Parents eLearning how to be teachers

Mar 27, 2020


Meet the Douglas family. Mom and dad, Amber and John, and kids Noah, Ryan and Sawyer. Come Monday, they are going to be among the thousands of families shifting to eLearning in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.  

“I am super grateful that our teachers have had the courage that it takes to completely shift what they know about teaching kids and supporting families and be willing to put out something brand new and have the grace that we’re all going to be learning that together.”

The Douglases own Nikiski Hardware and Marine, where the office will become the schoolroom. Mom works in the office, so she’s going to take the lead on being the learning coach, technology troubleshooter, chief motivator, taskmaster and maybe a little Zen master.

“I think the big challenge for me coming into this is just understanding that we need to have balance. And if we can find these learning opportunities and be actively looking for them, they’re probably going to look different then were used to them looking, but they’re still going to be valuable. I’m going half to do some self-coaching and remind myself that they are 12, 10 and 4.”


Amber is taking her kids’ personalities and learning styles into account to try and gauge where they’ll struggle and what to use for motivation to help them succeed.

First, there’s Noah, a 12-year-old at Nikiski Middle School. He’s a hands-on kid who does great when he understands the purpose behind what he’s being asked to do. Less great when he can’t see a practical application.

“He’s also firmly planted in 13-year-old development right now, so there’s a little bit of probably normal levels of resistance,” Amber said.

He’s more comfortable expressing himself verbally, so Amber thinks the additional writing component of eLearning is going to be a challenge. He also really misses hockey and all the shop classes he takes at Nikiski. Luckily, with the family being carpenters, they’re able to come up with projects to keep him engaged.

Daughter, Ryan, is a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Nikiski Elementary, where she’s in the Quest program to provide extra challenges for kids who are advanced for their grade level. Amber thinks her natural curiosity and love of thinking things over might end up posing some difficulties.

“She is inquisitive and she loves to learn and she loves to learn about all kinds of things, and the home setting will actually help her have the processing time that she needs. I’ll just have to be more specific about making sure that we still keep her on the path of staying organized,” Amber said.

Ryan is also missing hockey, and theater, but mostly, her very, very best friends. Her reward for keeping on task and keeping a good attitude is getting to pick a friend a day to chat with over Facetime.

And then they’re Sawyer.

“Sawyer is a dynamic, outgoing, energetic little boy who is motivated by fun and a challenge,” she said.

So, a typical 4-year-old?

“Yes,” she said.

Sawyer was attending the Kenaitzie Head Start program four days a week, where he was focusing on social-emotional learning, particularly social skills with other kids — how to share, how to take turns, how to be kind.

“I would say as far as the primary core of his learning right now, he’s probably the one whose missing that by being socially distanced,” Amber said.

The school is planning weekly check-ins with their families and will provide ideas of things to do with the kids but keeping Sawyer productively occupied — and out of his older siblings’ hair when their working — is going to take some juggling.

The biggest thing Amber is expecting they’ll all have to eLearn is patience.

“I hope that I won’t fail them. I hope that I’ll be able to fill in as many things as possible that they need to learn. But at the same time, I hope that I’ll have enough discernment to know, yeah, this isn’t really that important right now, this is. And be willing to lay that down and shift and be adjustable and show them what takes to be adaptable,” she said. 

Thanks to Amber for sharing how she’s feeling about the big switch to eLearning in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.