It’s 8 o’clock on a Monday morning and the school day is just getting started in El Reno, with the pledge of allegiance and the word of the day: discover.
It’s happening in a place Kiley Davis never imagined: inside her house, in a playroom she transformed into a classroom for Tripp and Jimi, her son and daughter.
“I’m not a teacher,” Davis said. “I never in a million years thought I would be teaching.”
Now she has a couple class pets as she explores a whole new world of education with the eager eyes of her 7-year-old and 4-year-old looking on.
“They started calling me teacher mommy. They're like, 'teacher mommy can go to the bathroom?' I'm like, 'Well you can just call me mom.' And they're like, 'No, we'll call you teacher mommy.' Okay,” Davis said.
Her day begins well before the sun comes up with a different kind of class. She and her husband own Tribe Gym in El Reno where she coaches a couple of sessions while Tripp and Jimi are still sleeping.
“I get done around 6:30,” Davis said. “I usually come home, do a load of laundry, make the kids breakfast.”
She'll swing by the gym again mid-morning to train another group, then it’s back home for the rest of the school day before heading back to the gym, again, to coach a few more classes in the evening.
“It is exhausting,” Davis said. “[I’m] trying to put my best foot forward with being a mom and being a teacher and being a business owner and a coach.”
It's a lot to balance. There are moments she struggles and even questions if she made the right decision.
“I'm constantly second guessing if I'm doing the right thing. I just feel like as a parent, you just are right now. Everyone truly is just doing their best with what they have,” Davis said. “Just be kind and empathetic to everyone's situation because we're all just trying to figure this out together.”
Davis made the tough decision to homeschool because she feels it’s what works best for her family during the pandemic.
“My grandpa's almost 90 and my kids are around him almost every single day, so I wanted to keep him safe,” Davis said. “Just the fear of maybe not having a real consistency of classroom's opening, possibly them having to shut down for quarantine and things like that.”
Davis is using her own curriculum to homeschool Jimi.
“She's a hot little mess, but she likes doing the arts and crafts and she's been working on her letters and she's getting proud of herself,” Davis said.
Tripp is following El Reno Public School's virtual learning plan.
“Tripp just genuinely loves learning. He loves doing schoolwork,” said Davis. “I'm learning things about my kids with what they do in school, how they learn, what they're good at and what they need to work on.”
The State Board of Education said it's too early to know how many students are learning from home, but said virtual school is the only option for 7.5% of Oklahoma school districts, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Nearly 70% of districts are giving parents the option to choose for their children, in-person or online.
This comes, of course, after the pandemic forced all Oklahoma schools to go virtual in the spring. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said that was a setback for many students.
“We will still haven't closed the digital divide,” Hofmeister said. “We cannot rest, that has to happen. We still know that there is a lot more work to do.”
Hofmeister is optimistic about what's ahead.
“Online in the fall is radically different than what was experienced in the spring and districts are communicating that and families will experience that,” Hofmeister said.
For the Davis family, virtual learning and homeschooling is only temporary, for a semester or two. In just a few short weeks, Davis has discovered it’s rewarding being a teacher.
“It's been awesome, and it's been more fun than I thought it was going be,” she said. “I hope they look back on this and think, 'I was kind of unaware that a pandemic was happening. We had fun, we were silly together and we got to spend a lot of time together.'”
From the beginning, Davis has operated off the advice of a friend: don’t let a good pandemic go to waste.
“Which just means, do some things, maybe now take advantage of the opportunity you maybe wouldn't normally,” Davis said. “With a business be creative, innovative. As a parent, take this time to do things with your kids you might not normally do.”