ended, it may be more difficult to apply and get assessments in place, so I encourage you to get on it before the school people take off at the end of June. The process begins when you write a formal request. 

    Best wishes to you and your family.

    OUSD has a few different programs that can accommodate this; reach out to the Student Assignment Center. Sojourner Truth is the district's K-12 independent study program, and they also run a Home & Hospital program. There will also be a new online distance learning option for next year. The main thing to ask about, if your child is already enrolled in an OUSD school, is how the choice of program may affect his ability to return to his home school at the end of the six months if he is hoping to transition back mid-year.

  • There's been lots of talk about students who are checking out of remote learning, but we have a slightly different issue: a teacher who appears to have checked out. I'm looking for advice on how to handle this without making matters worse (for both the teacher and the students).

    The background is that everything was great in the fall semester. The teacher was teaching, student engagement of course varied. My son was, however, very engaged and worked very hard for this class (which is in a subject that doesn't come easily for him). He went to office hours when he needed help, asked questions in class, and the teacher was responsive, answered questions, explained things, graded homework, and entered grades in a timely manner, etc.

    But now with spring semester, everything has totally changed. Apparently, a number of students were caught cheating on the final exam. The teacher was understandably angry and frustrated. But since that time, she seems to have mentally checked out of the class entirely. She doesn't provide strong instruction, doesn't grade work, has entered no grades into the online grade book. My son has reached out for help during office hours, but was blown off. He doesn't know what to do and is, for the first time this year, starting to fall behind. He also has no idea how he is really doing in the class because she has stopped grading assignments. He doesn't want his final grade to be a surprise. 

    Normally I try to stay out of these situations and prefer to allow my son to learn to advocate for himself, but he has tried that and, as I said, was blown off my the teacher. But what can I do? I certainly don't want to escalate the situation, but I do think my son has a right to be taught and to be given feedback in the form of corrected assignments. 

    Any advice? 

    I'm guessing your son is in high school? If he has tried to communicate with the teacher more than once, my next step would probably be to have him reach out to his guidance counselor for help. At some point he needs to go up the chain, and it sounds like the time has come. 

    I don't know how responsive the administrators at your son's school are, but I would think he, or you, would want to contact whatever dean is responsible for overseeing teachers.  He's already tried directly with the teacher, with no response.  Totally justified to talk to the teacher's "boss"--dean of faculty, vice-principal, principal, whatever is most appropriate.  If it's high school, I think it's also fine for the parent to contact them.

  • I am a mother of a 16 year old girl who is a junior at a public high school. She has been struggling since last March with online learning. She manages to attend her classes but is extremely bored and does only about 30 minutes of homework a night. I feel like I have tried every possible angle, from consequences to rewards, to try and motivate her. If we try the heavy handed route it back fires and she gets even angrier and more rebellious. So I've decided to stop fighting with her. It is causing too much stress in our household. Trying to work with her is the only way we have found to get anywhere with her. She does not want to see a counselor for her depression. I have been making some arrangements so she can socially distance outside with her friends and volunteer taking care of horses which she loves. But none of it is inspiring her to do her homework. For the most part she spends hours in her room on her phone and watching Netflix. I have reached out to the school and her teachers, but she refuses to join the study pods they have set up at the school. I feel like I am done with pressuring her. It is hurting our relationship. I feel like it is more important to be a loving and supportive parent during these incredibly hard times. She hasn't had an easy life with her father being extremely ill for most of her life and being an only child who is adopted. Any suggestions or words of support would be greatly appreciated.

    Hi, really sorry about what you are going through. I also have a 16 year old daughter who is really struggling with distance learning. She regularly tells me she hates school. In the fall she seemed to find ways to keep her grades up but this semester it's different, she's turning in assignments late or not at all and seems to have lost all motivation. Mine also spends a ton of time in her room on her phone and netflix. It's really hard to know how to help her. I think you are right that just being supportive and listening is key, and trying to find things that make them happy while school is so awful. There's no easy answers to this - not all kids are open to therapy, mine isn't either. It seems to be about trying to get through each day.  

    I am so sorry you’re both going through this, I know how hard it is, we have similar issues with my daughter. The one thing I wanted to say is to encourage you’re feeling the connection is more important right now than homework. That’s what we are focusing on, and I let go of all my expectations around school. This is an unprecedented event and our kids are so young and dealing with it as best they can. Once I realized schoolwork is not what is important right now, it helped her relationship and I’ve been able to help her feel better. For me right now, that is all that matters.

    In my opinion, even the very best online learning programs are absolutely failing some kids. The suggestion of yet more zoom calls (study pods) to address gaps exemplified the problem.  The kid is in distress from too much virtual, not enough IRL, and so we tell them to do more virtual to fix the problem. Being away from in-person school this long has been a trauma that has exacerbated the broader trauma of the pandemic for many kids. They have no escape from the often pandemic-heightened stresses of their households. They have all the pressure and stress of school but none of the human connection to motivate and buoy them through it.  I know teachers are working so hard to make it as good as it can be, but for many kids, it’s the distance learning model itself that is the problem. My kid is maintaining her grades, but I see her spirit slowly fading. She was okay for a while but it’s like the loneliness with no clear end is finally taking a real toll. For adults a year is just one year, but for kids, it’s the only kindergarten or fifth grade or junior year they will ever have, and they are doing it all alone in their bedrooms with no access to the in-person connections that normally motivate them through the hard and stressful parts. They feel like their lives are stuck in amber and they are getting older without the opportunities to grow in ways they need to.  I know of vulnerable kids who once absolutely depended on the haven of school from troubled families who are now suicidal without it. This isolation is just too long. Too much is being asked of these kids, and not enough recognition is being made of their trauma and their sacrifice.  It’s no longer just a little malaise or restlessness for many kids. I guess this is not useful advice so much as empathy for your daughter, and a hope she can be given the grace she needs to get through this however she can. I do think if you can find any in-person activities for her or afford to move her to an in-person private school, that might help but she’ll still need time.  In the meantime, can you find a a camp or something for summer that can get her off the computer and back with some other kids?  

    I'm sorry your daughter is struggling; these are really hard times.  I think you are on the right track to stop pressuring her about school if it is damaging your relationship.  Sure it's possible that her college options will be more limited if her junior grades aren't that great, but so what?  She can figure that out later.  One thing that helped me and my teens this past year was to ask ourselves the question "But what CAN we do?"  It has helped to take away some of the feelings of powerlessness and reframed our choices.  Of course this not what your daughter thought high school would look like, but encourage her to figure out what new options are open to her with distance learning.  Does she love the outdoors?  Can you go somewhere else for a while where there are cool things to do when she's finished with classes?  It sounds like you are already doing this a little bit with the horses and friends, but can you go big?  Can you turn this crappy situation into an amazing opportunity?  It may not be possible, but even just brainstorming with her might help her feel like she has some say in what her life looks like.  I think the hardest part about this for many teens has been that they are just waiting for their lives to re-start.  Maybe you all can find the positives (there really are some) and figure what options are open to her now that the world has turned upside down.  It may not make any difference in her school work, but it may help with how she feels about herself and her life.

    I also want to say that it sounds like you are already on the right track with giving her the support she needs and recognizing that pressuring her wasn't productive.  Good luck.

