As of yesterday, there have been three snow days so far in 2014 for the Providence Public Schools, On such days, my kids' needs are to find entertainment and food. Mine are to find time work from home (make no mistake, I'm grateful that I can do that and know that I'm lucky to be able to do so) and a semblance of sanity. Let's just say that some days have gone better than others.
Yesterday's snow day was mostly successful. No one yelled, no one cried, and we made Bunny the Snow Individual during my lunch hour.
What we didn't figure out, and what I'm trying to determine, is whether snow days should be a time for formal learning, which some districts are considering (I have no idea whether PPSD is one of them). The most feasible method is some kind of online learning that kids would need to walk themselves through when bad weather keeps them at home.
Good idea? I am not sure. I'm appreciating the range of opinions in this New York Times Room for Debate feature, in which a few people weigh in on the topic of virtual school on snowy days. Most seem mostly for it (Khan Academy representative, your support for online learning is not the biggest shocker). One, a charter school teacher, pointed out my biggest concern, which is the lack of online access that's a real factor for many families.
I do encourage my kids to use their brains when they're home from school due to weather. They read and write and draw. They also indulge in sleeping late, board games, lolling about, and some screen time. Coming from a place of privilege and with kids who are fairly successful in school, I'm not too worried about learning loss. I just want them to keep their heads in the game a bit.
Is that the motivation for teachers? That kids keep their head in the game? Or is it to try to keep classes on pace - a legitimate concern because for so many, there's so much to cover. I'm intrigued by the idea but suspect that unless there were a much more robust technology initiative, it wouldn't work well. And I am not sure that all parents - including me on a busy work day - would have the capacity to monitor their younger and/or ditzier kids properly to make sure the work actually got done. It seems that there would need to be some meaningful communication, training, and expectations-setting for this to have a chance at doing more than keeping some percentage of kids occupied in putatively studious pursuits.
This weather thing seems likely to continue to be a thing for those of us in snowy and cold regions, so at the very least, it makes sense for all of us to have a snow day plan in place that ideally leaves a time both for family fun, some learning, and the essential work of learning to entertain oneself when school and family aren't right there to make it happen. That, I think, is the biggest lesson of all, probably worth far more than whatever math problems might get done online.