Updated: Apr 24, 2020
Let's be clear here. What we are being asked to do right now in educating our children is not typical home schooling. I have many wonderful friends who home school their children and they will tell you clearly that this is not home schooling. Home schooling is regular outings to enriching places, co-ops with other home schooling parents, doing plays with other families, choirs etc. It is not being stuck inside having kids stare at the computer all day to get all their learning In.
What we are doing is crisis schooling. We are quite suddenly bringing our kids home in the midst of a global pandemic. They have been torn from friends and teachers and sports and choir and musicals and graduation and prom and field day and dance festivals etc. They have lost much of their support system, as have we. We are living in collective trauma and we have been thrust into becoming an educator along with being an anxious and stressed out parent due to the changes and worries in our own lives. Having children around 24/7 with no alone time or outlet for us or the kids wreaks havoc on our own and our kids mental health. Having kids around while we try to work and be productive means some conflict and frustration for us and for them.
I have worried for the students who don't have parental support. I have worried for their parents. Maybe some parents are health care workers who have made the choice to separate themselves from their kids to protect them from the virus. Maybe some parents are essential workers and working 12-15 hour days right now and have nothing left to give to their kids when they get home. Maybe some have lost their job and their worry is how to put food in their babies mouths. Maybe some students are being watched by older siblings who are worrying about their own schooling and don't have the patience to help their siblings. Maybe there is a family where the parents don't speak English and don't understand the communication from the school. What about the families who don't have a computer or wifi? There are so many various situations that we need to be mindful and compassionate about.
For those of us with children with special needs it means the support system set up with well trained education professionals is torn away. All of a sudden we are in charge of educating this child who needs way more than we are capable of giving them. In my home that lack of support looks like anxiety and anger and refusal to do anything related to school.
Another child of mine gets up early and does her school work done by 10 a.m. She does each and every assignment and works so hard....and yet she's failing 4 classes because this is not how she learns. She has a hard time watching a video and translating it into answers on an online quiz. She takes the quiz 2-3 time and still fails and is frustrated and quits. I don't blame her one bit for her frustration.
And so this week I've said ENOUGH. Nothing is normal about this situation. So..we aren't worrying about grades (thankfully our district came out with a merciful grading policy that there will be no failing grades.). We are going to value effort, instead of worrying about results, we are going to enjoy the journey. That might mean instead of worrying about the quiz on the Holocaust, we read Anne Frank together. Instead of watching a science video, we made volcanoes in the backyard or watch the daily live videos from the Cincinnati Zoo about the various animals. Instead of school a few days here and there we will spend a lot of times outdoors as a family playing games and we watch family movies. There are many enriching activities to engage our kids minds and help them learn. Sitting in front of a screen is probably the lower of those in my opinion.
Let's begin with the end in mind. Our kids grades won't matter in the long run, this is two months out of many many years of school. Life is long and there are so many opportunities to teach them how to be responsible and accountable and hard working. Now may not be the time. Our wonderful, capable, loving teachers will catch them up next year. What will matter the very most is their memories of our relationships during this. They will remember this time, I guarantee it. How do you want them to remember it? I love the quote by Dr. Maya Angelou that says “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I personally don't want my kids to remember angry stressed out mom over the online learning. I want them to remember me as encouraging and a soft place to fall where they can share their worries and fears with me. They won't do that if I am the drill sergeant mom more worried about them getting math problems right than I am about their mental health. All of us are struggling with our mental health and one of the best ways to overcome that is through healthy and loving empathetic connections with those we love.
So my friends enjoy the journey, make great memories, build relationships and connection during this unprecedented time in history. We are helping write the history books in our family, what will yours say?