Virtual Learning — To Do or Not To Do

My husband and I are American expats currently residing in Madrid, Spain with our two daughters — ages 4 and 9. On March 10, residents of Spain received a push notification on our phones that all schools — grades preschool to university — would be closed for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 spread throughout our country.

This affected us in two ways; as parents and as teachers.

My husband is a learning support specialist in the high school and I teach art in the middle school, and our girls attend K1 and third grade at one of the American Schools in Madrid.

On March 12, we began virtual learning and on March 13 we went on a strict quarantine. Many students, particularly those in elementary, had never witnessed nor participated in virtual learning.

We were going to need to be flexible and find a “new normal” amid the chaos that was occurring outside our home in response to the virus. 

A four-year-old child doing virtual learning

Of course the first day was fun and exciting. The girls set their desks up in their bedrooms similar to how they would organize their desks in their classroom. They were all set at 9 a.m. and eager to get started.

Unfortunately, that all faded the longer that we were in quarantine.

Our third grader, for the most part, is able to keep up, get logged in, stay engaged, and complete her assignments independently. Our 4-year-old on the other hand is . . . well . . . a hot mess. The constant screen time, worksheets, and virtual reading from strangers got real old, real fast. 

Since this increase in screen time, we have been witnessing mood swings in our youngest.

She was frustrated with anything and everything that had to do with virtual learning. She enjoyed the Face conferences with her teachers and classmates but other than that she avoided any of the lessons like the plague — no pun intended. 

I would like to first state that we applaud the work of our children’s teachers. We know that they have been working tirelessly to relay the content in a successful way. We understand that it is a difficult time for everyone and that we are all experiencing different needs and emotions — even our teachers.

However, as parents and as educators, we made the conscious decision to “quit” virtual learning for our 4-year-old.

I would like to note that we made this decision with her teachers. We discussed the lack of motivation and came up with a plan together. We agreed that our child would participate in the live meetups with her teachers and her classmates, but that she would be focusing more on imaginative play and hands-on learning vs. the repetitive worksheets and online instruction. 

A four-year-old child doing virtual learning

Below is one of our “stay at home” bingo cards that we made to fit the needs of our daughter. Use ours or make your own! It’s a great way to allow your child to pick and choose which they would like to do each day. After they have completed the card you can even offer a reward.

virtual learning bingo card




Mary, a native of Rockford, Illinois, attended DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois where she received her BA in Secondary Art Education. In 2007, she moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa after accepting a position as a high school visual arts teacher with the Cedar Rapids Community School District. She and her husband, Collin, who is a teacher in the Iowa City Community School District, reside in Cedar Rapids with their daughters, Zoey and Munroe. Zoey is five and Munroe will be turning one in October 2016. In addition to being a full time mommy, full time teacher, and writer for the mom’s blog, she is also a professional artist who has shown and published works both nationally and internationally. Mary enjoys traveling, painting, and most of all, spending time with her family.


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