EDITOR’S NOTE: We here present the second of two articles on a new school in Denver with a different way of doing things.
DENVER––Thanks to State-mandated virus-related restrictions, the current school year is limping to a very odd finish.
It’s a situation probably without parallel in the history of American education. And if you’re among the countless parents finding themselves in what is a strange boat indeed, with kids compelled to stay home from school, Abby Keener has some wise words for you. Keener is the director of operations for the new Starboard Christian Academy, based out of the family life center of Westport Baptist Church in Denver. She splits administrative duties with her co-founder, director of development Jennie Stahler.
As Keener told The Herald this week, she has “some advice for families who have been thrown into this home-schooling model, due to the COVID-19 (corona virus disease, 2019). Pray. This time is hard for everyone, especially parents. Know that you can’t do it alone. Ask God to give you strength when you feel weak. Provide feedback to your teacher about how it is going. Every family’s situation at home is different. Your teacher may be able to help you find ways to ease some of the stress or workload.
“And it’s OK to not know every answer,” she continued. “Ask your children to see if they can try and explain the concept to you. If they can’t, figure it out together. This is a great opportunity to explain how God blesses everyone with different gifts and talents. Children aren’t meant to sit still for long periods of time. Be sure to plan for breaks. Have a five-minute dance party! Start taking a daily walk or bike ride together to break up the work day. Or just enjoy a quick snack together.”
Many homebound children are increasing their use of colored chalk on their driveways these days, as Keener noted.
“Find opportunities to make learning fun for your kids,” she said. “Use sidewalk chalk to practice spelling words in your driveway. Read together out in a hammock. Practice fractions and measurements while baking a cake for dessert.
“Try to view this extra time with your children as a blessing,” she added. “Find ways to connect. What will they remember about the 2020 pandemic? What will you remember? A meal around a campfire in the backyard? Reading together on the porch swing? Nighttime fishing with Dad? Now is a great time to start a diary together or put together a 2020 time capsule to remember this unique time.”
Keener continued that you needn’t think you must have a million special activities to do during this time at home.
“It’s OK to keep it simple,” she said. “Your kids just want time with you. Find ways to incorporate Bible teaching into your day. Start your day with a devotional. Many times, your child will really open up and share with you during these short conversations.”
An educational hybrid that really beats the COVID
She also cited her husband, Duke Energy mechanical engineer Paul Keener, who recently extolled Starboard’s hybrid approach (combining campus-based learning and in-home learning) as “pandemic-proof.” Of course the school is shut down right now, but it’s scheduled to re-open in the fall.
“I thought this was a funny thing worth mentioning,” Mrs. Keener observed. “Of course, we aren’t without flaws, and our students and teachers would much rather be on campus, having a more normal school year. We just feel, because of our already-established distance-learning style, our families and teachers were well prepared to continue learning and moving along with our set curriculum.
“We also have seen parents thrown into doing school with their children during this time,” she continued. “We wonder if some families are seeing some fruit from being able to spend some more time with their children. Are they getting to see that light bulb go off when their children comprehend a new concept? Are they actually having some amazing breakfast-time conversations that they weren’t able to have before, because they were rushing out the door? Are they noticing they have more time to have important conversations to connect with their children––conversations that weren’t happening before, because of the fast-paced lifestyle? We wonder if some parents are actually dreading life returning to normal, because they’ve now seen how valuable it is to connect on a more personal level with their children.”
Keener explained that during a typical school year, Starboard students are on campus thrice a week: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Wednesdays and Fridays are home-study days, in which students complete their work at home with an instructional parent. The classroom teachers provide all the lesson plans for the parents on these home-study days. They’re also available during these home-study days if parents have questions or need further explanation about assignments.
“During this COVID-19 pandemic, the classroom teachers have been using video platforms, such as Facebook Live and Zoom, to connect with students and teach lessons,” said Keener. “It is important that the students still feel a sense of connection and obligation to their classroom teachers and fellow classmates.”
From kindergarten through the second grade, the primary roles of parents are those “dedicated teachers,” she added. These responsibilities include re-teaching when necessary, supervising home study and completing/monitoring the quality of their children’s work. The classroom teachers provide detailed plans and expect the parent-teachers to assist students and instruct when needed. As the students mature into grades three through six, the roles of parents become that of “involved teachers,” as Keener explained.
“Just when this transition takes place depends upon the individual student’s level of maturity and responsibility,” she said. “The parent is still very involved in the child’s work and continues to help the student stay on track. Parents and classroom teachers need to communicate effectively and work together to ensure that this transition takes place smoothly.”
This model, as Keener noted, helps build character and self-discipline. It prepares students to be independent learners, experts in time-management skills and have a strong work ethic.
To learn more, check out the Website at www.starboardchristian.com.