Homeschool Heroes: Important lessons at home
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For the McElhinney family, it’s not just the kids who are in school. Their mother Ashleigh started graduate school at University of Northern Colorado just a few weeks ago to receive a master’s degree in literacy.
With three out of the four of them participating in distance learning and a recent move to the mountains, things could get chaotic, but they have found a way to balance it all. Curtis McElhinney, an NHL goalie for the Tampa Bay Lighting, has taken over grocery shopping, errand running and organizing family workouts, while Ashleigh does most of the homeschooling.
Trenten, 11, and Jaxon, 9, have scheduled Zoom meetings in the mornings that are usually followed by a walk. Back at home, they finish classes, have lunch and free time, more classes, chores and earned screen time, followed by playing outside, dinner and bed.
Maintaining schoolwork and learning was important to the family, even when they moved from Florida to Steamboat, where they spend each summer.
“We encouraged (actually, made them) do every assignment,” Ashleigh said. “Completing work is important, but I also think the material and the process of learning is more important.”
Along with another family, the McElhinneys added one project a week for their children to work on. The kids had a week to complete the assignment and then would present it via FaceTime to their parents and the other family.
“The objective was to learn how to research, use Power Point and other applications and practice public speaking,” Ashleigh explained.
In addition to learning, family time and getting outside is also important, Ashleigh said. And Steamboat is the perfect place to do that.
“Their imaginations are ignited once they get outside,” she said. “Together, they have built bridges over the runoff stream at the edge of our property. When the cattails come out, they transform them into arrows and pets and I don’t even know what. They’ve created a secret language and name of ‘their world.’”
Also important? Helping out around the house.
“Chores and cooking are valuable life lessons too,” Ashleigh said. “This is all building strong connections and memories.”
Ashleigh squeezes in an hour of her own schoolwork while Trenten and Jaxen are doing their work and then continues to work after dinner and when the kids are in bed. It’s a routine that keeps everyone busy learning and staying active at the same time.
“Returning home to Steamboat has been the most normal part of our experience in quarantine, and it has truly helped everyone’s mental health,” Asheigh said. “School has gone faster, because the kids are motivated to finish. Staying at home seems natural for us here in Colorado.”
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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