    No great advice, but lots of commiseration! I made the same decision to prioritize my relationship and connection with my teen over getting him to comply. When I crack down, we both suffer and I don’t get the results I want. This way, I don’t get results, but at least we like each other! It’s a bitter pill to swallow, especially when I see other kids cooperating and doing their work. And the message from my extended family is that he’s spoiled and I should be tougher. But I believe this is the right path for us! Good luck!

    Many kids are going through this period in a similar way.  One of our teens is very similar to your daughter.  He was always a very involved and eager student, and with on-line learning he's completely checked out.  He cannot absorb the material in a video/verbal format and he feels inept at the homework, uninvested, and avoids much of it. It sounds like you've done everything we've thought of, and it's great that your daughter is willing to see friends in real life and really enjoys taking care of horses -- having those things she enjoys in real life is HUGE and it's a good sign she is still able to take pleasure in something.  This year is a complete loss of traditional education for many kids.  I agree that keeping your relationship strong is more important that becoming at odds with her all the time over homework. 

    If you are worried about her grades for college, does your daughter have a college counselor at school?  I'm wondering if you could get their opinion on this, how much it will "matter" if her grades suffer over the pandemic -- I imagine that colleges will take into account that the educational experiences these kids are getting vary extremely (but mostly suck), and many great students are doing very poor work under these conditions, and they can speak to that in their applications.   

    I am thinking of this period as really different from normal life.  Online school is offered but not really working for so many students. So thinking outside the box is key, with as many activities that play to her interests as you/she can muster, either in real life or online.  Perhaps she would be willing to use some of her video time to watch things that are somewhat educational -- about horses/animals, science, cooking, documentaries, historical fiction, something...?  Does she talk with friends online or play games with them?  I myself support any kind of social interaction as long as the game isn't too destructive or addictive.

    Hang in there!  You and she are far from alone.  This year is super hard on education, mood, self-esteem, social growth, social support, etc, and it will impact this whole generation.


    I really feel for you and have a lot of empathy for you all. I agree that pressuring her with rewards and consequences often doesn't work with dpression and I am so glad you are focusing on your relationship, and the horses sound great! I have a 17 year old who has struggled with depression and anxiety and school refusal. It's so hard! Hang in there!

    I am sorry that your teen is having such a difficult time. Pre-pandemic, my son was in a similar situation, struggling with school and depressed. Like you, we tried everything to try and support him and motivate him, but nothing worked. The daily battles were harming our relationship and we were all miserable. I considered what I would say to an adult friend if they came to me with a similar situation, that they were being asked to do something that was not a good fit for them, and that they hated. If they were social with friends and volunteering with something they were passionate about, it would be likely that I would advise them to quit the thing that they did not like and find a better fit for their needs and interests. I realized how awful it must be for my son to have to do something that made him so unhappy, and that he was failing at over and over. So we decided to stop. His junior year we had him take the CHSPE - https://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sp/. Upon passing, we unenrolled him from school and he began working full time in a job he enjoyed. He was making and saving money, developing new skills, and learning. Almost 4 years later, he is thriving and we have a wonderful relationship and a happy, healthy son with a bright future. I look back on his school years with such sadness and only wish I had unenrolled him earlier.

    30 minutes of homework a night doesn't sound too bad! I am also a mother of a 16yo junior, who since Zoom school started has figured out how to skate by and do the minimum, managing so far to get pretty decent grades while spending most of her time playing videogames online with her friends and to some extent pursuing her own interests and hobbies, playing music and doing arts and crafts. I also find that if I push it backfires, and it works better if she relies on her own motivation. These are strange and hard times and every kid is different. I know her current path is not likely to lead to an Ivy League college or maybe any college, right away, and I am learning to be OK with that. I feel like this is an age where we do have to stop trying to manage them and start trying to figure out how to support them. So I guess these are words of support for what you are trying to do! (:

    This sounds so familiar to me (although my child is older).  I agree with you that it is more important to be a loving supportive parent.  Try to take things day by day and try to help where you can if she wants it.  Just try to keep communication open. One thing I do daily that seems to have benefits is get in the car with them and take a long leisurely drive along the east shore highway and around Emeryville and back.  We either talk or listen to the radio, whatever they prefer.  We do this around the same time every evening and even though it's repetitive, it's somehow is soothing.

  • Remote learning and too much homework

    (4 replies)

    Hello! My daughter attends Albany High and, like everyone else around here, we've been in remote learning since March. Although it got off to a rocky start, I have generally been pleased with with the amount and level of instruction since the fall and my daughter had been doing quite well with things until recently. Since around December, we have noticed a substantial increase in homework, At first, we attributed this to the normal end of semester rush to finish first semester topics, but since returning in January and even now after semester finals, it has only gotten worse. A lot worse. I can't remember the last time my daughter has gotten more than 6 hours of sleep because she is being overloaded with homework (Note: she is in all "regular" classes - no honors or APs for which one might expect a more substantial workload). She is getting burned out quickly, to the point where, although she had adapted to the online platform, she is getting ready to "check out" of he classes entirely. It is not an issue with the difficulty of her classes - she understands and keeps up easily with the material. It is just too much homework. I am particularly frustrated because one of her teachers even explicitly said, "I have to keep you kids busy" while assigning work. Aside from the fact that it is not a teacher's job "to keep kids busy," as I said, it's gotten to the point that she is regularly up way after midnight doing work and it is taking a very bad toll on her, mentally and physically. 

    Has anyone else noticed this tendency to overcompensate for remote learning by assigning additional (or, in our case, excessive) homework? If so, how are you dealing with it? We are at about our breaking point, unfortunately, and it's not even February. Would love to hear from others about their experiences. 

    YES, absolutely seeing this for my poor 7th grader at Albany Middle School. The district has chosen to fill the required state hours of school with "asynchronous learning" - the teachers just assign a ton of material with no understanding of how long it will take, and at least my child's teachers NEVER say, stop after one hour. I think Albany is not doing great with remote learning, tbh. Overemphasis on quantity not quality.

    YES! I have two high schoolers at BHS and they are feeling this. I think it's even worse because it ALL feels like homework. With in-person learning, they might spend an hour or two at home doing work, now they are sitting on that bed/desk staring at that computer for hours as class time and homework time merge together.  No advice, just commiseration.

    Most students are struggling with Virtual Learning,   It could be difficulty  understanding the academic material, challenges with screen learning to missing the in class interaction with teachers and peers for support.   My son is completely disengage from school and is very hard for me to watch him fail.  We have done everything in our powers to provide help, support, meetings with teachers.  

    Those students doing well are not doing so well - However these students have found a way to cope with distance learning and have learn the task of using wikipedia and google to complete their task - yes they also engage in class interaction with is important.  I will pay attention  no other issues are affecting her grades and participation in school.

    We  are experiencing hard times and for students returning to in classroom learning will be the ultimate goal for academic success. 

