Five weeks into virtual learning, at least one Jacksonville family has it down

September 15 is National Online Learning Day.
Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 8:08 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Five weeks into virtual learning, and families are making do with taking their classrooms to the computer.

Just ask Heather Abenti and her family of five far-distance learners. Abenti and her husband, Jonathan, are both educators teaching online as well. And all three of her kids are learning online, too. They’ve tackled the challenges and have gotten it down.

“It’s a lot to manage,” said Abenti, a communications instructor at Coastal Carolina Community College. “We really rely on schedules and things like signs on the doors and making sure everyone has calendars so we know where everybody is.”

Although Onslow County Schools gave families the option to return to in-person learning part-time, Abenti has lupus and a compromised immune system. So, according to her, the best and safest option for her family was to move as many of their classes as they could to virtual.

“We have different spaces for everybody. There’s an upstairs space, there’s bedroom spaces. Off our kitchen, we have a whole study that’s just built-ins for charging computers," said Abenti.

Abenti’s kids say they’ve overcome some hiccups, but have been able to maintain the same level of education as when they were learning in-person.

“There’s a lot of WiFi problems because we’re all doing things all at once," said Abenti’s daughter, Kai, who’s in 11th grade. It’s like “It’s a lot of communication.”

“My teachers are pretty understanding because everybody’s on internet every time 24/7 everyday,” said Abenti’s 8th grade son, Isaiah.

An educator, Abenti said, in her opinion, grade schools have been long behind on virtual learning. She’s now hoping that this time of virtual learning will help them pick up speed.

“In business, we’ve been doing online meetings for 20 years. In higher ed, we’ve been doing online learning for 20 or 30 years, even dating back to like correspondence learning,” said Abenti. “The K-12 system has been behind in this process. So, unfortunately, they had to catch up very quickly under super stressful circumstances.”

But, with every member of her family learning from home, Abenti said it’s given her the opportunity to understand virtual learning from both sides of the screen.

“It makes me so much more patient with teachers and administration than I probably ever would have been,” said Abenti.

Abenti’s kids have been able to pick it up, according to Abenti, much better than they did during the abrupt move online in March.

“They’re comfortable hanging out doing it themselves, and have been from a very early age,” said Abenti. “But, if that doesn’t happen in your family, it’s not gonna work.”

Making this home classroom run like a well-oiled machine.

Duplin County Schools is returning to in-person learning Monday after five weeks fully-online.

“These five weeks have been irreplaceable, because this is the first time teachers have been back on campus since March of last year,” said Duplin County Schools Spokesperson Christy Johnson in-part in a statement to WITN. "Being on-campus has given them access to school resources, invaluable professional development and a chance to share instructional experiences from the summer.”

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