With many parents/employees working remotely, and trying to juggle helping their kids learn at home during the coronavirus pandemic, the role of grandparents and their help has taken on urgent new meaning.

Kathleen Monroe of West Barnet is helping her young grandsons to learn, finding online resources and teleconferencing with them.

Connor, Monroe’s 6-year-old grandson, asked her to help him find “Easy Reading, Level 2, Grandmommy.”

A career Speech and Language Pathologist, Monroe brings decades of understanding and careful observation and listening skills to the new task of remote teaching her grandson.

“To determine if a book is the right level for your child when a guided reading level isn’t present, use the five-finger rule,” she advises parents, grandparents and caregivers in the same boat. “Ask your child to read a page from a book and raise a finger for every word they don’t know or can’t pronounce.”

Monroe explained, “If they have no fingers or just one finger raised by the end of the page, the book is too easy.”

“If they have four or five fingers raised, it’s too difficult for them to read alone,” she said.

According to Monroe, “The sweet spot is two to three fingers — which shows the level is just right. It’s also a good idea to ask them about what they just read, to gauge their reading comprehension.”

On Friday, Monroe reported that until late last week, she had been able to order materials through Peacham Library, which was offering outdoor pickup, but ceased doing that due to the coronavirus restrictions.

In addition to Connor, Monroe is also teaching Connor’s big brother, Wells, 8, a second-grader, who she said “has occasionally collaborated as a peer mentor.”

The boys chimed in through an email on Friday, sharing what it’s like learning remotely and with their grandmother’s help.

Wells said, “The internet is amazing! It’s great to be able to talk to my grandparents every day even when I can’t be near them.”

Connor piped in, offering, “If you have grandkids you should offer to help them too. It’s a lot of fun and I like showing Grandmommy how smart I am!”

Monroe, the grandmommy Connor is talking about, said, “We usually have two sessions per day, each of no less than 30 minutes — often more … Their grandfather is doing math with them. Their parents are teaching and coordinating the program as well. Their Uncle Aaron, in Concord, N.H., recently became one of Connor’s reading partners and the boys have read aloud to a ‘cousin’ down in Maryland.”

Monroe said, “Over the past two weeks I’ve so appreciated the daily interaction with the grandboys, impossible otherwise in these times.”

“While the family is not far away in terms of distance, the separation from them would have been much harder had we not had this homeschooling opportunity,” said Monroe of the comfort the remote learning opportunity brings as an important add-on. “I get to keep in touch with the busy-ness of their household, and it took the sting out of missing our annual Barnet St. Patrick’s Day dinner which we had to forego.”

She continued, saying, “I anticipated the announcement that the school year had ended,” which Gov. Phil Scott declared late Friday, “Because we are all so comfortable homeschooling, I think we relish the opportunity to continue.”

“Given that I expect we will be restricted for months, I am glad I have, among the many ways I found to amuse myself, this opportunity to continue to contribute to their growth and grow a memory of schooling with Grandmommy,” said Monroe of her important role — and silver lining her family has found amid the coronavirus crisis.

For Monroe and her grandchildren, they are using both Skype and free Kindle leveled books for reading.

She explained, “I am a retired private practitioner in speech-language pathology and we are not novices to homeschooling which helps.”

“My two sons were home-schooled during public school rough patches in the late 80s and early 90s,” Monroe shared in recent days.

She said, “We have to be cautious that our days are not overfull. Learning is spread out throughout the day with frequent breaks and no schedule like what happens at school.”

“I might be teaching at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.,” Monroe said. “In addition to Kindle free books, I am also using the link to Tumble Book Library and to Oxford Owl in England.”

Monroe said, “We have developed our own curriculum augmented by some guidance worksheets from school.”

She shared how she has gone about getting resources to help her grandchildren during this upheaval in their educations.

“My first plan was to obtain books from the libraries so I researched and found a list of books available at my grandson’s reading level at both Peacham Library and Rutland Free Library,” Monroe shared. “Then, the libraries closed, Rutland more so than Peacham. Peacham still fills orders (as of this writing) for pick up, but when I spoke with Rutland they were quite clear, they were CLOSED.”

Monroe said bumps in the road have been just that, and she’s kept going to cull needed resources online and find effective strategies and materials to keep the distance learning intact.

“We are not limping in the least,” shared Monroe.

She said the family has a “full curriculum” at the ready including classroommagazines.scholastic.com, which has grade-level instruction materials, worldwide museum art resources including freefuninaustin.com, which has a virtual field trips tool, and every day her grandkids are tuning into the Cincinnati Zoo on FaceBook.

A New Hampshire Grandmother

Michele Ann Avery and her daughter’s family live together, and she’s part of the at-home learning community now from their shared home in North Haverhill, N.H., she chimed in this week. Kelbi, 5, and Kayl, 8, attend Woodsville Elementary School.

Now, the kids begin each morning on social media with an opening meeting with the school’s principal and office manager broadcasting morning announcements, the Pledge of Allegiance, and other things the school would usually tell everyone to start their day.

Kayl’s teacher comes onto Google Classroom at 8:30 using the school-supplied Google Chromebook and he can see his classmates as well. His mom helps him to complete his assignments sometimes, said Avery.

For Kelbi, she completed the work sent home quickly so the family is now supplementing, said Avery. “She and I do outdoor education or music appreciation or occasional Sunday School classes. She loves the outdoors.”

As of Sunday, New Hampshire schools are closed through May 4th.

Over the weekend, the family went for a walk and photographed two covered bridges and talked about them, said Avery. They also picked up reflective vests and garbage bags and gloves to help their community pick up litter, she said.

“Yes, it’s an emotional experience and presents challenges daily,” reported Avery. Another friend is helping her granddaughter to learn about animals, with lessons in the barn, she shared.

There is always, of course, a silver lining.

“The best part is having the time and opportunity to share with my family and working together to find solutions to help the kids get through this,” said Avery. “Watching our community come together in acts of kindness is also a wonderful thing.”

She said, “It’s definitely a struggle for both of them and a learning process for all of us.”

“We definitely need to get out and exercise more often to help deal with their stress and ours,” Avery shared. “All in all it’s a wonderful time to draw together as a family and do things we never have time to do.”

One of the photos Avery shared this week was of her grand kids having fun with a cut up, large cardboard box, their faces poking out of a “window” they created to peer through, both of the smiling. Her grandson played the captor and was a villain, and his little sister was the captor. Their dad cut windows and a door in the big box for them to play.

“The kids made a crazy video with that box,” Avery explained, in sharing the photo. “It was fun watching them create!”


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