    My child is not yet in high school, so I'm not seeing this at home, but I do teach at the university level and have seen some similar things, both within my own classroom and as reported by my students about other people's classrooms. I'd like to suggest that it's probably more complex than teachers simply piling on more homework. Some may in fact be doing this, but I think it’s also a byproduct of the move to online instruction. In a face-to-face teaching environment, there’s room for a lot of activities happen in the classroom moment. Without that, teachers find themselves forced to move it into activities that become homework, and both teachers and students radically underestimate the amount of time it take to do these things. For example, classroom discussions are extremely difficult to do well via Zoom, so instructors often move them into online discussion forums. Students are regularly required to participate, as syllabi often have a minimum number and quality of posts. This takes time, often way more than it should. In a face-to-face teaching environment, instructors can often assess learning directly and they know that the sheer necessity of coming to class every day can be enough to keep students on track with their studying and reading. Without it, they feel compelled to use multiple assignments to help students keep up and stay on track, and to give themselves something to take the place of the on the spot assessment that happens in the regular classroom. Long story short, I don’t think you’re necessarily wrong but I would suggest that the issue is probably more complicated than it seems. You might find this article informative, as it directly addresses this issue. It’s aimed at university level instruction, but I think at least some of it applies to high school students and instructors: https://cat.wfu.edu/2021/01/the-workload-dilemma/?fbclid=IwAR2gOk4u1B-k9umte8fmR18JTi2gYDeZ7YLsW3TJE1mwE0y9Zq67KBF_H2U

  • Kid Tanking and Hates Distance Learning

    (3 replies)

    My 15 year old, a formerly A/B student, is tanking her online classes. Little or no work is getting done. At first she did ok, but at this point it feels like there’s no point. Screens are blank during class time, teachers are inconsistent in terms of Zoom hours and assignments, she’s not connecting with anyone, and she’s lonely and depressed. Yes we have a therapist. But she’s stopped doing work and finds no point in logging on to a class  that is disconnected from her life. I don’t blame teachers, though I wish some communicated with us more. It’s the medium. Online learning honestly stinks, and I know a lot of kids who are struggling with similar issues. It’s not sustainable and I don’t know what to do. Help, please. 

    I am sorry that your daughter has to be in this situation.  How often does she take a walk to enjoy nature?  Just getting out and walking around everyday and maybe taking hikes on weekends will help.  Sometimes just going out and then trying her online classes may help.  Does she have friends she can talk to when she has free time on zoom, facetime, or skype?  Can she take a walk with a friend staying six feet apart and wearing masks?  Getting out and talking to friends and also relatives may help her get through the distance learning.  Can she take a break from school for an hour to do something she really likes (cooking,reading, crafts)?  I know it is hard and can be lonely but perhaps these suggestion may help.

    I know it is scary to allow anyone into your covid bubble, but you may want to consider letting her have a study buddy. Someone who is taking the same classes. They could discuss the work and help each other. Commiserate. Sit at a desk or table and do math problems together. And encourage her to call others who have the same teachers so she can express her frustrations and just talk. The isolation make everything worse. 

    Hi, I'm sorry to hear that this is so challenging. It definitely sucks. I just read this in the paper a few days ago and wonder if it might be inspiring. https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/11/20/san-carlos-middle-schooler-sets-u...

    Best of luck!

  • My child is currently in 5th grade public school. He is doing ok academically, and that is because I watch him all day during zoom school, and I make sure he does his homework, otherwise, he is not engaged at all and does not care about academics. He only likes comic books and video games. Even before ISP, he thought school was very boring, and had to be bribed and coerced to do homework. He also did not like the social aspects of public school as boys at such age are trying out social skills, teasing and talking trash, which he had a hard time with. Looking at this whole ISP and middle school next fall, I am wondering if we should put him in private school or keep him in public middle school? I really don’t want to be his “prison guard” anymore, making him do school/homework. But I’ve also heard private schools are just the same with even more homework and more zoom time. It’s a lot of money that I don’t want to spend to end up in the same position as now. Anyone with a kid like him? What did you do that worked or did not work? What middle school is better for kids like him? Thank you!

    This is the right time to think about private school for next year; they're all having admissions sessions coming up. It doesn't cost anything to zoom into a few and gather more intel. If he has a tight friend group moving into the public middle school, that would be a big factor to stay put. Otherwise, to be honest, from the perspective of someone who has one child in public middle school and one child in private middle school, yes the private school is more individual attention, more engaging, and more interesting assignments. That's my opinion and your mileage may vary. This is based on virtual classes. Right now many private schools in the East Bay are rolling out "back on campus" plans but obviously nobody knows what the COVID future will hold and it's a roll of the dice as to whether on-campus is really going to last this school year.

    Since in your district 6th grade is a time of school change, you might want to consider a transfer to a school in the West Contra Costa district, where 6th grade is still in elementary school and there are a couple of K-8 options. In our experience, this made the social component a lot less stressful. It is also so much easier on the 6th grade students to remain with one teacher rather than having five. Good luck.

    I have been very thankful for Park Day School!  Pre-COVID and during SIP.  Strong social-emotional focus, accommodating to each child's needs, smaller classes, even smaller when remote, not too much homework, homework is relevant and interesting.  During SIP they also did a great job of keeping a sense of community and peer engagement.

    I have a child at Fusion Academy which is great during this pandemic because it is all 1:1 and on video when in person isn't possible.  It actually keeps my previously unengaged student totally engaged and doing homework independently for the first time ever.  I think they start in 6th grade, if you're still looking for next year. For this year, I might consider homeschooling with private tutors (some will come in person) for a kid like this. So many of these kids are just losing a year of their education (whether in private or public school). Many of them can't mentally engage over video or do the work independently and will really lose out, but they won't be alone.  For a real education during this pandemic, I think 1:1 is the way to go for many of these kids.

    I would recommend that you keep him in public, but find him a school that is doing a better job with this new format. Use the saved $$ for better bribing "toys!" LOL My 4th grader is at ASCEND and my 7th grader is at EBIA and both schools (both charters, in Oakland) are doing a fabulous job with this online format. Feel free to reach out if you want to discuss more. I'm no longer a teacher, but I used to be an elementary school teacher and I taught in both public and private.    

    Our son is currently a 6th grader at Crestmont in East Richmond Heights. It is going really, really well! We're in distance learning until early Nov., and then we're moving to on-campus learning. The campus is totally set up for it and ready to go.

    Our history is that after being at the same school for a few years, that school became unstable and we did half a year of public school last year. So we actually have two pandemic experiences to compare to Crestmont, and it's like night and day. Yes, he is in Zoom classes, but the classes are fun, personal, and engaging. The teachers keep him on track in terms of showing up and getting his work done. Last year I had to keep him going all day — printing everything out, checking things off the list, pushing him to attend and to keep up. I have done almost none of that this year. He's basically self-sufficient because the program is so organized, immersive, and supportive. 

    I also have a high-schooler, and judging by both my boys and their sets of friends, distance learning works well for almost no one. Kids in general are turning inward toward screens and, if we're lucky, books and games. So I think your kid is normal in that.

