Remote school by choice and necessity

The recent coronavirus pandemic has focused people’s attention on remote school, but virtual school is nothing new to us!

Since pulling Namine out of school, we have been home-schooling her. To be more precise, she has attended a virtual public school — called Rural Virtual Academy — based in Medford, Wisconsin. She has a teacher liaison who works at that school, but Jessica and I (mostly Jessica) do the actual teaching. RVA sends us the textbooks, materials, and other supplies.

This year, Namine started something new: her science class is truly virtual, as she attends the class via video conference every morning. Unlike her other classes, whose schedules are entirely up to Jessica and myself, this class’s schedule is up to the teacher on the other end of the camera. (Next year, she plans to take all live classes!)

This brings me to the subject of traditional school. This week saw the closure of all brick and mortar schools in our county until further notice. It’s a time of uncertainty, to be sure, but it brings with it no interruption to Namine’s education.

The inspiration for this post, aside from the general school closures, is the closure of Namine’s confirmation classes. Jessica and I are Lutheran; this year Namine started the three-year process for her to get confirmed by our church.

Among the county’s school closures, our church also has closed its doors to its confirmands-in-training. The email announcing the discontinuation of classes said nothing about when or how learning would resume; it certainly offered no solutions. For a school unequipped for remote learning, this is unsurprising.

There’s a special term for kids like Namine who have a weakened immune system: immunocompromised. She gets sick more easily than her peers and for longer. It’s not uncommon for a cold to put her in the hospital — sometimes for a night visit to the ER, but sometimes for a stay spanning multiple days. This was one of the factors leading us to have her attend a virtual school, since even in preschool she missed more than her share of class due to sickness.

Whatever risk the average person is exposed to with the coronavirus, it is exponentially more for Namine. Keeping her safe is paramount, but we can’t stop her learning. This was a problem we solved years ago through virtual school.

If there is any good to come out of this coronavirus pandemic, one may be that the benefits of remote work and schooling (even worship!) are more evident. We have seen its benefits for years, so we feel a little bit like the rest of the world — or at least our corner of it — is catching up with us.

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