The Rayburn Family: An Online Summer Class for Our Kindergarten Student


Maureen Rayburn, Marketing Strategist at Laurel Springs School, shares the story of her family's journey into schooling from home, as well as her first experiences as a Laurel Springs parent. 
Imogene RayburnMeet Imogene. She's a 6-year-old, stubborn, fireball of emotions and opinions. When our school district made the decision to move classes to a remote environment for the rest of the school year, we weren't sure how Imogene would cope or stay on top of all those foundational skills she was gaining in her kindergarten classroom—and frankly, we didn't know if we would be able to handle it, either.
If you read my first blog post in this series, you know that I work for Laurel Springs, but my two children currently attend public school. The current pandemic prompted our family to explore the possibility of having our daughters take classes here at Laurel Springs, but truthfully, we were nervous about diving right in. It's one thing to experience the school professionally, but taking that leap was a scary idea—I mean, I'm a product of a traditional public school, and my husband graduated from a brick-and-mortar private school. Admittedly, that was decades ago, and we're fully aware that times change, but still...we didn't feel prepared to jump into that decision. To be fair, we clearly weren't prepared to navigate this broken remote learning process that was created by our school district either, so we decided to dip our toes into LSS with a summer Spanish class for our daughters. Why not give it a shot? Maybe it'll be great.
Laurel Springs has been doing this for 30 years, and our school district has been doing it for, like, 30 days.

Imogene And Her Online Summer Class

But let's get back to Imogene. This little person is pretty well-spoken for her age, and she loves dance and karate. She's also a quick learner and a critical thinker with a real affinity for technology. However, Imogene also has a touch of anxiety—she's afraid to make mistakes or try new things, and she feels much more settled when she has a plan and routine for her day. She likes rules.
We're a couple weeks into the Laurel Springs K-2 Spanish summer class. It's an entire semester of work compressed into a 6-week period, so there's quite a bit of work for a kindergartener, especially when combining it with her "regular" school assignments. When we started exploring the course together the first time, Imogene lit up. There are animated videos, stories, coloring pages to print, games, drag-and-drop matching, and even voice recording activities! She was dazzled. It looked like a game. She was all in. Plus, it took no time at all for her to understand the navigation for the Learning Management System (LMS).
Imogene's favorite part of this Spanish class is retelling the stories in the lessons and showing off what she's learned in the speaking labs. The cool part is that the stories and animated videos are completely in Spanish—which gives her a few moments of complete foreign language immersion. The quizzes are in English, though, which gives her the opportunity to prove her comprehension of the material! The tests are challenging, but not intimidating for her to tackle. Everything is laid out in bite-sized pieces, and even though she's still a beginning reader, she can easily follow the directions for each task without constant help.
I already mentioned that Imogene likes to have a plan and a routine for each day, so the to-do list in the LMS makes it easy for her to understand the deadlines for each lesson. Now I'll be honest...what I really mean here is that it's easy for me to understand the deadlines and tell her where she stands. I want to be very clear in saying that the curriculum is very child-centered and self-paced, but that does not translate into parents being hands-off, at least for young kids. It's important to be realistic about your level of involvement. A kindergarten student needs guidance, and you need to be prepared for that as a parent.

Bottom Line...Is This Class Worth It?

The short answer is that I really have no idea at this point. It's still early. We're still struggling because she has to keep up with the lessons that have been cobbled together by teachers who have no experience with online learning from her full-time school. I feel for those teachers. It can't be easy for them to get thrown into this situation and have to make the best of it for their students. I get it. But what I am seeing right now is the stark difference between the positive engagement she feels during her Laurel Springs class and the places where her traditional school is falling short. She's thriving on the personal sense of accomplishment in a way that just doesn't exist in most traditional classroom settings, with or without a pandemic.
I'll keep you all posted.
Next time, I'll give you a peek inside my 2nd grader's experience. It's different. Good, but different.