    The difference with Crestmont is that they have studied best practices for distance learning since last year, and are profoundly committed to doing this right for the kids and parents. They don't expect us to be teachers or even supervisors at the middle school level. They've GOT this. The teachers are so passionate about keeping these kids' spirits up and supporting them throughout the day, that he feels like he has community. He has already made a group of friends and enjoys seeing his classmates and teachers online. Other notables: 1. They have a resource teacher who catches any kids who need extra help and Zooms them through it. My son is dyslexic and she knows how to help him succeed. 2. They have a lively PE class that gets them up on their feet, and art classes (my son's favorite) as well as a great Spanish teacher who's a lot of fun. 3. Social justice, local history, and projects are woven into the curriculum, so they're learning their skills, grammar, etc., in the context of the racial, gender, and environmental equality history of Richmond; the Black Lives Matter movement; and the topic of learning styles/differences — including supporting each kid in understanding their own. This *relevant* curriculum is a whole different thing compared to slogging through drill and kill assignments uploaded somewhere that I have to print out and force him to do. They also have screen-light Wednesdays so his eyeballs get a break.

    In terms of the social stuff you mentioned, the culture at Crestmont is so values-driven and the community is so tight that I have seen none of that. It's the most diverse school community we've been a part of, including gender orientation. Issues of bias and discrimination are explicitly addressed, so that stuff is not going to squeak in under the radar.

    I honestly wish we'd found Crestmont earlier, and if distance learning is this good, I'm really excited for our kid to get on campus in a couple of weeks! 

    One last thought. I'd recommend reading The Trouble with Boys. It really helped me in my parenting of two y-chromosomes over here! Good luck to you!

    East Bay School for Boys sounds like the perfect place for your son. There is a lot of hands-on learning, including (when school is in person) an amazing work program where the boys get to do metalwork, woodwork, etc. - the school even has its own forge! It's a small school, so the teachers know the boys well and are really invested in their personal growth, and there is a lot of thought put into how to teach boys who were uninspired by traditional schools. The social-emotional learning is great, and the school culture is one of acceptance - there are all kinds of boys there. There is not a ton of homework and the teachers are used to dealing with many different learning styles. Dana, the head of school, has handled the pandemic with thoughtfulness and grace. My son hated public school and was completely unmotivated by it, and EBSB completely turned him around. It was the best 3 years of his life, and worth every penny. He is now a freshman in high school, super engaged in school, and getting straight As. I can't recommend the school highly enough. 

    I would highly recommend you look at Bentley School. We have two kids there (one who just started the upper school and one well into their time there). While we've been very impressed with them all along, we are especially so during the pandemic. They have done a remarkable job, completely re-tooling themselves to prepare for the fall. The teachers and administrations have crafted an engaging and well-paced curriculum (and schedule) that keeps kids' learning, but above all, prioritizes the kids' morale. Our kids' teachers focus much of their synchronous time giving kids a way to connect with each other and to feel part of the community. And as they start to return to campus (just starting now and will resume more fully in January), they will be spending much of their time together on community-building activities and hands-on learning that they can't do while at home. Hope that helps.

    Our kids are in private school (Prospect Sierra) and to be honest, we haven't found the distance-learning program to be worth the extremely high cost of tuition. If you have the ability to do so, perhaps you can supplement his public school experience? Find the one thing he's genuinely passionate about (comic books is a great place to start) and find some way to build on and feed that. Tapping into kids' own interests is often the key to engaging them, even if those interests might seem "trivial" or "non-educational." 

    Our kids are also at Prospect Sierra (have been for a few years) and we are really happy with their distance learning program. Based on what I hear from friends in our local public schools, we are getting a much more robust experience - my middle school aged kids are in "classes" most of the day and have substantive homework and project assignments while their teachers are really accessible when we have questions or get stuck on something. Much of the school has also started going back in person this month too and my daughter is really excited to be able to see friends and teachers, even while wearing masks all day and following other pretty strict safety protocols. 

    Distance learning is not perfect anywhere, of course, and cannot replace the in-person connection but I think having a school that is flexible, better resourced and able to respond to parent needs in this time has made all the difference. 

    I have to say Park Day has rocked this distance learning situation - my 8th grader with ADD inattentive disorder is thriving with the diversity of engaging curriculum -- the innovations and creative projects and structure implemented by Park Day School  have been just incredible ... the new head of school Angela Taylor has brought the teachers together and brought out the best..They have also been driving a strong civics education element in middle school to educate around the system of democracy as well as providing significant support and attention for kids around the national protests and unrest.   It is not perfect -- Zoom is Zoom and my 13 year old is not on top of everything -- but that is his journey, not the school's fault,,,,    

  • Zoom school and screen limits, help!

    (1 reply)

    My 12-year-old (very strong willed) 7th grade kiddo has a lot of negative stories about herself as a student from some trauma she had a while ago and now she's really hating school. Having witnessed her these last few weeks of Zoom school, I can tell she gets into fight or flight when the work gets hard, and she spins out and starts really hating on school and herself. It takes her sometimes several hours to recover from these episodes, and homework remains unfinished and she just gets further behind.

    YouTube and her online gaming friends are the only thing that matters to her now, and she fills every non-school minute (and even many school minutes) with screens.  I have started sitting next to her and prodding her and gently redirecting her, but now that the academic work is starting to get harder, it's getting more challenging for her to focus and/or feel a sense of accomplishment. She's started blowing off homework so she can get back to gaming.

    Over the summer, we relaxed screen limits with the caveat that as long as she takes care of her responsibilities, it's OK, but that's clearly not happening. She doesn't want to exercise, or do art, or even hang out with some of her friends who are not screen obsessed. It is getting scary. Last year she started cutting herself over screen battles. She is on medication which is helping but she still has pretty intense outbursts.

    Clearly I need to put limits back on screen time, but curious to hear from other parents who have dealt with this situation what has worked and what hasn't. I am thinking of having her earn all of her time after attending and focusing on class and finishing homework, but how to ensure she doesn't just blast through to get to the screen? Also she's used to watching a short video between each of her Zoom classes and she says they help her de-stress which they do, but also they distract. How to avoid battles all day long here? And most importantly, how might we help her feel more empowered as a learner? Thanks in advance for any insights.

    I just figured out how to totally block internet connection from my child’s device at set times using our Eero router app.  That only allows viewing of whatever tab was on the screen prior to the pause, but any refreshing or clicking out will take that page away as well. To us, taking away internet takes away a lot of problems. 

  •  15 year old  sophomore is not engaging in virtual schooling. Since the beginning of the pandemic his academic performance declined, I receive calls from the school about his absence from all classes.  His mom and I addressed the importance of an education, and two weeks ago had a successful meeting with the counselor and principal.  He reports "virtual school is boring". He is not motivated to do any work and to engage in classes.   I have talk to him about the benefits of an education and always try to understand his feeling and approach to this new method of attending school.  Every time we address his lack of participation in school, he only listens but does not  make any effort to change. My 15 year old foster fantasies of having a job, opening his own business for auto shop.  He wants to have  a driver's license and save money to buy a car.  However, his dreams do not connect with the reality and the tasks he needs to complete in order to achieve the goals.   Sometimes I doubt my parenting skills.  When this pandemic is over I will consider independent studies, however because his lack of motivation in virtual education - independent might not be the solution - I don't know. 

    Is this a normal phase of teenagers at age 15?   How did other parents cope with similar situations? 

    thanks in advance for the advice and support.

    It sounds like your child is motivated, but has interests that lie outside of traditional high school education. He could take  the CHSPE (high school proficiency exam) when he is 16 and start a program to learn the skills he needs to succeed as a mechanic. Maybe if he has a goal that excites him, it will motivate him to finish out his brief time in high school. 

