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Stories from Covid Schoolers: Jonathan & Ashleigh

Updated: Jul 10, 2021

This is a guest post from Jonathan and Ashleigh.

Our family has been in Quebec for almost 3 years now, and it has been an absolute adventure that we have loved. We first moved to Sherbrooke to gain a base in the French language, to then later move to Montreal in the summer of 2018. We are a family of 5 plus a very large doggo. We have a young lady in secondary and two boys in the later stages of primary school. It has been a joy to see each one of our children blossom and find their niche within the schools that they go to. Some find it easier than others, but for two of our kiddos it has never been an easy road. One of our boys from a very early age was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and was later diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. The other, was recently diagnosed with ADHD with anxiety. Two non-neurotypical children, but both have hearts of gold. For this story I will be focusing on our two younger boys, but if you have questions about navigating the EMSB as certificate-eligible foreign workers you are welcome to ask.

I am going to refer to each of our boys as MO (older) & HY (younger), as it makes it a little easier for me to guide you through this adventure. This past fall, after our second parent-teacher-intervenant conference, we had come to the realization that something needs to change. Whether it was finding a different school, program, or even homeschooling, their current situation is not looking good for the long run. For MO, he had few available in-class helps and supports. There just aren't enough resources for him to receive the help that he needs to be successful within the classroom. For HY, although he has the right teachers and the capability of being successful, there is just a large gap between how the school operates educationally and engages him emotionally. HY, due to him having a brother on the autism spectrum grew up with a person that interacts differently than a neurotypical child. He woke up, went to school, came home, ate meals with, and went to bed with this brother. This was how he initially learned to interact, speak, and engage others. Unfortunately, this is not how the world interacts and he has been working hard to work through some of these defaults. Both boys have their struggles, and we're not sure how they're going to be successful within this context.

Enter COVID-19. Friday March 13th was the first day we held them back from going to school. Sunday, March 15th was when we received the announcement that school was out indefinitely. Oh dear. Both my wife and I knew exactly what was in store. We had always thought about homeschool, had many friends (to include Adam & Michelle) who did this, and saw a huge spectrum of what it would look like. We both had no desire to do it. We are here in Montreal for work, and it doesn't seem like a feasible option at this moment. Both Ashleigh (my spouse) and I are in quasi-full time work, and it would be tough to fit it. Even more, we experimented with it when we first hit Quebec, but it wasn't something that we had fully invested into. We knew our kids were going into public schools, and we just wanted to give them some work to keep them busy. However, with this interruption we knew that we needed to really dig in. This was not going to be a short pause. So taking what we had learned from Adam & Michelle on the first go around, what others had done before us, we saw that we could structure it to our kids' needs. We also had a good idea of where each kiddo was, because we had a good pulse on their homework / daily life within school. We had newsletters and knew what their progressions within their subjects were. Now all we needed were some resources to get us going.

Being able to turn to our friends Adam & Michelle was such a blessing. As they were the ones to help us when we made it to Quebec in 2017, Adam and Michelle were our first call when we started looking at starting it up again. This time, it would be a little more intentional. We wanted to cater to each of their special needs, choose topics that interest and challenge them on top of their normal educational requirements. Prior to this, we had been talking to Adam & Michelle about what they do for their curriculum, their work at a homeschooling Co-op, and some of the strategies they employed for their boys. Talk about a primer for what was to come. They were so helpful that they even created a unit about Rocks & Minerals for us, with a printable board game. How cool is that ? We then spoke to a couple of the friends back home and from all of that we came up with a flexible schedule for them. We have music, art, coding, math, science, history, creative writing, and french. We also talked to family members and friends and asked them to do TedTalks for us. A lot of our family members are stuck in the same boat that we are...time to spare. In our family we have a software engineer working managing satellite projects, a procurement specialist, chef, model, civil engineer, philosophy teacher, and the list goes on. I'm sure you have some friends or family who'd be willing to lead a talk or be on your interview panel. With the age of zoom calls, you could even bring in documents to share, videos, quiz-games, and invite your friends' kids to watch too. It's like bringing your crazy uncle to school day. How fun is that? The reality is that there doesn't seem to be a wrong way to do it, as long as you're meeting the needs of your educational contract and of course the needs of your kiddos.

We ultimately don't know if we're going to continue homeschooling after COVID-19 subsides. There are so many factors that go into this decision, and the one that we have so much of now, may not be available later on. But for now, this has been nothing short of amazing. Seeing both MO and HY find successes despite their initial objections of homeschooling has been a joy for both my wife and I. We have a newfound respect for those that have come before us and are doing it right now. This is hard work, and we applaud you for helping us find a firm footing in a situation that could have easily brought us more anxiety and fear. Thank you Adam & Michelle.

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