Homeschool Heroes: Distance learning across continents
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For the Hoke family, distance learning takes on a very literal meaning: the family recently came back to Steamboat Springs from their home in Mozambique. Now, the entire family manages school and work across continents.
Ian Hoke is the secondary school principal at American International School of Mozambique and his wife, Kalley, teaches fifth grade there. His daughters Dorothy and Juliet also attend the school, but when COVID-19 began to impact the areas around Mozambique, particularly South Africa, the school decided to close its campus and move to distance learning, and the Hoke family made the decision to return to Steamboat.
“At the time, there were no confirmed cases in Mozambique, but due to underlying health concerns and the likelihood of the country closing or severely limiting travel, we thought our best option was to return here,” Kalley explained.
After a long journey — 60 hours of airport travel plus the drive to Steamboat — they remained in quarantine before moving into an apartment below Kalley’s parent’s house.
The next task was to adjust to distance teaching and learning across many time zones.
“Our school recognized that we would likely have students in many different time zones and planned initially for both asynchronous and synchronous instruction,” Kalley said.
Kalley provides instruction and support for all fifth grade students, many of whom are in Africa or Europe, which is seven or eight hours ahead of Steamboat. She also has several students in Japan and North America. In any case, it is virtually impossible to meet with all students at the same time. Instead, she does most of her connecting with students in the morning, after they have finished their work for the day.
Her own children, who are in sixth and third grades, are given their assignments a week at a time. They use a planner to set up a schedule for themselves each night for the following day. Dorothy, who is in sixth grade, is assigned a specific day for a specific class, most of which start with a Zoom call followed by additional work.
Juliet, who is in third grade, is assigned reading and writing twice a week, as well as math and “units of inquiry.”
“She often does all her work on her own without participating in live Zoom instruction,” Kalley said. “We find both girls work for a few hours in the morning and then have completed their work for the day.”
As the principal, Ian is busy keeping everyone connected and designing a reopening framework for the campus. Additionally, he has led the school in connecting with and learning from a global network of educators in schools similar to AISM.
And while the family hopes to return to Mozambique and campus in late summer, Ian says if they’ve learned anything, it’s that control is out of their hands.
Despite being in an unusual homeschool situation, the family has found silver linings similar to other families — spending more time with family and seeing their daughters bond more with each other.
“Finally, the challenges of adjusting to distance learning as a teacher have really allowed me to rethink some of my teaching practices and consider how to creatively and positively adapt,” Kalley said. “I hope that many of the changes I have made will continue to influence me after we return to campus.”
Are you or do you know somebody who is having success at “homeschooling” children during the COVID-19 pandemic? We want to know the best way you’ve discovered to help your students while at home. Send your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be featured as one of Steamboat Pilot & Today’s Homeschool Heroes.
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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