    I’m sorry I don’t have any suggestions for you but wanted to let you know my son , an 8th grader, is the same. He often misses classes or signs on but doesn’t participate or listen. He plays video games during class. He hasn’t turned in any school work, saying it is dumb and boring. I am concerned but more worried about his mental health during this time. 
    I’m hoping he will do school work but I can’t continue the daily morning battles to get him up and attending classes. 


    I could have written your post. I don't have any answers, but I can totally sympathize with you.  You are not alone with parenting struggles!   We are all in this together.  I'm sure you will get lots of replies to your post, commiserating. 

    These are not normal times, so our teens will not be acting normal.  These times just throw another huge layer on top of the normal emotional, physical, psychological, sexual changes that adolescents and teens are also going through. It sucks.

     We have a 15-year-old ninth-grade boy who is really struggling with virtual school.  He is not engaged, not completing work (he sometimes can't even FIND where certain links are and they change depending on the teacher), is defensive, overwhelmed, stressed.  He is trying to keep on top of everything and is bored in every zoom class he has. In the break out sessions with other students, hardly anyone talks.  It's so difficult right now.  Don't doubt your parenting skills.  This is just hard.  I can't get my son to even exercise.  All we can do is give as much emotional and academic support as we can, reassurance and structure---reassurance that this time will pass and he will eventually be going into a classroom in high school, and he still needs to get dressed and brush his teeth every day.  My husband helps him with algebra (his most difficult class), and I try and help with him with written assignments he gets with social studies. We are trying to not criticize him since that would just make him feel worse.  We try to interject our days with goofy fun whenever we can. 

    BTW, he goes to El Cerrito High School. 

  • Hello neighbors and teachers,

     Largely remote learning for next year has us rethinking our child's final year of high school.She is a strong, self motivated student, and is considering taking the California High School Proficiency exam in October, and then doing some community college classes in the winter and spring instead of a mostly remote senior year at Berkeley High. Does anyone know whether this would impact her application to a UC? Good or bad idea? We are trying to think outside the box for the upcoming year, as the AP exam testing, SAT and ACT testing has not adjusted quickly to accommodate the new constraints we are all under. The institutional educational and testing systems are largely dysfunctional in the COVID world, but our kids lives march on. I would appreciate your thoughts and experiences.

    Hi, there. It's very good that you are making inquiries before making any moves. My child graduated from Berkeley High in 2018 from Independent Study; I have made a study of these matters!

    Following this pathway will have a big effect on the UC application. A HS student, while enrolled as a HS student, may take as many Community College classes as they like, for free, and get the credit, and apply as a first year UC student. Once they graduate from HS, or cease to be a HS student, the entire category they fit into changes: when they are no longer a HS student and they take Community College courses, they must apply as a transfer student to the UC system. Coming in as a transfer student means they MUST follow a proscribed course series for the full two years to be accepted. This is also a great pathway, and they are guaranteed a spot - but not necessarily to the UC they desire. 

    I'd like to recommend an alternate pathway: when you enroll in Independent Study through BHS (a fantastic program, especially for the really motivated student) it is easier to take CC courses. Of course, they do fill up at IS, (and they're closed right now) and I'm sure most folks are exploring options like this one.

    Our child went to IS for both Junior and Senior years. It was a fantastic experience. Best math teaching ever with Corey Wade!

    Thinking outside the box seems right during this extraordinary time. We moved our upcoming junior to private school where at least online means the day spent “in” class on zoom with teachers instruction. I’d call some college counselors (if you don’t have 1 already) and the admissions office at CAL for specifics about how they feel about your plan. But what an interesting essay your child could write about this experience!

    My understanding is that you need a High School Diploma to be accepted into any 4 year University. Otherwise she will need to complete 2 years of Community College before she can transfer. You should check with UC directly to confirm. 

    My daughter took CHSPE and it set her on California community college path into good 4 year university. Your child's counselor ought to be able to confirm CHSPE route negates UC as a freshman.

    Sounds like a very good plan.  
    About a month ago the President of the California Community Colleges announced all California Community college classes would be online. 
    No, it will not hurt your daughter’s chances getting into UC.
    Have you been following UC’s new priorities for admissions?  And who they are targeting?  SAT scores are no longer required and will not be considered in admissions. 
    Not sure why you are under the impression AP testing dysfunctional.  Not the case last spring.  AP tests were given and high schools kids took them. 

    Thanks for asking this question I hope someone can assist us both

    My heart really goes out to all the kids in school during COVID. Students and their families are facing some difficult choices and scenarios. My son is no longer in school, thankfully. He took the CHSPE in the spring of his junior year a year or two ago. He then opted to work full time instead of going directly to college, so I can't speak to how it would impact your daughter's chances of being accepted to UC (He did easily enroll in community college - no issues there). However, I wanted to share that the CHSPE was a great option for my son and was the right choice for his situation. It sounds like your daughter's plan is a good one. Based on what you shared, if she were my child, I would support testing out of HS and doing community college classes. In fact, I suspect that may be a great option for many high school upperclassmen. I am so grateful for the CHSPE and the positive impact it had on my son's life.

  • My daughter will be starting 6th grade in Fall.  We've accepted a spot at Claremont (our neighborhood school) but are in the 20's on the waitlist for Edna Brewer (our first choice), so we may be offered a spot there.  I know the next school year is still up in the air, but since it seems likely to be at least partly distance learning, I would love to hear from parents at Claremont or Edna Brewer how distance learning went this school year?

    Some specific questions:

    How many hours a day did your kid(s) spend in Zoom classes?  Since they have multiple subjects with different teachers, did each class still meet on the same schedule they would in person, or was it modified so that students aren't spending all day on Zoom? Was the overall workload manageable, between Zoom classes and assignments?  How easy was it for your kid to get individual support from their teachers?  What did social/emotional support look like?  (My kids is pretty shy and I'm worried she won't really connect with new teachers and new classmates if school ends up being fully remote.)  How did the school handle classes that don't transition easily to an online format, like PE, art, and music?  I'm especially interested in hearing about the Edna Brewer music program--their amazing orchestra is one of the main things we like about that school.

    If you have any other experiences to share those would be very welcome too!


    My son just graduated from Hillcrest MS, so I can only speak to this experience, although I have heard that both Claremont and EB are decent choices. I just wanted to flag for you that what teachers did in the spring may be quite different than how the program works this fall. Huge changes are happening at OUSD - they took a massive budget hit and most schools lost $40-$60,000 in funding. But - some MS are going to receive a generous grant from Salesforce that will offset that budget cut. Might be worth asking about. Distance learning looked different for each grade in our MS. 8th had about 3 hrs of instruction 3 days a week plus 1-2 hrs 2 days a week. This was more than enough screen time - Zooms are exhausting. They had loads of group projects and interesting assignments - they worked a full day and learned plenty. The teachers were outstanding. I do know that teachers are working most of this summer to design the next school year for distance learning - I anticipate a mix of distance and small group instruction. And substantial changes from the spring approach. 

  • Does anyone have advice on how to weather online teaching next year for incoming freshman. We are at a little bit of a loss about how to start Berkeley High with the new post-COVID world.

    My hard-working, high-GPA 9th grader somehow failed to turn in any work for several weeks, so we are scrambling to catch up enough now to pass.

