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How a local family is fairing with online learning

Weighing the pros and cons of studying from home

KAMSACK - In 2020, the Nikiforoff family of Kamsack began online learning through a program hosted by the Victoria Elementary School. Currently in the fourth grade, nine-year-old Kayman and his mother, Sheri, have agreed to share some insights on their personal experience during the past school year.

While the idea of homeschooling is not necessarily new, the pandemic has spun a new normal for many students engaging in digital online learning. The main difference between the two is that while homeschooling requires a parent to lead with curriculum-based instruction, online learning involves regular Zoom meetings and assignments with designated teachers.

Up until recently, Kayman attended public school in his hometown along with his peers. Students bounced between classes and closures due to repeated COVID outbreaks in 2021. Around the same time, Kayman’s grandmother had been diagnosed with cancer. Sheri decided it was in everyone’s best interest to keep Kayman home for the long-term.

“Due to COVID, we had the option of online learning or homeschooling,” explained Sheri. “I chose the digital online learning where Kayman and his teacher met on Zoom classes. At first, it was frustrating for me because I am not ‘techy’ – but the teachers are so good at helping out. Digital learning is not for everyone, but it’s a good option for those who stay at home or live too far commute to school.”

Sheri wasn’t sure how having Kayman at home with her every day would affect family life.

“I thought having Kayman study from home might be time consuming – but actually it’s much easier this year. The biggest challenge for us is that we’re not a technical family. So learning how to use apps, upload, and download took some work.”

Sheri explained that Kayman shifts between working on a laptop computer and additionally, an iPad that she purchased for convenience.

“Being on time was a huge issue for Kayman. Since he started digital learning, he has never missed a day or even been late. There have been many positive outcomes. He got to meet many other coaches for other classes. His favourite to date would be his reading coach. They keep in touch and read together every now and then.”

Sheri added that while her adult daughter is a proficient homeschool teacher for her own children, it is Sheri’s preference to rely on the instruction from teachers who work online with Kayman.

“The teachers that help Kayman and his classmates all excel in their field, and most of all – they care. They really get to know the students and provide excellent instruction. They even provide after-school clubs like Cyber Club, Pokemon/Origami, or how to draw using tutorial videos. Things were very interactive at Christmas, and the class was able to meet outside at Yorkton for hot chocolate and cookies.”

To make the most of online learning, Sheri advises parents to keep lesson times consistent and ensure assignments get done so students don’t risk falling behind.

“COVID was why we started down this route, but prior to that, my son was not doing well in school. He had difficulty reading and focusing. Now he always gets his work done, he works at his own pace, and he works with fabulous teachers. He has never missed a session.”

Although much of his time is spent at home, Sheri says Kayman gets plenty of outings and opportunities to socialize with other kids.

“My advice to other parents considering online learning: enroll your kids in lessons like skating, swimming, karate, or gymnastics.”

Kayman says the best advice he could give to other students that are trying digital learning would be to get online ten minutes early. His favourite subjects include cut and edit, guided readers, science, and extra Zoom classes when he gets to visit new websites. He says the best thing about his teachers is that they don’t push him too hard and they are helpful when times are stressful.

“Digital learning has its ups and downs,” shared Kayman. “Upside is I can meet new friends. Downside is that it’s hard to be a friend. Sometimes it is hard to learn new computer skills.”

When asked if he ever misses the classroom, Kayman replied, “Sometimes, because I miss my friends.”

When asked if she intends to keep Kayman in the online learning model, Sheri replied, “Yes. We’re not sure how long – we’ll see how it goes.”