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Parents with young children enrolled in Gentry Pioneer Virtual Learning Academy might be surprised at the amount of work required of them to help their children listen to instruction and complete daily assignments.

As a grandparent helping a first-grade grandson, I must admit I am getting an education myself and also seeing how hard the teachers must work to provide a quality online education to youngsters who, at least for the moment, are attending online until the covid-19 fears and restrictions are finally a thing of the past. And, just maybe, some parents will elect to continue with online instruction when they could send their children to onsite instruction at the schools.

The first two weeks were fraught with problems, mostly related to technology. Zoom's videoconferencing platform used by teachers to present their lessons failed on the first day of classes and again on day two, but teachers adjusted, changed platforms temporarily and got things done. There was another brief failure in Week 2, but teachers recorded lessons and gave out assignments to keep things moving.

Not only did students have to adjust to online technology but parents and (in some cases) grandparents too, and it has been a bit of a learning curve to maneuver around on a locked-down Chromebook, find lessons in Google Classroom, SeeSaw and other platforms and show youngsters how to complete and submit assignments. In many ways, the learning curve may have been easier for the youngsters than for those who completed the primary grades in the last century with lined paper and pencils and the occasional use of crayons.

I've learned that what we just memorized in math has to be illustrated by students today so that they understand why 2+6=8 and why 8-6=2. We've been studying digraphs and I'm expecting to hear a discussion regarding diphthongs soon -- yes, the word diphthong is made up of digraphs but not diphthongs.

With a first-grader just learning to read, oversight is needed to make sure he understands the directions, watches the prescribed videos and completes all the necessary steps of assignments in reading, writing, math, phonics and more, to say nothing of the oversight needed to convince him that doing his homework is necessary and what will happen to his privileges if he neglects to keep up with it. With all that necessary oversight, having a child in the Virtual Academy takes a good deal of time each day on the part of adults to make sure the children get everything done.

And, considering the time needed to keep one child current with assignments and listening to online instruction, I feel for those parents with more than one child attending school online in the lower grades -- I believe that task could become a bit overwhelming, especially if trying to fulfill other demands of work or home.

One thing good about having children in the Virtual Academy is that it demands parental involvement. That, no doubt is a struggle with onsite instruction when parental responsibility for a child's instruction seems to be fulfilled when the child is dropped off at school or boards the school bus. With online instruction and assignments to complete, parents have to be involved just to be sure that assignments are done.

And, there are rewards in seeing a child learn new things -- in my case, seeing a grandson sound out and read words I didn't expect him to know and illustrate math problems and solve them even though he often already knows the answer.

Yes, online instruction requires much of teachers who prepare and record lessons and give assignments in new digital formats. For that hard work, expertise and skill, I recommend them. And it requires a lot of time and patience on the part of parents and grandparents. I commend those willing to put in that time and be involved in their children's education.

Though it is hard work, in the end, it's all worth it to see a child learning new things and receiving a quality education upon which to build and grow. Hang in there!

Randy Moll is the managing editor of the Westside Eagle Observer. He may be contacted at [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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