The Rayburn Family: An Authentic Look at Online Classes for Our Second Grader


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. 
"WAIT. WAIT. You wanted me to put ALLLLLLL the dishes away? Why didn't you SAY that?" [Insert loud stomping into the kitchen.] This is a direct quote from my 8-year-old daughter, Cassidy. We need to lay it all out there for her in black-and-white, or otherwise, she's going to find a loophole. Or she'll just abandon her project. You may have read a bit about her firecracker of a little sister in my previous post, but believe me when I say that it wasn't a spoiler for Cassidy's experience with learning from home. Those two couldn't be more different. Cassidy is a daydreamer. It's tough for her to focus.
Cassidy is truly a tiny Renaissance woman. She's athletic and artistic; she's outdoorsy and loves to dress up in fancy clothes; she's a strong reader and loves math. You get the idea. On the surface, all of that sounds amazing—and it is—but given the fact that she falls in love with everything that crosses her path, it also makes for a real challenge as a parent. Distractions are at every turn. We've always been able to embrace that, but once COVID-19 hit and schools went remote, the element of distraction went haywire for all of us. I mean, we're HOME ALL THE TIME.

Traditional Schooling

In her brick-and-mortar classroom, Cassidy was always the first one to complete her work...and also the first one to get bored shortly thereafter. This always led to disruptive behavior and a real lack of impulse control. Admittedly, we have been receiving feedback like this from her teachers ever since she was in daycare—I have a clear memory of her teacher in the 2-year-old room advising that we needed to work on her sitting quietly for circle time. If I'm being completely honest, I thought that entire concept was ludicrous, but what do I know? (Serious question: are there any 2-year-olds who actually behave perfectly at circle time?)
As it turns out, at 8 years old, Cassidy still has the inability to buckle down and work. We always look past it because she is ahead of her grade level academically. However, now that we've been forced to do school at home, I'm getting a closer look at the curriculum, the class dynamic, and frankly, the fact that Cassidy cannot stay on task without quite a bit of hovering. Not only that, the required, live Zoom meetings (two every day) are not particularly engaging or educational. I'm not saying that teachers aren't working hard to finish out this school year effectively—I'm just noting that they're not equipped to make it work. That translates into frustration all around, and it also leaves Cassidy without much guidance or structure from an academic perspective. So here we are, giving the experts in online education a try with a summer course. Hello, Laurel Springs!

CassidyCassidy and Her Online Summer Class

Needless to say, my 2nd grader needs a bit of hand-holding during her Laurel Springs online summer Spanish class. As I had mentioned in my previous post, the expectations and goals are very simply laid out in the Learning Management System (LMS), and the due dates are clear and manageable. But online education is not set-it-and-forget-it for elementary schoolers. Cassidy finds the format engaging, just like Imogene does, but her favorite part is teaching the material back to me at the end of each unit. Not only does she enjoy listening to the stories (which are strategically peppered with vocabulary words), she also loves giving me a synopsis of everything she learned. I don't get to experience that when she is in a traditional school setting, and I really look forward to it every day. It's a win-win!
On the flip side, I need to help Cassidy manage her time pretty closely. In a brick-and-mortar school, the students' days are scheduled tightly and the teacher enforces classroom rules, but at home...not so much. I work full time, which means my days are already packed to the brim—plus, Imogene is also working on her summer class. My husband works full time outside of our home, so I'm often flying solo during a "normal" school day. Oh, not to mention that we're still attempting to keep pace with remote learning from their traditional schools! So it's a challenge, to say the least.
I won't pretend to have all the answers about how to keep Cassidy focused, but I do know that the engaging format and the bite-sized lessons help. She can see a beginning and an end to her workload for the day in the LMS, and she can feel successful when it's all checked off. This is much more effective than the nebulous expectations of her regular classroom after they went remote, and it also gives me the opportunity to see her strengths and challenges firsthand, rather than relying on feedback in an annual parent-teacher conference.

What's Next?

I would really love for Laurel Springs to become our permanent academic home, but I'm not ready to take the leap yet. Having two (very different) young kids attending online school full time makes it feel like a daunting endeavor, but it might be worth the challenge.
Maybe by my next blog post, I will come to a decision. But for right now, I'm thrilled with their success with an online summer course!

Want to read more about the Rayburn Family? Check out the other blog posts below.

The Rayburn Family: When Bring Your Child to Work Day Becomes the New Normal
The Rayburn Family: An Online Summer Class for Our Kindergarten Student