Monday, March 23, 2020

Homeschooling in a time of crisis

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Well. We're in a global pandemic. All over social media are posts encouraging you to make the most of this time your children are off of school. There are many tips on how best to continue schooling while you're isolated at home as well as memes to let off steam about how much teachers should earn, how cooped up everyone's feeling, and how no one's taught to carry the one anymore. (Is this true? I'm too old to have realized this.)

As a parent who's been homeschooling for my children's full schooling years so far, I want to offer my take on how best to homeschool right now for those of you thrown into schooling at home. Don't worry, I'll be gentle. Seriously. Because:

  1. This is not homeschooling. If your kids are usually in school full time, what you're doing right now is not any form of regular homeschooling, which is intentional and planned and much less panicky on the whole. What you're doing is crisis schooling. It's stress schooling. It's not vacation, and it's not not vacation. It's weird, and you're distracted and anxious, and your kids might be, too. This isn't normal even for homeschooling families because all our classes, co-ops, excursions, and social interactions are canceled. All children are missing their friends and routines and stimulation, whether they're already used to homeschooling or not. You're missing yours. Maybe you're still working full time in an essential (read: stressful) job. Maybe you're trying to figure out working from home. Maybe you're out of work and worrying about how to pay the next bills to come due. Maybe you or loved ones are sick or recovering. Maybe you or your kids have disabilities or other special needs that make it hard to miss out on the services that make your days more manageable.

    I feel you. But only figuratively and from a socially mandated distance.

    Whatever you do right now with school, it's fine. It's really, really fine. You don't even have to Make Every Moment Special™, which is its own form of unnecessary pressure. Kids can be bored. Kids can use screens. Kids can play the day away. Kids can fall behind in schoolwork. If your school has gone virtual and is laying on the pressure, you have the right to ask for dispensation and excused absences right now. Because:

  2. There is time for school later. Your kids won't fall hopelessly behind because of a break. Will there be some sort of learning slump? I dunno. I don't really believe in such things. I can appreciate that kids will need reminders of the rules of long division or what an adverb is, but I think learning is more than details like that. There's time to catch up, and everyone will be catching up at the same time.

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  3. There's no right homeschooling style. Most homeschoolers tend to agree with this even if they have their favorites. Our family tends toward child-led, but if you need or want a lot of structure and routine, that's fine. If their school is doing distance work, it might be out of your hands in any case. If you want less structure, that's fine, too. Honest. The color-coded charts are cute, but they may not be for you, and that's ok. Maybe your kids dig workbooks and textbooks and adult-led craft tutorials and science demonstrations, and maybe they're more loosey-goosey and want to read and play and make their own projects. Speaking of which:

  4. Kids don't need a lot of academic hours each day. A traditional day of schooling accounts for taking attendance, settling in seats, walking between classes, visiting lockers, going to lunch, having electives, and a whole lot of crowd control. The actual rears-in-seats learning timeframe is much lower than the hours they spend in a classroom environment. Preschoolers are fine with no sit-down work, but you can do short spurts as they're interested. From elementary through middle school, I'm not joking when I say that 0-3 hours of sit-down work is plenty. So don't feel like you're not doing enough if the classroom portion of your day seems skimpy. For older students, they might (or might not) have special classes with more requirements, so they'll need to adjust as necessary, but by that age, a lot of them will be figuring that out on their own. In any case:

  5. Life learning is learning. This can be an opportunity for your kids to learn so many practical skills that might get swept aside in the normal day-to-day. They can learn to do laundry and other household chores. They can learn about thorough handwashing and the spread of diseases. They can help you budget the household's reduced income for the month so they get an idea of what to do in a similar crisis. They can scour the pantry and come up with clever ideas to use the random ingredients you all find. They can plant seedlings to start a garden. They can make online artwork and videos to share with neighbors and loved ones, and they can look for ways to help the community. In addition, you can all:

  6. Take the opportunity to try something new. In our everyday lives, we put things off that would be enjoyable and edifying. Maybe you could try a new instrument together. Maybe you've always wanted to start learning a new language with your kids, or do a sewing project, or complete some home improvement tasks together. As with all the above, this is dependent on your energy, time and resources; don't feel bad if you're not in a place to be Mary Poppins right now. But if you do have a break, this could be the perfect time to enjoy a change in pace to keep your minds exercised and spirits uplifted. There are a million options floating around online right now for engaging, unique learning experiences: online art collabs, celebrities reading books aloud, daily yoga and dance classes, tours of museums and zoos, and free trials to umpteen educational sites. Again, don't let this make you feel pressure; just enjoy what sparks interest for you and your littles, and appreciate that so many people and companies are giving of themselves during this time.

I hope for health and peace for your family. We're all in this together, and we'll do our best to get through and help others along the way. As long as you're treating yourself and your kids with respect and kindness, you and they will rock this homeschool thing. I believe in you.

If you have questions on the nitty-gritty, please do reach out here in the comments.

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You can get the PDF e-book version on Amazon here for FREE through 3/27 (no coupon code needed; just add to cart):

These myriad creative ideas teach and reinforce learning under eight key curricular subjects. Your preschool and school-age kids will enjoy these time- and child-tested activities that engage their minds and creativity. These idea-joggers use very little in the way of special materials or money but give a lot in terms of natural learning and family connection.


Maddy said...

Thank you for a thoughtful essay. Hope you and your parents are well. Sending love and peace during this difficult time.

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