    Problem one: technological issues are a challenge to our non-techie household.  Some of her work seems to have gotten lost via tech problems.

    Problem two: insufficient supervision by parents.  Distance learning requires skills (self-discipline, scheduling, etc.) that most 14-year-olds lack.

    Problem three: SIL-induced mental vagueness and brain-fog. I suspect our kid sincerely thought she had done some homework that she hadn't.

    Next year will have an added challenge, that the kids will never have met their teachers in person.. Our kid LOVES her BHS teachers, and that feeling is an important motivator.

    What we have instituted, which seems to help, includes

    -  a tighter daily schedule meant to mimic the school day, including breaks; 

    -  removal of cell phone during school hours (studies show that even the presence of a turned-off phone on the desk cuts into attention; the phone has to be completely unavailable)

    -  parents go over homework before it gets posted, to be sure it's completely done (otherwise there would be a lot of skipped answers).

  • Start UC online in the fall or wait?

    (3 replies)

    Many other families must be grappling with the question of whether offspring should go to college in the fall or defer admission / take leave of absence in light of college being all or mostly online. At our house, our youngest was going to start at a UC as a junior transfer from community college, he has been living at home and working very hard for this for the past year and a half after a bad start at a CSU, and was really looking forward to leaving home, living in a dorm with tons of other young people, and being at a large research university with a great department for his major. However, online learning has been very hard for him as he has ADHD (not diagnosed until college.) His doctor strongly recommends against his taking online classes, plus he is a biology major and online labs have been ridiculous. There's also the issue of paying UC tuition for online classes, for us it's going to be steep and it would be good if our kid stayed home an additional semester working and saving $. On the other hand, I know that they are greatly improving online teaching methods for this fall and it will be quite different than the current hastily improvised online classes that were switched over mid-semester, and that tons of students deferring will be even more economically disastrous for our public universities... What are others thinking?

    I think the answer for you is different since he is a junior transfer. 

    My train of thought for my teenagers goes to--this might be a great time to get accepted to a "reach" school that you have your heart set on because there will be less competition this year. For your son's set of unique circumstances, the answer is not as clear. If UC will let him defer, I'd strongly consider that. OR, it might not be a bad idea to just take a minimum number of classes/get rid of some core requirements (which he may already have done) just to get used to the idea/community. 

    As I always tell my kids--don't let the decision paralyze you. Make it, and then make sure it's the best decision for you--work hard to make it so!

    I’m curious about this too. My senior is planning to enroll this fall at a CSU even if it’s online. Here’s why:

    1. When campus does open, she can roll right in because she’ll already be enrolled.

    2. She doesn’t want to start at a community college and then have to reapply as a transfer student in two years because she’ll no longer be eligible as a freshman. 

    3.  All her units will be from the same university, and since she plans to double minor it will be easier to figure out which classes count toward graduation.
    4. if everything is online, we are exploring options of going to school from anywhere if there is a way to do so safely. We’ve looked at living in both New Zealand and in Spain while taking her classes online.  We have done the research and will just need to plan the details if either of those countries are open. 

    We have had many conversations about the fact that she is beginning her journey in a new world. I’ve really encouraged her to keep an open mind and figure out what new opportunities she has that weren’t there before. Yes, this sucks. And yes, her college experience is not going to be what she thought it was. But I don’t want her to chase something that doesn’t exist anymore. She can still have an amazing college experience. It will just be different from what she was expecting.  The uncertainty is difficult and she is so ready to start her life as a young adult. 
    I can’t wait to hear what other parents have come up with. Good luck to everyone!

    I like how the last responder, Lula, is making lemonade out of lemons. Yes, why not combine college with living abroad if you easily can!

    But back to the OP's question, speaking as someone who graduated from college not *that* long ago, when I think back on it, every memorable experience there was an in-person interaction. In my case it was a private school (Mills) and what I thought made that school worth the tuition were the cultural opportunities and resources available on campus -- and I didn't even live on campus! There were amazing speakers, events, and exhibits seemingly every week. Not to mention I took many classes in book arts that definitely could not be virtual (unless maybe you owned your own giant letterpress). I remember being in a "History of the Book" class with 8 students where we looked at rare books and manuscripts from Mills's collection in every class. I realize that's not what your child is studying, however you said online biology labs have been terrible, and I feel like an online version of that class *also* would have been terrible. So I can relate somewhat.

    Now as a parent paying school bills I absolutely would not want to pay UC tuition for online classes. And your child's difficulty with that kind of learning make it an even more bitter pill to swallow. I would urge deferring if at all possible and trying to find something for your student to do during the pause that makes it feel like less of a letdown. A work opportunity that involves travel and could give him/her a sense of independence while saving some money would be ideal, I think.

    I really sympathize with your situation and hope it works out for the best.

  • My son a 9th grader is resistant to engage in virtual learning during this pandemic . Prior to last day of school March 13 I suggested getting caught with all classes (and he did) in expectation the lack of structure is a challenge .  He is not 100% academic motivated , but will do the work if in the classroom setting.

    he doesn’t need to get up early and do the morning routine - so I assume virtual learning will be fun and easy- however is a challenge.

    he doesn’t get upset when his mom and I talk to him about it - I assume he is aware of his choice to not engage.

    few days ago told me it was annoyed by us telling him to get school work done, I don’t want to remove the cell because I am confident he can do the job with no consequences.

    how can he get motivated ?

    any similar experiences?

    I imagine that you've already asked your son for his input about why it's hard to get into online learning. But if you haven't, just using some curiosity WITHOUT responding with advice is a good place to start. Sometimes just our kids just want to be heard without immediately being given a parent opinion. So, starting with "What is it about distance learning that's not working for you as well as being in class?" (Again, you've  probably already asked this.) Then just validate how he feels. "Yeah, that makes sense. If I had to do 9th grade online, I wouldn't like it either." A few hours later, you can tell him: "I was thinking about what you were saying about how this method of learning sucks. Your mom and I get that. AND right now, that's all that is available until school ends. Our expectation is that you're going to do your school work on time every day. We're looking for you to manage that yourself. If that doesn't happen, we'll have to step in. We would hate to put away your cell phone (or other devices) until your work is complete. So what do you think? How are you going to motivate yourself to get your work done on time? We're happy support you if you have any ideas--like earning tech time or whatever you think might get you going. We all struggle with motivation at times." I hope that helps. Good luck with your son. Sarah

    Both my 14yr old and my 9yr old are struggling.. I’ve come to a similar conclusion that they need the classroom and accountability to a teacher to be motivated. Even w the accountability - they both tend to exaggerate how much they’ve completed and often “forget” to turn things in online. It’s discouraging when I hear about other families whose kids are engaged. I’m exhausted from fighting w them about it.. I’m super busy w my own work and trying to balance the two is really hard. 

    Hi there,

    What you are seeing with your kid is not surprising!  He no longer has the social element to keep him motivated to do work that he did not design.  This is actually a great opportunity to take a page from what homeschoolers know about developing intrinsic motivation and self-direction. Check out the Alameda Oakland Home Learners website... we are offering free support for families during Shelter in Place.  


