JULY 7, 2020

Breaking Out of the Classroom–The Rayburn Family’s Decision to Embrace Online Learning


Maureen Rayburn, Content Strategist at Laurel Springs School and mom of two elementary school-aged children, shares the story of her family’s journey into schooling from home.

Academic life, for many families with children in traditional school settings and learning co-ops, has become uncharted territory this year. Kids were displaced from the familiar comfort of their classrooms and routines, while parents were dropped into a world of working full-time and overseeing their children’s education.

I work for Laurel Springs School—but up until 2020, I entrusted my two elementary school-aged daughters (Cassidy and Imogene) to our public school system. Our day-to-day life, just like the lives of so many others, was rocked by COVID-19, and it was a huge adjustment to constantly have my kids by my side, struggling through a never-ending Take Your Child to Work Day. Their teachers were understandably accustomed to instructing within a traditional school setting, and they did the best they could to keep kids engaged with the curriculum. But it all fell short.

Success Looks Different Now

Now for some real talk. Our family was not too successful at keeping up on the live class meetings or the lessons their hardworking teachers put together—at least not without some serious meltdowns. Let me put it this way—Cassidy and Imogene both had multiple Zoom meetings with their teachers every day, and I have work meetings throughout the day as well. Between unreliable technology, a full schedule, and a lot of competing priorities, something had to give. It’s not a sustainable approach to
learning.

But at the end of the school year, there was a glimmer of hope for our family, and it’s not necessarily what I expected. I’m not longing for the day they go back to school…and neither are they. The girls are still learning (even now that it’s summer), but not by hustling to endless online meetings, printing out worksheets, and trying to shove traditional schooling into an online format. Instead, by removing the walls of the classroom, my children are figuring out how to follow their passions, even in small ways—they can explore things they love. They’re learning to speak up for themselves and question things in the spirit of learning. It’s fascinating, but it needs to look and feel different than it did in the midst of pandemic-driven education. Don’t get me wrong—our school district is incredible, and we are so appreciative of the work that the staff and faculty put into the entire curriculum–but I have learned that my kids need more.

Jumping Right In

Shortly after the COVID-19 quarantine began, I began to wonder if a Laurel Springs education could work for us. I mean—I work here, but just like so many other parents, I hadn’t considered that an online private school could be a great choice for younger students. Heck, I’ve read (and written about) countless amazing stories from Laurel Springs families, but it had never occurred to me that we could be one of them.

Long story short, we dipped our toes into actual schooling-at-home through Laurel Springs summer courses, we made the decision to withdraw them from our public school district for the fall. They both completed Spanish 1 for grades K-2, and they were so much more engaged with the online format than they were with the chaotic Zoom meetings and the busywork that just didn’t add up to an actual education.

So now it’s official. Cassidy will attend 3rd grade, and Imogene will attend 1st grade full-time at Laurel Springs in the fall. We’re really moving our kids out of the classroom setting. Our whole family is really excited for the future, but I will also admit that I’m nervous.

Life Will Change Because of Remote Learning

The commitment to doing school from home requires discipline from my children, but it also requires discipline on my part. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned while Cassidy and Imogene have been learning remotely is that life as I know it absolutely must shift gears. There are no two ways about it. It’s unreasonable to think that young children are going to be completely self-sufficient while learning outside of a traditional classroom, and that means my own day-to-day life has to look different than it used to when they sat in a classroom without me for hours at a time. I want to have oversight and a
voice in my children’s education, and I want their academic journey to be consistent. That means I need to actively engage. For me, the best case scenario is that I am a champion for their education, while allowing the experts to actually execute on the curriculum.

Gone are the days when we do a nightly inventory of backpacks and lunchboxes. I no longer have to think about Crazy Hair Day or sneakers for gym class or any of the other mental checklist items that many parents have to keep straight. Truth be told, I’ll miss it. I’ll miss that organized chaos because there is some sort of perceived safety in it all. It’s formulaic…we all know what to expect every day. (I can even predict that I’ll forget pizza money AND the Wacky Sock Contest.) But does that comfort come
at the expense of a well-rounded education? Maybe. Is that well-rounded education going to, in turn, cost me the ability to plan my days perfectly to the hour? Most definitely. But it also means I have the opportunity to really see my kids grow. I will watch them follow their passions outside of a planned school day…and that’s because they will have the time to do it.

Is Schooling From Home Worth It?

At the end of the day, enrolling Cassidy and Imogene in an online school offers us all greater freedom and flexibility in their learning than you’d typically find in a traditional brick-and-mortar school. What I also know is that an online private school fills the holes I see in my children’s academic experience. They can truly own their learning journey. They’re given safety and stability in their education. It’s shaping up to be everything I could possibly hope for their future and journey through life.
As for me, my coffee breaks at work will now be spent reviewing foreign language speaking labs and sight words. It’s good, though. It’s different, but it’s good. There’s an entirely different comfort in knowing that shifting my own schedule and expectations could be the first step in giving my girls exactly what they need in an academic home.

To learn more about how Laurel Springs can be a good fit for your family, click here.