“Before homeschool, we had Dad School, which was really hard”: Toronto kids reflect on their online classes so far
Age: 10 Grade: 5 School: Lord Lansdowne Junior Public
Grade he would give his homeschool experience: B+
“I do my work on a computer in our living room. It can be hard to pay attention while my sister is doing Zoom calls with all of her friends. I guess I have a bit less free time since school started, but before that we were doing Dad School, which was really hard: my dad was making us do multiplication with three numbers. Mom School was better. She got us to to create a product and say what it would do and how we would sell it. I did this thing about Roblox, which is a video game a lot of kids are playing at home. We have three subjects: math, English and French. So far we have gotten a lot of math homework—33 pages. It’s a bit confusing to keep up to date on everything. This week I forgot to check under the English tab, so I had to catch up on that work over the weekend. We have to write about what’s good about isolation. Our teacher asked for three big paragraphs, which seems like a lot. Recently I learned how to make scrambled eggs. The secret is not to cook them for too long.”
Age: Nine Grade: 3 School: Morse Junior Public.
Grade he would give his homeschool experience: C
“I still wake up really early, around 6:30, because that’s what I’m used to. I’m allowed to play video games until 10 while my parents work. I’m really into Fortnite, and sometimes I play with complete strangers. My mom and dad have a rule that I’m only allowed to play with kids who have high voices. After I’m done playing, I will go outside for a bit and then do some schoolwork. Mostly, my teacher has been giving us activities, which are so much better than the usual homework. Some of them are a bit too easy, like writing down what the temperature is a few times a day. But some of them are fun, like drawing a picture and hiding words inside of it. I’m just glad we don’t have to do division at home. My mom bought flash cards, but I don’t want to do them. There are a few school-recommended apps for math that are pretty fun; I have been doing Prodigy, which is kind of like school and kind of like a video game.
“There’s nothing that bad about being at home. I miss music class, which we don’t do online. I got a guitar for Christmas, so I have been freestyling on my own. I wrote a song the other day, but now I can’t remember where I wrote it down. I have also been playing a lot more Lego. I built a whole village, but then my cat came in like Godzilla and ruined it. So now I’ve been working on building a new Lego car called the Spectra. It’s like a Tesla, but faded rainbow. It’s also more dangerous.
“I don’t really miss school that much because I’m able to play with my neighbours. We all stay in our own backyards and build obstacle courses and then direct each other how to get through them. I do miss Tim Hortons. Usually I get a bagel and chocolate milk and a honey cruller. My mom makes pretty good bagels but not honey crullers. I guess I miss seeing my teacher. At the beginning of the year everyone said she was really strict, but she’s not. And I also miss my podcasts—I love Brains On. It’s kind of annoying that they are all about corona now.”
Age: 15 Grade: 9 School: École secondaire Ronald-Marion
Grade she would give her homeschool experience: A-
“I call into a class on Microsoft Teams every day at 1 p.m. from my laptop in my bedroom. We have class until 2, then a break, and then class again from 2:30 to 3:30. Everyone except the teacher turns their audio and video off. One time I forgot to turn off my audio, and I yelled at my brother to get me a glass of water. Everyone heard and laughed. The technical difficulty has been harder than the school part. We do document sharing and video sharing, and sometimes you’re waiting for half an hour for something to download. But I love being in charge of my own schedule a lot more. In the mornings I can do other things.
“I am a lot more organized than I was before, and my room is really clean now. My mom and I have been doing yoga and meditation in the living room, which is fun. I’ve also been doing a lot of makeup challenges on TikTok. Before I would always see these things and think, Yeah, it would be fun to do that, but I just didn’t have time. I do miss going out with friends. We were supposed to have a spring dance, which is cancelled, but I’m okay with that. I really feel bad for the kids in Grade 8 and Grade 12, because they might have to miss graduation. Last year I was in Grade 8, and we had a big celebration and awards ceremony. I had a custom-made dress. I’m really lucky that my year didn’t miss out on that.”
Jude and Dante
Age: 11 School: Givins-Shaw Junior Public Grade: 6
Grade they would give their homeschool experience: A (Jude); B- (Dante)
Jude: “I’m finding this all a bit stressful. I take school really seriously. It’s not the work that’s overwhelming, it’s the technology. Our teacher has been really great—he does this quiz game called Kahoot!—but it’s still a lot to adjust to. The thing I really miss is worksheets, where I can just write things down on paper instead of on a computer.”
Dante: “I’m kind of the class clown. My favourite part about school is making everyone laugh, so it’s hard to do that from home. I still try, though. The other day I wore a red ladies’ wig to class.”
Jude: “My mom and my brother set up a desk in my room so I have a place to do my work. I have a green fluffy chair that’s really comfy.”
Dante: “I don’t have a desk in my room yet, so I do my work in the kitchen for now. I think our parents have been having a difficult time adjusting to the new schedule, but it’s nice that we’ve all had more time together.”