    Yes, yes, yes.  I bet you describe what MOST parents are going through right now, from Kindergarten on up.  Parents are not the best motivators for kids to do schoolwork.  Teens, especially, become resentful, and remember, you have to live with this young person 24/7.  Trust your kid to do what's right.  If he says he's got it, back off and let him handle it.  My son is in 9th grade too, and even before COVID-19 he really wanted more independence in getting his work done this year, and I was checking in on him much less frequently than I everhad before.  Sometimes we need to let them go, set them free, so they can rise to the occasion on their own terms.  The phones can't be taken away right now; the phone is their lifeline to the outside world, and their social world.  My suggestion is to tell him your expectations (pass 9th grade!), tell him you're there to help if he needs it, and let him do it on his own.  Watch from afar.  He may surprise you.  

    I feel your pain- same here at our house. My two boys, HS and middle schooler, are also refusing to engage with school and/or assignments. At this point it’s a constant struggle to get them to do any school work, even as I try to entice them with the credit/no credit grading.

    Sorry I don’t have any suggestions, but I wonder how many other kids are in the same situation, and how this will impact the next school year. The longer this goes on the harder it gets for us.

    Not sure if this will work for you but our kid gets overwhelmed with lack of structure or having to organize things himself. So I wrote up a did a daily schedule, printed it out, and have check boxes. He has to get up by 10, then has a set schedule of classes he focuses on that we devised based upon his school schedule. We included breaks, exercise, chores and shower. Then at any given time he knows exactly what he should be doing and he checks it off as he goes down the list.

    The only complication is this requires some flexibility too as there will be different assignments that don't fit so nicely into the schedule. But so far for as, as long as he has a basic guide line he can make minor adjustments.

    We won't let him start the video games or socializing until after he gets things done. That was the struggle at first, just saying friendly but firmly NO. First finish this, then you can do that. If I don't, he'll try to get away not doing things. I also check in several times a day to see where he is at. He managed to avoid math which he doesn't like, so I make sure he gets that in and sometimes award him with okay here are some cookies to snack on while you do your least favorite class.

    For us the key is persistence, saying things firm but friendly and in a few cases taking away all electronics for the whole evening to do other things like cook dinner, or read. I did however feel bad about preventing him from socializing with friends so I try not to take that away.

    It's tough for sure.

    Thanks you everyone for your thoughts and advice.   I done tons of reading about puberty, development, and teenagers challenging phase as they go through puberty.  14 year old is a challenging age. We are trying to stay healthy, away from this pandemic and looking forward to the future and hoping next school year things go back to normal.  I am sure there are thousands of students across the US that are craving to be back on a classroom meeting.

    Sorry to not respond to your question directly and instead to treat this as a general discussion - I think we are all having major challenges regarding our kids and distance learning! My son (HS junior) goes to a boarding school in NH. He has always been a good student. At boarding school, his time is structured - daily classes, athletics, "jobs", and evening study hall 6 days a week. Now home for distance learning, the class schedule is from 7-9 AM (to accommodate kids across time zones). Each class has been cut to 30 mins twice a week and no athletics. Since he has been living away from home, he feels quite self-empowered to decide how he spends his time and not open to any discussion. Once class time is over in the morning, he is gaming or watching something on a screen until the evening when he does what seems like the minimum amount of homework. He is supposed to be working on his college search but I have not seen any activity. It's been quite difficult to watch how he spends his time, as I hope that he would be intrinsically motivated to do more and would use this as an opportunity to pursue some other interests. And since he doesn't regularly live at home, it's been hard to get him to do any chores, although he does his own laundry, which is left piled in a basket instead of being put away. I worry that he is developing very bad habits.  Given that he has lived away from home for the past 2 years, he does not want input from parents. I have not been a very authoritative parent because I am still grappling with the trauma that I experienced from my parents growing up. Also, from the beginning, my husband and I have tried to co-parent equally but we don't always agree, which has left me to question my own instincts and follow his lead, which is often different than how I would parent if it were left up to me. I'm also interested in hearing how other parents are feeling right now.

    Instead of a daily schedule, we worked out a daily checklist of things that need to be done.   The checklist can be simple (for example, listing 6 classes and 2 chores) or more detailed (each class has a sub-list of action items that need to be done).    Review the checklist together as often as needed -whether that is at the beginning and end of the "school" day or once per day, or every other day, whatever works for you.    The main thing is the checklist gives structure and the ability to know what "done" looks and feels like.    Our house rule is no video games until the checklist for the day is done.  

  • Hello.  I'm curious what other private middle schools are offering currently for their remote learning plans.  Our top-rated private school is not offering (or planning) much in the way of virtually taught classes.  I'd like to get a sense of other middle schools and what the school day looks like for your kids at this point.  Are teachers actually teaching classes during part or all of the school day?  How long and how much of the day is interactive?  Are teachers able to conduct classes to middle schoolers by video?  Is there a coherent online system for students to track their assignments?

    Thanks. Liz

    Hi - I have a sixth grader in the WCCUSD. They are currently on spring break. Starting Monday 4/13, the district is rolling out the official distance learning curriculum/standards. The three weeks prior to this, the classroom teacher and the prep teacher were doing daily assignments via Google Classroom and a half-hour zoom session to check in - so no, no live instruction. I am wondering if this will change. (Note at our school 6th graders are still in elementary school not on a junior high campus.) I would check what standards your specific school district has put out for middle school or junior high, as a way to calibrate what your private school is doing; with the caveat that some public schools aren't launching the official learning until next week. I've been satisfied with what the 6th grade teacher has done so far, but we'll see what next week brings.

    Hi Liz,

    I thought I'd share our experience at the East Bay German International School. Our son is in 6th grade there. He basically does his usual class day online, with his teachers teaching their regular classes, they follow the same schedule that they did before the SIP.  The teachers have done an amazing job creatively making most of the curriculum work. Things like art, music and sports are more modified, though they still get assignments, have online discussions and check in. The academic subjects seem to be pretty much the same, with teachers giving class information, kids breaking into small groups to work on assignments, or working individually, submitting assignments online and doing presentations online. I think part of why this works is that it is a small school, the teachers know the kids really well and they sent out a strict list of rules for online conduct. We have been really impressed and relieved that our son isn't missing out on 6th grade content and is able to keep up with his German (since we don't speak much of it at home, I was worried he would fall behind). Please feel free to ask me any more specific questions. 

    take care, Melissa

    Redwood Day Middle School has been hitting it out of the park since just after SiP took effect (they were up and running by Thursday March 19th. Fri the 13th and Mon the 16th had long ago been planned as Parent/Teacher conference days, so the kids last official day on campus was Thursday the 12th).

    Since March 19th, our 6th grader has had the following schedule: 9 - 9:30 he, his advisor and fellow advisees meet via Zoom. 9:30 - 10:25 is Class 1. 10:30 - 11:25 is Class 2. Lunch is an hour. 12:30 - 1:25 is Class 3, and Class 4 is 1:30 - 2:25. Office hours, which are encouraged as a way to ask questions, confirm what was learned, etc (via Zoom) are from 2:30 - 3 each day. Each day he has 3 core classes (Eng, Math, Sci, Spanish or History) plus 1 of the following: art, drama, music, PE or Design In Technology. Classes are a combo of in-person Zoom sessions, recorded Zooms and self-directed projects. They head of school, head of middle school and our child's advisor have been *fantastic* about keeping us informed, but not in a way that feels (to us) overwhelming. We are incredibly impressed by how the entire school has handled this transition, how smoothly they did so, how they have kept our kids forefront in the process is fantastic as well. I can't think of a single fault or even slight bobble in this process. They are phenomenal and it is reason #492 why we are so happy we chose Redwood Day. 

