On Homeschooling (what it is, and why that is not what you are doing right now)

During this time of COVID-19, I have seen my social media feed flooded with memes on parents and teachers homeschooling their kids. Some of you might have seen this post from a very honest student named Ben:

Many of you might be the mom (or dad, aunt, uncle, grandparent, neighbor, friend) who is “getting stressed out” or “really getting confused.” Some of you might be feeling a range of emotions now that you are solely responsible for your child’s education: anger, guilt, frustration, sadness. 

Others might feel the pressure to join in on the parents posting pictures of schedules, content children working on a laptop, or writing samples of your elementary child writing in complete sentences, full on paragraphs, AND in cursive. They are rocking it, you might think of these parents and children. Why can’t I do homeschool as well as they can? Why is this so hard?

Because what you are doing is not homeschooling, and being successful does not mean a seamless transition overnight with plenty of pictures to share on social media of all of the wonderful, organized, scheduled, meaningful activities in which your children are participating. 

As a parent, many of you made the choice to send your students to a public or private school. You put a lot of thought into this decision, and took into consideration factors such as school ratings, feedback from other parents and students, your own experiences, curriculum, class size, and value system. Whether you send your child to public schools that are supported by your heard-earned tax dollars, or you send your child to private schools that are funded with your tuition payments, you do so believing that you are making the best decision possible for you and your student. 

Homeschool parents also put the same amount of thought into their child’s education. First, they make the often difficult decision to homeschool in the first place, for a variety of reasons. They, too, do so believing they are making the best decision possible for their students. But the decision-making doesn’t stop there.

After deciding to homeschool, parents then make hundreds of decisions about content, structure, routine, and shared responsibilities. They agonize over what curriculum is best, often mixing and matching in the different content areas. They decide ahead of time who is going to do what, how they are going to plan their day, what learning will look like for their kids. Homeschool parents often set aside a physical space in their home that becomes the child’s learning environment, even though learning crosses all physical boundaries and includes a variety of tasks. They establish expectations and routines for behavior and academic performance that they reinforce with the children each day. 

Homeschool parents also do not homeschool alone. They reach out to other homeschoolers to get ideas and to plan, they join co-ops where they bring experts in to offer classes in specific subjects, they take field trips and participate in clubs and organizations where their children get the important socialization they need. 

Homeschooling is a privilege. It is done when one or more parent (or family member) has the financial freedom to stay at home and be a full-time educator. It is done with money to purchase textbooks and supplies, money that comes from paychecks that have already been taxed to fund local public schools. Homeschooling is done by parents who have a solid enough education themselves that they can teach others, and homeschooling is done by parents who have the desire to be their child’s primary educator.

That is not what many of you have been thrown into during this time of COVID-19. Overnight, your children were sent him with little to no resources. Teachers started virtual instruction with no training and very few guidelines, often learning as they go. Your children were asked to perform virtually when many of you don’t have the technology at home to do so. 

You didn’t get to choose a curriculum, buy supplies, or make sure you had a working Internet connection and device for your child. Really, you didn’t get to make any choices in the matter, and you probably are more worried about going to work in a hazardous environment or wishing you could go to work and provide for your family than you are about a Zoom meeting or optional Google Classroom assignment.

So what now?

Breathe. 

Take it one day at a time.

If possible, read to your child daily. Connect to your local library for access to books online.

If you can’t read to your child, plug them in to websites like www.epiconline.com or www.storylineonline.com where they can be read to. Put them on FaceTime with a grandparent or aunt or uncle who is at home, quarantined.

Teach them math by including them in the kitchen. Look at grocery ads and practice counting money and budgeting. Have them plan an imaginary post-quarantine party. Measure for decorations, budget for supplies, and plan creative party favors.

When you can, connect them with their teachers and classmates online. Allow them to attend Zoom sessions or to complete assignments in Google Classroom. If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of assignments teachers are making available, start with one a day.

Encourage independent, imaginary play. Send your kids outside, or to their room without a tablet or television. Let them learn how to entertain themselves. 

But most importantly, breathe. Do your best, and celebrate small wins. Step away from the social media feed that makes you feel as if you aren’t enough, because you are. 

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