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Virtual classrooms and YouTube story times: children’s education under COVID-19

In a Halifax suburb, a garage has become a one-room school house.

Inside, you’ll find math teacher Jeff Sangster, but no students.

That’s because the entirety of his Grade 7 class are at home with their families — and going online to continue their studies.

Sangster is a teacher with Bedford Academy, a private school that is keeping the semester going through virtual classrooms. Sangster teaches from his garage, and students are able to view the classes and chime in to ask questions through the power of the internet.

“We want to get the material, the curriculum out there,” Sangster said.

How to keep students on top of their studies while protective pandemic measures are keeping them out of school is one of the big questions facing parents and teachers across Canada right now.

While school closures coast to coast have created an extended break for many students, there are teachers offering tutorials in a variety of ways for students who miss their classes.

Another teacher in Halifax, Kate Whalen, hosts a daily French immersion story time on YouTube to engage students wanting to keep up with their French.

In Ottawa, learning hasn’t stopped for sisters Charlotte and Sloane, although they are getting their lessons from home instead of a classroom. Their mother, Angie Webb, is one of many parents worried their children will fall behind without some amount of homeschooling.

“The kids are trying to navigate this, they’re trying to figure things out and so are we,” Webb told CTV News. “It’s an unprecedented time, we’ve never experienced this before.”

Parents are not required to take up the burden of teaching now that their children are all home. COVID-19 is stressful for children as well as parents, so many are choosing to allow their kids to simply enjoy some time off and try to relax in order not to get overwhelmed.

But for those who want to include lessons as a way to fill the day, there are plenty of resources available.

Ontario has launched a free “learn at home” portal.

According to Stephen Lecce, Ontario’s Education Minister, “learning must continue.”

Kids (need to) have access to curriculum material developed by educators to keep students stimulated and motivated to learn,” he said.