Jude: “Before, everyone was busy, so if we sat down for dinner it was quick. Now we have longer dinners. Our dad is a really good cook. He made lamb last week.”
Dante: “Another thing I miss is playing chess with my friends. Now I play with my friends online. My brother and I mostly stick to Minecraft because I usually beat him in chess.”
Jude: “That’s not true. We have been growing more independent. Our parents have let us prepare some of our own meals. My brother makes me Eggos sometimes.”
Dante: “It’s not that hard.”
Jude: “Our mom has taught us how to do laundry, so we’re getting really good at that. We’re lucky we have each other to play with. We’ve been playing in the backyard a lot. We have a Ping-Pong table outside that we got as a present for our 10th birthday. We turn 12 on April 26. I don’t think we’ll be able to celebrate with our friends, but I’m glad I get to be with my family. I would like to get a bunny.”
Dante: “I really want to have a birthday party. I hope I get to see my Nana and Baba and also get a load of presents.”
Age: 10 Grade: 5 School: Brown Junior Public
Grade she would give her homeschool experience: B
“I was very excited to start learning. We go on Google Classroom, and there is a message board where my teacher will ask us questions. The first question was, “How’s it going being at home?” I wrote that it was going good and that my parents and I are going on walks and doing a lot of cooking and baking. We made a lasagna together and it was really good. I got 100 per cent on that assignment. Last week, we started a new unit on structures. The question that day was, “What things does the CN Tower have to withstand?” and our assignment was to create a secure structure with the things we had at home. I did some reading and I saw that square-based pyramids are the most secure, so I built one out of skewers and a pizza box and marshmallows. I only ate one marshmallow while I was doing my work.
“Usually we have due dates for our projects. Now our teacher is letting people work at their own pace more. I like due dates because I can figure out how much free time I have, but I think my teacher is doing her best. The hardest part has been being away from my friends. We do FaceTime calls, but it’s not the same. We are planning to open a shop when we can be together again, so we talk about what we’re going to sell there. I’m going to make bracelets. But the best part of homeschooling is getting to be comfortable all day. I wear shorts and a T-shirt, or sometimes I wear my dad’s shirts because they’re big and extra-comfy.”
Age: 10 Grade: 5 School: High Park Alternative
Grade he would give his homeschool experience: A
“I usually do my schoolwork upstairs because that’s where the Wi-Fi is the best in my house. That’s also the best way to make sure my little brother leaves me alone. School starts at 10:30 and then again at 1:30. It’s kind of like being on FaceTime with our teacher. I really like how it’s not the entire day. It gives me time to work on piano theory, play video games, watch The Simpsons. I looooove The Simpsons. My mom has been working, so my dad has been taking us outside and helping me with my math homework. I think he’s doing quite well. He is very relaxed. Most of the time we can just chill. I’ve been helping out around the house more. My favourite is probably vacuuming, which is really fun.
“I guess I miss going to my piano lessons. I can FaceTime with my teacher, but we’re mostly doing theory because I don’t have a proper piano, just a small keyboard. Before Covid-19, I was learning the theme song to The Simpsons, so I’m excited to get back to that. And to go back to comic book club, which I miss. But this is actually good because I’ve had a lot of time to read comics. I’m really into Marvel from the ’60s, early ’80s and 2000s. Not the ’90s.”
Age: 10 Grade: 4 School: Hillcrest Community School
Grade she would give her homeschool experience: C+
“My teacher will post assignments, usually in a Google Doc. We do math, French, science. This week we did a collage for social studies. We had to cut out pictures from the newspaper of anything made from rock or sediment. I thought it was okay, but very time-consuming. Though I guess I have a lot of time on my hands. Sometimes our teacher will read us a book on livestream, but it can be hard to hear him. The other thing we have is a class group chat on stream. That’s a good way to stay in touch, but you have to remember not to say anything personal because everyone will see it. Mostly people text about Minecraft.
“When I’m not doing school, my aunts and uncles are doing classes with me. Each of them takes one subject. I learned about Martin Luther King, the women’s movement and a lot of other stuff we haven’t covered in school yet. It’s fun, even if it’s a lot harder. Usually I don’t like spelling that much, but my aunt lets me put the words into stories, which is really fun. I love to write stories and I love to read. While I’ve been at home I’ve read the entire Percy Jackson series, the Heroes of Olympus series and the Kane Chronicles. When this is all over, I’m most excited to go to the library!
“I’m also excited to see my friends. We’ve been emailing and trying to keep in touch, but it’s hard. One of my friends sent me a link for a video chat app called Houseparty, so I’m going to try that out, but I’m getting a little sick of being on screens all the time. First I do regular school, then school with my aunts and uncles, and then I want to watch K-pop videos. By the end of the day it’s a lot. I think when I finally see my friends in real life I’m going to cry I’ll be so excited. Last year my mom said that my friend Jaylen and I could go for ice cream, but then we never did, so I can’t wait to do that this summer.”
An earlier version of this story misspelled Ayelen's name.