Learning in a pandemic: Online education official shares advice


NEW YORK (Reuters) – In the darkest times of last year, Stephanie Dua, co-founder and president of HOMER, a New York-based e-learning program, turned to early lessons on the job relentlessness and optimism she learned about her father farm of almond and walnut trees.

Stéphanie Dua, president and co-founder of HOMER, poses in an undated photo. Courtesy of HOMER / Document via REUTERS

From the age of around 4, Dua worked as a “nutcase” on the farm in Waterford, Calif., Picking up nuts after a machine shook them from the trees.

“You’ve always known fools because your fingers were turning black from all the walnut skins you picked,” said Dua, 50, who was paid 5 cents a bucket.

“I’ve learned so much about hard work, problem solving and how you just have to keep doing it until it’s done,” said Dua, who now lives in Coconut Grove, Fla., With her husband and three daughters, aged 11 to 16. “Even if things are unstable or unstructured, there is always a way forward. “

To help educators and families affected by school closures, HOMER gave educators free access to its programs and pivoted to offer forums and suggestions for parents suddenly in need of home schooling advice. their children.

Dua spoke to Reuters about learning during a pandemic. Excerpts edited below.

Q. How has your business changed over the past year?

A. When COVID-19 and home schooling started, we realized that we had been working on it for 10 to 15 years. It’s my life’s job to help provide a quality education for everyone, regardless of zip code.

In the first few weeks of March, we launched a “Ask the Expert” series which our Vice President of Child and Family Development led. We created an activity center to provide high quality activities parents could do with children that were easy, like using objects or ingredients in the kitchen to reinforce simple math concepts like counting.

Q. What strategies for educating and involving your daughters have worked well?

A. We really focused on some basics, like baking and gardening.

Pinterest is an incredible source of activity. For example, with gardening, my Pinterest showed us how to make a bed of soil. And my kids have done some research to figure out which one is best for this climate. They developed a flower and herb bed which we maintained throughout the spring and summer.

Q. What important lesson are you trying to teach your children?

A. A sense of agency – they belong and are part of a community, making sure they have values ​​that go beyond skills and knowledge.

My 16-year-old daughter, Anya, is now a thought leader in her own right – she founded Gen Z Identity Lab, a space for Gen Z to discuss identity in a non-confrontational way. And during COVID, my youngest daughter, Isla, co-founded a movement, Miami Strong. She made masks and delivered them to those who needed them.

Q. What advice would you give to parents who are trying to teach their children at home right now?

A. Do double duty. If you are cooking, think about how you can make it a math lesson. If you are taking a walk, think about how you can take the opportunity to listen and hear what is going on with your child.

We are all so busy. We are run out of time. Take what you’re doing anyway and make it a great experience for your family.

Q. What is your biggest work-life challenge?

A. Not letting my own fears and anxieties affect my family. During the early days of COVID, we didn’t know what to expect. My husband and I had a conversation where we said, even though we feel anxious about health issues, family issues, the economy – we cannot bring this into the lives of our children.

Q. What was the silver lining last year?

A. My husband and daughter contracted COVID four days before Christmas. We decided that no one was allowed to come out of their room.

I was the nurse, so I had to bring a tray from room to room and drop in drinks, food and Tylenol. Luckily everyone was fine but it was very scary.

I really found a wave of love and support around us – people were leaving meals at the door, games for the kids to play.

We are new to Miami. We’ve only been here two years. It was a time to really get to know our neighbors better. It also brought our friends and family closer together.

Reporting by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan; Editing by Lauren Young and Matthew Lewis

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