Like many students, Lauren Compton said it’s hard for her to learn exclusively online.
She and her brother, Jack, a sixth-grader, may be doing better than most, however, due to the fact that their mother, Carolyn Compton, is a tutor and is a licensed special education teacher. Public school students in Charles, like most in the region, have been completing school online from their homes since last spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Compton kids attend Piccowaxen Middle School in Newburg in southern Charles County. Although there were connection issues on the first day of school, it’s gotten better over time, said Lauren, who is in eighth grade.
“It’s ridiculously busy all day long,” said Carolyn, who works from home tutoring students from pre-kindergarten to adult. “It’s very taxing on family time. It’s taxing on the quality of life because of the school demands.”
Nonetheless, Carolyn said she enjoys having her kids home all of the time. “We’re glad we’ve had these months to have lunch together. That’s been the upside,” the mother said.
Her husband, Jon, is a civilian employee for the U.S. Department of Defense and works at the Pentagon one or two days a week. The rest of the time he works from a basement office in their home.
Getting a student’s assignments can be challenging, the Comptons said. That’s because a teacher has multiple ways of letting students know. They can tell them during a virtual class, email them or post a message on the StudentVUE system, for example.
“It’s like [finding] Easter eggs, and the teachers know that, too,” Carolyn said.
Lauren’s virtual learning — which takes place upstairs in the “Zoom room” of the family’s two-story house — begins at 7:45 a.m. and ends at 2:15 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. She does independent, or asynchronous, learning on Wednesdays.
“We’ve talked about doing homeschooling,” Jon said, but they didn’t want to lose Lauren’s status in the National Junior Honor Society. “I wish they would tailor the [learning] experience for the capacity of the family,” he said.
They would prefer to use workbooks and then scan or photograph the completed assignments and send it to their teacher. That would help with any internet bandwidth problems, he said.
“We did that in the spring,” when COVID-19 resulted in schools first being closed, Lauren said.
Carolyn and Jon could send their kids to a private school, such as Grace Lutheran in La Plata, which has openings, but “stability is so important,” Carolyn said. “Transferring compounds the effect of COVID.”
Jon said the family has “a nice middle class existence, but families that are less well off than us must be having a hell of a time right now,” he said.
“Teaching online is so hard,” Carolyn said, noting she has a couple of students that she tutors virtually. “Even for a good teacher, it’s difficult,” she said, adding that they have “no complaints” about their kids’ teachers.
However, Lauren notes that some students don’t turn their cameras on. She said virtual learning makes it easier to cheat, noting that students can Google answers to questions. She has about 24 students in each of her classes, and said that about 10 typically do not turn their cameras on. Only one or two of these students do not have a camera on their computer, she said, noting you can tell who has a camera and whose camera is turned off by looking at the computer.
Other kids seem to have consistent connection issues. “It seems to be the same kids over and over,” Lauren said.
On the weekends, the Compton kids stay busy as they are involved in junior golf. For other extracurricular activities, Lauren plays harp and flute and is learning Irish dance, while Jack plays clarinet and bassoon.
“We’re gonna stick it out,” Carolyn said of virtual school. “I will just keep teaching them as they need it.”