    Hi Liz! My son is in middle school at the East Bay German International School (EBGIS) in Emeryville. When the schools all started closing, EBGIS quickly came up with a really impressive online system. It’s been amazing for our middle schooler and I hope other schools can do something similar!

    The daily class schedule hasn’t changed since they went online. Pretty much every class session starts with a zoom meeting (actually they don’t use zoom, they use another platform called Microsoft Teams which is integrated with their school calendar and has all their assignments and teacher feedback on it). At the whole-class meeting the teacher gives instruction and an assignment and answers questions and sometimes also has group discussion. Then usually after maybe 20-30 minutes that video class will end and the kids will do video calls with small groups of their classmates or they’ll work on their individual assignments for the rest of the class time. Then when it’s time for the next class to start, that teacher will do a video call with the whole class, 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 offline time interspersed keeps the kids from being glued to the screen the whole day. The video class sessions seem to run smoothly and be productive. It probably doesn’t hurt that the class size at EBGIS is really small, about ten kids per class on average.

    In terms of assignment tracking, Teams gives the kids a pop-up notification every time a teacher makes a new assignment. Some work is on the computer, like when they write a short story it’ll be in Word, or they recently made podcasts out of recorded interviews they’d done with people in the community. According to my kid, when he needs to turn in an assignment he goes to the assignment on Teams, clicks “add my work,” uploads his assignment and clicks “turn in.” If the assignment is on paper he’ll take a picture using the camera on his laptop and upload that. Teachers review kids’ work on Teams and give praise, corrections and other feedback through Teams and/or during the next live class.

    With the online program, the kids have been moving through the curriculum at the same pace as before the shelter in place and my kid is really happy in school. I’ve been super happy that the teachers are taking full responsibility for my kid’s education. Even the PE teacher has figured out how to keep the kids doing lots of healthy movement in gym class! An added benefit is that my kid is truly in school during the entire school day so I can get my own work done!

    I don’t know how much can be replicated in other schools because the teachers at EBGIS are pretty extraordinary plus as mentioned the class sizes are really small. But it goes to show that school can happen online! I hope some of these methods are helpful! Best of luck to you!

    I have two children in two different private schools. My 11 year old attends a small private school in Berkeley. That school has had a difficult time adapting to remote learning. My child is in Zoom classes between 50 minutes to about the most of 2 1/2 hours a day. The students are given work to do independently and they are usually done around noon. I have been disappointed in this amount of time they are in actual class. Also the school has taken off at least 3 days off from school to work on their remote curriculum. I don't understand the need for this because most days they are done teaching before noon. Although I understand this has been a challenging situation for them, I am frustrated that the teachers are not offering their classes following the schedule they were using before. If I had a choice, I would prefer to enroll my child in other on-line classes rather than the minimal curriculum offered by this school. I feel this is a waste of time. 

    On the other hand, I have an 8th grader who attends a private school in SF. That experience has been completely opposite. Before they started remote learning the school had two days of practice (with the kids doing remote learning at the school), so they could work through any problems. They had a seamless transition and my 8th grader is on-line in school ALL DAY, EVERYDAY except for 1/2 hour lunch and two short breaks each day. I have no complaints about this school. They appear to be following the same rigorous program they had before remote learning. 

    Our children are at The Saklan School. The Middle School offers daily Zoom class meetings for core classes from 9-3:30pm. Additionally, there are weekly advisory sessions which keep the teacher-student connections close, and elective courses via Zoom meetings. While virtual interactions cannot fully replace the physical, in-school interactions, we are pleased with what Saklan has come up with in a short amount of time. The students have self-directed work but are also working in groups, working with teachers, and learning in a productive and positive environment.    

    My son is at The Berkeley School in 8th grade. The teachers and admins have created a virtual school that is almost identical to an actual school day. The kids get to see their teachers and classmates, have class discussions, get help with homework—all live. They even have their after-school clubs up and running in virtual form! I'm amazed at how quickly they put the whole program together and at how well it is functioning. The online system for tracking assignments is very organized, but that's not new—it's the same one the kids have used all year to keep track of their work.  

    I'm surprised to hear other private schools are not doing the same thing. I would be really bummed if my kid was left alone to just do homework all day. Your post made me feel more grateful than ever for our school. 

    I'm really happy with what our child's middle school (East Bay German International School) is doing with remote learning.  They use Microsoft Teams.  The school has continued the identical schedule as before with the classes at the same time and duration as pre-shelter in place order.  Teachers are actually teaching, and kids do, as before, class-wide group, smaller group, pair, and independent work.  The only issue I've noticed is that not everyone has a strong internet connection at home.  We haven't had to supplement with any materials or supervision - the school has taken care of everything, and we are extremely grateful for this stability and support at this difficult time.

    I have a 7th grader at The Academy (formerly Elmwood Academy) In Berkeley. As a single professional now working from home, continuity of his education is of paramount importance to me. Before the Quarantine, The Academy exceeded my academic expectations as its passion for accelerated education and commitment to high expectations was exactly right for my son.After the lockdown, the school worked tirelessly to come up with an online learning program worthy of its high standards, hiring a UC professor to quarterback the transition. They were online within days Offering life, online classes from 8:30 to 330 daily including PE, art, and music. The students follow a calendar outline, clock in for live classes and do assignments as usual. The teachers are concerned and organized, really stretching to reach out to students. My son feels part of his academic community which is making a huge difference for him during these potentially lonely times. 

    Hi - I have a 7th grader at The Academy in Berkeley and have been thoroughly impressed with the school's move to digital learning, which happened on March 18.  The schedule includes 7 periods from 8:30AM to 3:10PM, with breaks for recess and lunch.  The teachers have developed additional instruction off Zoom to offer more balance.  All subjects (including PE) continue and each class continues to cover a lot of material each week, including with what seems to be normal homework(?)  loads.  In order to integrate the hands on aspect of learning, the art teacher even sent packets of art material for the kids to work on art projects and the music teacher worked to make sure that each student had access to a ukulele to keep up the music program work.  They have done an outstanding job here.  The school had already been using Google Classroom so it's easy for kids (and parents) to track assignments.  My son's feedback is that digital learning is just as good as in the classroom and sometimes even better as there's fewer distractions.  He is engaged and focused all day.  My sense is the small class sizes really help as a Zoom session with 10 kids is a lot more intimate than one with 20+.  It's been endearing to hear him hanging out with his classmates on Zoom during breaks and before / after school.  And the school's head and faculty have all been outstanding.  We are very, very fortunate.

    Our private language based middle school took 3 days after the SIP order to get organized, and has been at it since.
    They kept the exact same hourly block schedule as before, with the kids & teachers meeting via online video.
    Generally there's some interactive work, and some screen off worksheet to do.

    Work is "handed in" by showing it to the camera.
    Even PE is included, jumping jacks or an assignment to "run around the block".

    The school year is about to wrap now, and I'd say they got 80% of the year done.

    This stands in stark contrast to the experience of our other student, who is at Berkeley High.