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Christopher House Families Embrace Philosophy of “Parents as a Child’s First Teacher” During Remote Learning

Posted on: May 4, 2020
This is the fifth in a series of inspiring stories of innovation and success with distance learning from charter public schools in Illinois. You can read more here

Christopher House Charter School excels at meeting students and families where they are. The process of transitioning their
Christopher House Infant & Preschool, Elementary School, and Parent School to e-learning platforms is no exception.

Guided by the belief that “parents are a child’s first teacher,” Christopher House worked quickly after area schools closed to give parents access to resources to help them through this stressful time, including ensuring that each family stayed connected to their assigned family advocate. Family advocates help parents speak with teachers about their child’s education, assist them in speaking with landlords or other entities, and provides resources for families including ideas around how to keep kids active during the stay-at-home order or how to get necessary supplies such as diapers or food.

“Ninety percent of our families are receiving active case management,” said Kristin Novy, principal at Christopher House Charter School.

As many of their students’ parents are essential workers, Christopher House understands the unique challenges families face when trying to facilitate e-learning. To help ease daily stress, the school created weekly menus for students in each grade level to follow. Instead of worrying about getting specific assignment done each day, students and their families have the whole week to complete tasks, which is extremely helpful to parents balancing work schedules and multiple children’s assignments. Students who cannot complete work regularly are developing plans with their teachers to keep learning. Rather than receiving a grade or being penalized for mistakes made, students receive only detailed feedback on everything they turn in. So far, this approach is working well for families – 90 percent of students are completing their work on time.

“We want families to be able to balance what’s going on at home with school work. Some families have lots of people living in a small space, so finding a spot to do homework is challenging and so is scheduling when work can get done,” said Novy. “We wanted to offer flexibility and let them know it’s okay if something doesn’t get done on a specific day, as long as they’re working through the weekly menu.”

The remote curriculum is designed to be as authentic to the classroom experience as possible, with teachers conducting lessons similar to how they normally would. Additionally, paraprofessionals are online throughout the day to give students who need it the virtual experience of having an aid in the classroom. Social workers are available by phone for families in need, and interventionists have found ways to connect with learners in need of extra help and their caregivers virtually. Diverse learning teachers are providing accommodations and individual support for students on their caseload.

The school equipped nearly all of the student body with necessary technology and is working to connect the few remaining families in need of assistance. Parents can continue attending parenting skills workshops virtually. Currently, these workshops are focused on how to build a positive environment at home.

Although the change hasn’t been easy for anyone, Novy said a silver lining for remote learning is that the parents now have a window into their child’s classroom.

“Through remote learning, parents see different ways of teaching and learning and what it looks like in the classroom, which gives them more ideas for how to help their kids at home,” said Novy.


Christopher House partners with families to provide a continuum of innovative schools for students from birth through high school as well as adult educational programs that create stable, self-sufficient families.