Distance Learning in Middle & High School

Parent Q&A

Immunocompromised Sophomore needs Fall Online/remote school Jun 8, 2021 (3 responses below)
What to do about a teacher who has checked out? Mar 3, 2021 (2 responses below)
Teenager depressed and failing to do school work Feb 18, 2021 (10 responses below)
Remote learning and too much homework Feb 2, 2021 (4 responses below)
Kid Tanking and Hates Distance Learning Nov 16, 2020 (3 responses below)
Public or private middle school as pandemic continues? Oct 21, 2020 (11 responses below)
Zoom school and screen limits, help! Sep 26, 2020 (3 responses below)
Teenager not engaging in virtual schooling Sep 11, 2020 (4 responses below)
CHSPE instead of BHS senior year 2020-2021: Experiences/ ideas? Jul 22, 2020 (7 responses below)
Distance learning at Oakland Middle Schools Jun 9, 2020 (1 responses below)
Berkeley High Advice for incoming freshman May 25, 2020 (1 responses below)
Start UC online in the fall or wait? May 16, 2020 (3 responses below)
14 year old struggling with academics during COVID19 Apr 13, 2020 (9 responses below)
What Does Remote Learning Look Like Now at Your Middle School? Apr 5, 2020 (11 responses below)
  • 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?  

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • Zoom school and screen limits, help!

    (3 replies)

    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 am an educator (25 years) and will be for first to admit "we" are not prepared or trained to teach students online.  I have taught online classes and watch as most of my fellow instructors are doing a terrible job. This is not the job they were hired to do.  Teaching online is much different that face to face teaching. I can completely understanding what your daughter is going though.

    Not sure why you and so many other parents are against screen time. Screens and the Internet have to be the best tools for teaching we have ever had. Doesn't your daughter's teachers suggest YouTube videos or web sites to help her with subjects she is having trouble with?

    As for the excessive game playing would you say she is addicted?  Have you mentioned this with her physician?  There is amble anecdotal evidence which links neuroleptics drug which result in additive behaviors to games inlcuind gambling. It could be the drug you daughter is taking is compelling her to do the behavior you don't want her to be doing. Look online you will find hundreds of cases.

    Something else you might want to consider. Is your daughter good at game playing? She could be an athlete. Internet gaming is soon to be an Olympic sport and kids kids her age are making millions per year playing online games? You might have an Olympic internet athlete. If she is good Universities are giving full four year scholarships to Internet gaming athletes.  Internet gamers are making more money than professional hockey, soccer, baseball, and basketball and soon football players.

    In this time of covid and social distancing screens are the way "kids" are connecting.  The online gamer community is can be very supportive, especially the female gamer communities. Instead of punishing her for something she likes, why not encourage her? 

    Like your daughter, I like watching short videos... think of them as a recess between her classes.  It's a way of letting her mind decompress.

    Hope this helps and you give what I have written some thought.

    I am so sorry that you are struggling with screen issues.  I know how hard it is dealing with screen time, especially now with all the kids on screen all day for school and cut off from their friends. Have you considered hiring a parent coach?   I know of a great one who helps parents of teens struggling with  screen time battles.  She has been a great resource for me in discussing a range of parenting challenges.  You can get more information about Jenny, parent coaching and her approach on her website, www.truenorthparentcoaching.com

    Best of luck to you!

    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. 

    What you are describing in the range of normal.  You kid has ambitions and dreams of doing something with his life.  You should encourage him to pursue his dreams.  Our education system pre-covid just isn't designed or equipped to deal with students who have dreams other than going to college.  I'm a college instructor with 25 years teaching experience and I will be honest with you I just don't why teachers and school administrators think they can teach online classes in the same way face to face classes are taught.  From what I have seen just about all of the online instruction I have seen sucks.  It's no wonder your kid would rather be doing something else.  My partner teaches K-5 and agrees with me even after being trained how to teach online courses.  This is not to say I'm blaming the teachers, they were taught for years and were hired to teach face to face so it's unfair to blame them. I have taught online classes. The way I teach any online classes (same subject) online vs. face to face is completely different. 

    Back to your son.  I was like your son and my son at that age was the same.  Why not support you kid with his dreams?  Support what he wants to do instead of forcing him to do something he's not interested in.  You say he's interested it getting a job in the auto business.  He's 15, no reason he can't get a job.  I do something similar with my students, its called an internship.  Are there any auto places near you where you son could get a job?  Turn this into a research/business project for your son.

    Does your son "really" need to graduate from high school to be successful in life? High school graduation rates in our country are about 75% and as we have seen you do not have to have a college degree or high school diploma to be successful in life.  (But it can't hurt.)   Does the high school have a work-study program?  Why not see if your son would be interested in getting a part-time auto job and work on his GED?  He could take business classes at any of the community colleges in California.  

    Covid isn't going away anytime soon.  In the college world we were just told campus will be closed spring semester.  Make the best of the terrible situation we are in and support your son with his dreams.  Remember you don't need a high school diploma or SAT scores to go to college.  Should his dreams change he still he can always still go to college.

    Just my point of view as an educator and someone who can identify your son's actions. 

  • 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 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.  


  • 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.