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Holladay Journal

Holladay family says online learning was right choice for their children

Oct 21, 2020 12:32PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Learning at home was the right choice for Tammy Miller’s kids, a seventh- grader at Churchill and a fourth-grader at Oakridge. (Photo courtesy of Tammy Miller)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

As a former math teacher, parent Tammy Miller knows there’s no substitute for a classroom experience. And yet, when July rolled around and COVID numbers were still high, Miller and her husband didn’t feel comfortable sending their kids back to in-person school. 

“My son is a seventh-grader at Churchill and my daughter is in fourth grade at Oakridge. My husband and I listened to the advice of health experts and watched everything that happened since March. We decided that we’d rather not be part of an experiment, so we kept our kids home,” Miller said. 

Miller didn’t take the decision lightly, nor did she force it on her children. “As parents we were leaning that way, but we sat down as a family and talked about it. The kids felt good about it. They found out that a lot of their friends had also chosen online school, so they didn’t feel alone.”

Will kids learning from home lose out on essential socializing? “Yes, that’s a concern. And it’s different now. But this won’t be forever. Our kids’ teachers are really amazing. They are good at providing ways for our kids to be part of the class,” Miller said. 

Miller’s education skills are a bonus that not every home has. “I am an educator. That’s who I am. So I can help my kids. But I’m trying not to overstep that role. I’m here if they need help, but one reason I knew we could do this is that I knew my kids would get their work done,” Miller said. 

Having the ability to choose between online and in-person learning is a luxury, and not one everyone can afford. Churchill principal Trent Hendricks reported that about 30% of his students are online. 

“I’m not saying this is the choice everyone should or can make, but for our family it was right. And so far it’s going well. Maybe we’ll feel differently in a few more weeks. But for now we feel that Churchill and Oakridge are doing an amazing job,” Miller said. 

Miller gave rave reviews for all her kids’ teachers, and said they’re going the extra mile. She feels her kids are learning, completing work and getting involved in class. 

“My son has the most interaction with his core subject teachers. His math and English teachers make a video every day. His English teacher involves him in discussions in a hybrid way. He has Zoom meetings with his band teacher—she does videos. Somehow she’s pulling it off.” 

Carrie Wetzel is Miller’s daughter’s teacher at Oakridge, and Miller praised her as well. Wetzel is teaching a hybrid class, and Miller said there are 14 kids in the classroom with her and 10 online. She says this arrangement helps her daughter, who is smart, but also quiet. “I think in a typical classroom she might not speak up, and who knows, with a mask on, it would have been easy for her to not say anything during an in-person class.” 

In Wetzel’s class, Miller said she feels like her daughter is “in class” most of the time. “Her schedule is set up so she’s doing all the work and assignments and there are quick responses to our questions. But I wonder how long the teachers can sustain this.”

Miller’s family chose online instruction to “err on the side of caution. It also helps decrease class size, which helps the kids and teachers who are there. I’m hoping it will be sooner rather than later that they can go back to school. But the unknown factor bothered me a lot—the anxiety of just making the choice was hard. So we made a plan. The less unknown, the better,” Miller said.