As classes continue, metro families trying to find ways to adjust to new school styles

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Many districts are now into at least the second week of the school year. So FOX4 checked in with metro families to see how they’re handling classes during a pandemic.

Berneithia Whitmire has worked all her life, and she recently retired. Now, instead of traveling or spending time visiting lifelong friends, she’s instead managing her son and niece’s at-home curriculum. The pair just started fifth grade from the kitchen table.

“He knows more about technology than I do,” Whitmire said of her 10-year-old son Tyler. “I’m over here reading, and he says, ‘Mama, I got it! I can do it.’”

She works to make sure he and his cousin Davetta have as close to an in-school experience as possible.

“Science book, reading books, and then they have art. We buy the art material, too,” she said while unpacking a book bag on the table, she said, “Then he has a notebook and everything where they have their writing and then they show the teacher.

“He goes to class. He has gym. He has music and everything, art. On his gym time, I let them go outdoors and ride their bike and skate.”

She said they’ll both begin a hybrid mode at their Raytown school in a couple weeks.

“I would never imagine that they would be doing this now, but we can’t predict future and the things that are going on,” she said. “I’d rather them be home and safe than be exposed to something.

“Hopefully they’re getting the school ready for when they come at the end of the month. The children are looking forward to going back.”

Tyler agreed. He said the thing he misses the most is using his desk.

“It makes it feel like you’re actually in school. It makes you feel like the teacher’s right there,” he said.

Learning from home isn’t without its perks though.

“You can make your own lunch!” Tyler said. “I’m not saying the lunch at school’s bad. I’m just saying you can make your own lunch!”

He said he most enjoys math, reading is his least favorite, and he likes using Google Play every morning.

“It’s fun to see your teacher, and you can also see she’s in a classroom and you can see what the class is going to look like. You can see all the other students,” the fifth grader said. 

Christen Danielsen and her husband decided on a different approach for their daughters.

“All the back-and-forth from the governor and the schools, it was just — our anxiety levels were getting high,” she said. “There was talk of in-person, there was talk of virtual, and there was talk of hybrid.”

Their oldest was supposed to start kindergarten at a Catholic school, but Danielsen decided to use her past experience as a third-grade teacher coupled with her time as a stay-at-home to research and use a homeschool curriculum.

“If I had to make up a curriculum by myself, I’d be drowning,” she said. “We’re not receiving any curriculum from the private school, which at first sounded daunting, but I found a place online. They send you all the curriculum, all the books, you just have to look at the daily learning.”

From a brightly decorated, book-filled front room in their home, Danielsen juggles teaching kindergarten material to Madi and preschool lessons to Abi.

“I think the challenge is they’re not the same age, so they’re working on different activities,” she said.

Add one-year-old Penni to the mix, and this mom has her hands full, but she believes it’s the best thing for her daughters. 

“I think hybrid would’ve been crazy schedule-wise,” Danielsen said. “They wouldn’t have had a set routine. Virtual, just the idea of her sitting in front of a screen for 6-8 hours, that’s hard to swallow, then wearing a mask for six to eight hours. I feel like it would be such a distraction and hard for it to work, so it was just kind of an easy solution.”

There’s a lot of help and resources for parents working to manage their children’s new style of education.

The Urban League of Greater Kansas City offers tutoring for students. Just call 816-471-0550 for more information.

Or check out the links below for more resources.

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