As parents in the Tillsonburg area prepared to send children back to school Sept. 14, or set up for remote online learning, Mark and Anna Dickson discovered a third option for their young children.
On Sept. 7, the Dicksons began homeschooling their Grade 1 and Junior Kindergarten students, Josie and Thomas.
“We had never really considered homeschooling, not that we had anything particularly for or against it, but in light of the COVID circumstance through the spring and summer, and hearing more about schools offering in-person versus remote learning, and having two very young children… we gave it some thought,” said Anna, noting it was not an easy decision.
Both parents work full-time, but they have scheduling flexibility to make it a viable option.
“With my work schedule, I am flexible in that I can do a split shift,” said Mark, who can see patients at Dickson Chiropratic early in the morning, then typically have between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. available to teach the children.
“And I work from home,” said Anna, a pharmacist who works at Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital every Tuesday, and other days from home with Northwest Telepharmacy Solutions.
“We are in full support of schools reopening and we totally understand that there are children that need to be there for social, educational, intellectual reasons, or the family work environment,” she said. “We just thought that we were in a fortunate enough position that we could make it work to keep our kids at home to potentially help with the minimizing class sizes to keep the kids who have to be at school safer.”
The Dickson homeschooling officially started on Labour Day with a field trip to the Old Cut Research Station to see bird banding.
“We thought that would be a great day to kickstart it,” said Mark. “We’ve been big into birding. It was a great activity to get us out to a lot of different trails, smaller parks and pathways, with the whole family.”
“When we’re looking at field trips, we’re looking at any learning opportunities within the experience,” said Anna.
Mark has researched Ministry of Education guidelines for school curriculums.
“One of my goals, throughout the school year, is to check everything off on this checklist for Grade 1,” he said.
“We have curriculum books for Thomas and Josie as well, so they kind of have their own time doing their own JK or Grade 1 activities, but some of the Grade 1 stuff I’m doing with Josie, Thomas will be listening or be part of it. But I don’t really expect him to be picking up the same amount of things.”
There are also online resources like Pinterest for free craft and project templates, said Anna.
“With just a little bit of searching you can find a lot of great stuff, so we’re excited to pursue that a little more as we kind of get our bearings and get into a flow of this homeschool year.”
Mark has a musical background and has been giving them daily voice lessons.
“Anna is better with art, which I’m not good at all,” he noted.
Both have a strong background in sciences, math and English.
“We’re both pretty intense math geeks,” said Anna, noting last week was the 15th anniversary they met for the first time in first-year calculus at Western University in London.
“We’re excited to teach our kids math and we’re not too shy about too many subjects. At least not yet.”
“I’ve tutored kids in Grade 9 and 10 math,” said Mark, “and Anna has tutored Grade 12 physics here in town. We enjoy teaching, we enjoyed our many years in school and post-secondary. We love school and we wish we could get them back into it but we’d just like to do things our way this year.”
They have not yet made a decision to continue homeschooling beyond 2020-21.
“We’re just taking it for the year without any specific plans for next year,” said Anna. “We’re so new into this we’re just going to give it our best try… and reassess moving ahead.”