The Cullman Times news Editor Amanda Shavers sat down with her mom, retired Fairview second grade teacher Suzanne Shavers, to talk homeschooling and what parents, and grandparents, can do to keep students from falling too far behind in the new pandemic affected education system.

With schools across the country dismissing due to the coronavirus, parents began adjusting to taking over their children’s education.

While some parents were getting a crash course in homeschooling and distance learning, class was already in session at one Cullman home.

Retired Fairview Elementary second grade teacher Suzanne Shavers had been drawing on her 35 years in the classroom after grandson James Lino came for a short visit in March.

“The schools in Marietta, Georgia, were closing on March 13, at that point for two weeks, so we volunteered to have him come stay with us not knowing…”

Two months later, it’s been a somewhat easy adjustment for the nine-year-old who visits his grandparents six to seven times a year for a week or two at a time.

The 72-year-old grandmother said she immediately started implementing the lesson plans provided by Blackwell Elementary in Marietta.

“On that first Monday we already had a week of lesson plans to work on. His teacher, Amy Hays, provided so many websites for parents to use for extra help.”

James is taking it in stride.

“Once a week, on Thursdays, we Zoom (A video conferencing service that allows you to meet online with others) with my teacher and my friends and everybody in my class,” he said.

“We had a scavenger hunt last week and I got a candle and I was the first.”

Shavers said James’ teacher can mute everyone when she needs to focus on one child.

James gives his time at “Oma (German for grandmother) School” a thumbs up.

“I get to go fishing with Papa (the elder James). And I’ve learned to make corndogs and rice bowls in the microwave.”

Recreation and lunchtime aside, it’s the classroom time that he’s particularly proud of.

“I’m very good at math. Kinda medium on the reading, kinda good at telling time. I’m really good at counting money,” he stresses. “This is a little more harder work, but at school it takes more time.”

It’s that single focus on one child that makes it possible to keep homeschooling hours shorter.

“I don’t have to split my time with 20 other students, so there’s no need for seven hour days,” said Shavers. “We usually do our sessions three times a day with a morning, an afternoon and an early evening session.”

What advice does Shavers give to those without 35 years of classroom experience?

“You have to be VERY patient. You have to be enthusiastic about the subject matter.

And you have to pray a lot,” said Shavers with a laugh.

“The best thing you can do with a child is read to them. That’s something I’ve always done during his visits; set aside a couple of hours a day to read. Kids are getting a one on one learning experience. That’s something they can’t get at school.”

Those with online access have lots of options she added.

“There’s so much online. A lot of zoos and museums have virtual field trips. YouTube is great. You can find virtual art and music and exercise programs.”

As much as James is enjoying “Oma School,” he’s looking forward to getting back to his “real” school.

“I miss my teacher and my friends. But I also miss my classroom. It’s nice and comfy, a perfect size. It’s comfy here too though.”

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