Distance learning teaches self-reliance

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by Heidi L. Everett


In the Braegelmann household, four boys camp out around the house as each tackles distance learning in Sartell.

Tyler, 17, is a senior, and Riley, 15, is a sophomore at Sartell High School. Calvin, 13, is an eighth grader at Sartell Middle School. Kolby, the fifth grader, attends St. Francis Xavier.

“We are blessed,” said Natalie Braegelmann, their mom. “The boys are able to spread out and be in their individual classes without disturbing others.”

All Sartell-St. Stephen schools will switch to all distance learning starting Monday, Nov.16, the district announced. Distance learning will continue until at least Dec. 4.

At St. Francis Xavier, the entire school hasn’t been shut down, Braegelmann said. Instead, individual classrooms are sent home if a COVID exposure has happened.

Braegelmann is a substitute teacher and paraprofessional at St. Francis Xavier. Her husband, Chad, is a volleyball coach at St. Cloud State University.

They appreciate the “awesome work” the teachers are doing. “The classes and the rigor have been good,” Braegelmann said.

Her older kids, though, are missing out on the hands-on opportunities, like mechanics and welding. In her oldest son’s small-engine class, for example, the teacher provided videos online and then students would go into their own garage and try to replicate a lesson.

“It’s just not the same as working on a small machine with the teacher right next to you,” Braegelmann said. “It’s not ideal but the teachers have done an amazing job trying to get the best experience that they can.”

One benefit of distance learning has been the boys’ ability to become self-reliant.

“Sometimes we do too much for our kids,” Braegelmann said, “So this gives them the opportunity to know they can rely on each other and be responsible for their own learning.”

“Is it perfect? No!” Braegelmann admitted. “I could have an ideal plan for what to eat, and they find a bag of chips. I try to shove as many vegetables in as I can at dinner. It’s one of those battles you can only fight for so long.”

To minimize the spread of COVID, the Braegelmann’s are “not extending the bubble too far.” They spend time with family that lives local. The boys also connect with friends through devices.

“They are on their phones or playing games with friends almost every night,” she said. “We’ve been way more lenient than we would be in normal times. Socialization is important, so we’re giving more screen time than before. Abnormal time calls for abnormal measures.”

Although the district hopes to have students back in school buildings Dec. 4, the pandemic calls the shots. The Braegelmanns understand that.

“As a mom, I want my kids in school,” she said. “If it goes one week to the next, I want them in school. Anytime they can get in school, the better. But, I understand the logistics of that is not always possible.”

contributed photos
The Braegelmann boys camp out around the house as each tackles distance learning in Sartell. They are (left to right) Tyler, 17; Riley, 15; Calvin, 13 and Kolby, 11.

Author: Heidi L. Everett

Heidi joined The Newsleaders Oct. 30, 2020 after being a fan of the St. Joseph edition for 15 years. When she is not sharing local news and stories, she is a professor of strategic communications at St. Cloud State University.

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