Paige Bone, 7, (left to right), celebrates finishing her timed math assignment with mother Aisha Bone and sister Poppy Bone looking on Friday morning at their home in Everett on April 17, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Paige Bone, 7, (left to right), celebrates finishing her timed math assignment with mother Aisha Bone and sister Poppy Bone looking on Friday morning at their home in Everett on April 17, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Out of their classrooms, kids and teachers are both learning

As technology and creativity fill in the gaps for students, parents say teaching at home is hard.

Every day there’s a list on the chalkboard. No, it’s not in a classroom. The list isn’t of assignments that need doing. School happens in the front yard of an Everett home. “We pick three new things every day,” said Aisha Bone, explaining how the outdoor chalkboard becomes a tally of things for which her family is thankful. Nature, cars and rainbows made Thursday’s list. Bone is acting as teacher these days for daughters Paige, 7, and Poppy, 6. Their brother Joey, 3, ran around the yard Thursday in a cape. In an upstairs office — until recently a girl’s bedroom — their dad Grady Bone was working, miles from his finance job and employer in Redmond. Poppy had just finished an hour-long computer session with her first-grade teacher at Evangel Classical School in Marysville. In this spring of 2020, with schools closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, education is definitely different, but it’s happening. As the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and school districts set out plans for distance learning, parents cope with it all. “It definitely has its challenges,” said Aisha Bone, 32, who has tried home-schooling in the past. Her children’s work includes time on the Zoom platform, worksheets provided by their private Christian school, daily reading and other tasks. It adds up to about two hours of formal schoolwork each day. “As much as we can do outside, we will do outside,” Aisha Bone said.
Paige Bone (left-right) Poppy Bone and Aisha Bone work through school assignments Friday morning at their home in Everett on April 17, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Paige Bone (left-right) Poppy Bone and Aisha Bone work through school assignments Friday morning at their home in Everett on April 17, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Sally Lancaster, a regional superintendent with Everett Public Schools, said the district uses Google Classroom to connect with elementary students, the Canvas learning platform for middle school and high school, and Zoom for live sessions and conferences. Many Everett teachers hold 11 a.m. sessions with students. They may also record and post video, present PowerPoint lessons and reach out to families needing help. Set schedules don’t work for some families, Lancaster said. Quoting Peter Scott, the district’s deputy superintendent, Lancaster said the goal is “a common approach for uncommon times.” “The focus is on engaging students,” Lancaster said. Attendance isn’t taken, but teachers monitor completed work. As for grades, “we are waiting for final guidance from OSPI,” Everett district spokeswoman Linda Carbajal said Friday. “It’s hard, it’s definitely hard — but it’s doable,” said Amanda Cabana, whose fifth-grade son Simon attends Everett’s View Ridge Elementary School. Online, Simon’s teacher provides weekly assignments and “some stuff that’s just fun,” his mother said. For Cabana, it’s an emotional time. “He’s leaving grade school,” she said of her son, who in the Everett district will start middle school as a sixth-grader. For Penny Creek Elementary School teacher Shelly Connery, online learning presents new opportunities. “The cool thing with Zoom, we’re inviting in community members,” said Connery, who teaches third grade at the south Everett school. She’s invited Kristin Clark, a KOMO-TV meteorologist, to talk with kids about weather forecasting. Connery offered tips to help parents who are temporarily turning homes into schools. “Break it down into smaller pieces,” she said about schoolwork. “Make small goals, and keep a list on the refrigerator with a star daily reward system.” Bone allows for “a lot of little recesses,” and said she sometimes turns schoolwork into a competition. “I’ll say, ‘I really have to load the dishwasher,’” she said. Then she’ll ask if her girls can complete worksheets before she’s done. Parents’ creativity is making school memorable. Before Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order, but after schools were closed, friends in an Everett neighborhood near Mukilteo were team teaching, calling their makeshift school the Soundview Academy. Dave Rucker’s family was part of it. He and his wife Molly’s children attend Mukilteo Elementary and Olympic View Middle School. “I took them to parks, and they made a spread sheet of all the amenities, like restrooms,” he said. Now, with strict limits on gatherings, they’re home and he said his wife is “mostly in charge of teaching.” “This is hard. It is a huge learning curve,” said Nicole Hoshock, a student support advocate at Everett’s Evergreen Middle School. “It is a ton of planning, creating work space in our home, learning what the balance of work, family and school is.” She not only works in the district, her older daughter is an Everett High freshman and a younger daughter is in fifth grade at Lowell Elementary. It’s been easier to keep tabs on her fifth-grader’s work than high school assignments, she said. In all, Hoshock praised the district for communicating, providing support and stressing “the importance of taking care of ourselves and our families through this uncertain time.” Whether it’s an old-school chalkboard, a paper worksheet, or an online lesson, everyone’s learning something, even in kindergarten. View Ridge Elementary kindergarten teacher Aubrey Brock uses Google Slides to tell students about activities for reading, writing, math and science. Those activities are linked to educational websites, primarily Seesaw, where he can assign work. Wow. What I remember from kindergarten is finger-painting. “We are doing our best each day,” Brock said, “to be consistent, positive and supportive not just of our students, but their families.” “I think it’s a huge lesson in resilience,” Cabana said, “for the kids and the staff.” Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com. Help for parents The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction offers guidance for families during school closures: k12.wa.us/about-ospi/press-releases/novel-coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-resources

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