How one family makes remote learning work

Hamilton-Fink family
Posted On: Friday, April 10, 2020

The Hamilton/Fink family

From left: Sara, Noah, Sophie, Chris, Maara, and Adam.

Families in Ottawa Hills are making adjustments to their weekday schedules–and sometimes physical arrangements of their homes–to make sure the district’s new Remote Learning Plan works. That challenge is perhaps greatest for larger families such as the Hamilton/Fink Family, with four students studying from home.

“The biggest change has been trying to find space for everyone to work, where they won’t distract one another and they can hear their teachers and classmates,” said Maara Fink. “It’s not always very pretty, but it seems to be working well enough.”

While their children–Adam (10th grade), Noah (8th grade), Sara (5th grade), and Sophie (3th grade)–all study from home, both Ms. Fink and husband Chris Hamilton are working remotely, too. They have learned several survival tips since remote learning started March 16.

"Don't schedule conference calls between 10 and 1," said Ms. Fink, who also is a member of the Board of Education. “And just being around and available to answer questions is helpful.”

"And make sure the WiFi is working correctly," added Mr. Hamilton.

The Hamilton children and the district's other 1,020 students took a collective leap forward this week in online learning, as the district rolled out the Remote Learning Plan. It provides more structure to the class day for everyone, from teachers and students to families.

“So far, so good,” said Sara.

"It went well. My favorite thing was seeing teachers and my friends," she said. "It was good to see the teachers and friends that I haven’t been able to," added Adam.

Remote learning offers some advantages over the traditional in-person school day. "It’s really flexible and let’s you wake up when you want and be able to study throughout the day at your own pace" Noah said. "It’s less stressful and I am able to wake up a lot later," added Adam.

There are disadvantages, too. "No one is telling you exactly what you need to do. You’re telling YOURSELF what to do and it’s harder," said Sophie. "I miss being able to ask teachers questions in person," Noah said. "With most classes, especially math, it’s harder to teach certain concepts through email or a video call.”

When the social-distancing and stay-at-home orders end, the Hamilton kids are looking forward to re-establishing old routines. "I want to have sleepovers with my friends,” said Sophie. "I want to see my friends and family members that I have not been able to see during this time," added Sara.

So what grades would mom and dad give themselves in their roles of teacher and building administrator?

“I don’t think I’ve actually really taught them anything over the past month, so I would probably give myself a ‘D’,” said Ms. Fink. “I’d give myself an ‘A’ probably,” added Mr. Hamilton.

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