Whether you call it “homeschooling”, “remote learning”, “distance learning” or “virtual learning”, Covid-19 (coronavirus) has brought education back to the home as the main modality turning parents into teachers and transforming all of our lives forever practically overnight. So now what? Now that many parents have been thrust into a forced career change, we all have to figure it out somehow because we are not about to let our children fail; they are our future and we need to make sure that they are equipped with everything that they need to be successful. However, we also need to figure out how to survive becoming educators during this pandemic. So how exactly do we do that?
Homeschooling Tip#1: Set Your Priority
What Do You Want to Get Out of Homeschooling?
As a parent, the first priority during this time is to identify what specifically you want your child to get out of his at home educational experience. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be just about the content that s/he is supposed to learn! For some of us, homeschooling can be primarily about helping them maintain a sense of consistency and continuation in their lives as well as for helping to keep them connected to classmates and friends; the home school experience can be about addressing and maintaining the social emotional aspects of our children’s lives in order and keeping them occupied so that we can get work done. Of course, this is difficult for parents with younger, non-school aged children who also have to either work from home or continue with the housework because in addition to their professional and domestic responsibilities providing the up keep of the house, they now also have to help provide the children with “classroom management” by providing supervision, structure, and help with completing projects and homework assignments essentially having to also become teachers and educators themselves.
What Do You Want Your Child to Get Out of Homeschooling?
During homeschooling children are limited by the resources that they can access and have available at home including space, technology, and adult supervision, direction, and assistance. Therefore, it is important to maximize your child’s time so that they can get the most of the new homeschooling structure. So what can a child get as a student in homeschooling during the pandemic? For one, there is of course, the educational curriculum content that they were supposed to be learning and receiving at school. However, this is only a very small part of what homeschooling can provide them with during this time. Like most parents and Adult’s days are structured by work schedules, children’s days (…and lives) are structured by school: school is the place that children learn, socialize, and are socialized, so it is important to ensure that children are able to get these things at a minimum. However, at home, there is also the opportunity to help facilitate and encourage your child’s socio-emotional growth by reducing commuting and school time and allowing for more family time allowing for additional time for personal and family oriented chores.
What Do Schools Want to Get Out of Homeschooling?
Even during these times, the main goal of schools is to continue providing services to students, to continue delivering the educational content and classes that our children should be receiving and lessons they should be learning as well as to continue providing services for students with special needs and Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s). Teachers, professors, educators, service providers, managers, administrators… All educational staff and personnel want to continue working with our children and helping move them towards academic and life success because that is usually the underlying reason they got into this field. All of these professionals want to continue accomplishing their mission of helping our children, so they are hoping that through partnering with us in the homeschooling process, our children can continue engaging with them to continue learning, working with one another, and completing the assignments and projects that are needed for them to be able to assess their progress. As parents, we can only help, but so much with homeschooling: we may give our children some space to breathe and be able to help with enrichment and socio-emotional development.
Homeschooling Tip#2: Know What is Possible
Homeschooling: What Is Realistic? What Can We Really Expect? What is Possible?
Again, during homeschooling children are limited by the resources that they can access and have available at home including space, technology, and adult supervision, direction, and assistance.
We all have different amounts of space at home and sometimes the space that is available is not really usable because there is no wifi or because of the fact that it is actually multi-use or only single-use space like a living room or bathroom. Additionally, space is limited by the number of people in the house who need to use it and the amount of time that you need to utilize the space for: for example, for homeschooling, your children need a space that they can use for at least 8 hours of the day to attend classes and to complete homework. Space at home can be limited not because there is not a lot of it, but because of how many people need to use it; once you start talking about a 2-adult, 2-child household even a 4-bedroom can be considered dense or tight because all of the household members have to share the space. However, there are workarounds- we can stagger the schedule so that we can use the same spaces during different times.
In order to even begin with homeschooling, families had to make sure to have the necessary technology to stay connected to providers; for example during this time, families have been provided with or have had to obtain wifi along with laptops, chromebooks, Ipads and Tablets. However, one major problem, besides access to technology, is knowing how to utilize the technology and this is true for Parents, Children, and Educators some of who are being asked to utilize these resources and platforms for educational purposes. For many not knowing how to utilize the technology makes the technology itself obsolete, makes it so that they may as well not have it.
Lastly, there is the issue of adult supervision for children who need to attend school online. At school, the children have multiple trained professionals to supervise, instruct, and help meet their needs; students at school have the support of teachers, para-professionals, and guidance counselors among many others, but there is no such team at home where Parents are often trying to juggle either working from home and/or housework; supporting multiple children of different ages, temperaments, and academic level; and maintaining their own self-care and safeguarding their relationships with Partners, family members, and friends. Parents may be physically present for their children, but most of the time are mentally absent being pulled in too many directions, so many that providing the classroom management and support homeschooling requires is practically impossible. Not to mention that Parents are expected to deliver the lessons and assistance required by schools; it would likely be different if Parents were able to design, present, and provide their own modified curriculum and schedule and were able to truly homeschool according to their priorities and standards. In this case, it would be interesting to tap into whatever is known about traditional homeschooling and what was effective prior to the new remote learning that students are doing distanced from their school buildings and school system with its very real additional resources. For distance learning to truly work, it would likely be essential to involve real life professionals to go to student’s homes to support the digital delivery of lessons in terms of supervision and classroom management to allow parents to follow through with their responsibilities. This is not to say that parents will not help in the schooling process, but will continue to contribute in their own more traditional and appropriate ways that are more in line with actual capacity.
So what can we ultimately take away from the new homeschooling system that we have been forced to embrace due to our confinement to maintain the health and safety of ourselves and our families? What will be some of the possible positive and negative unintended consequences that this generation will face thanks to being educated at home through this modified system that had to be built on the fly? What will the future of schooling and education look like with regards to how it is delivered, what is prioritized, and whether the instruction is developmentally and socially appropriate and relevant?…. I wish I could say that I know! However, for now, we must live with and sit with this uncertainty and just watch it play out. Only time will tell. What I can say with complete certainty is that whatever happens will depend on all of us to take action in terms of trying to do the best we can to take care of ourselves; to provide our children with the academic, social, and life skills that they need; and to take care of ourselves to preserve our health, safety, and well-being by staying vigilant for warning signs that we our decompensating and to reach out to professionals, doctors, mental health, and spiritual professionals, to get the help and maintenance that we all need now more than ever! Remember “social distancing” refers to “physical distancing”; to get through this we must stay “socially connected,” even if it is only virtually in the digital world through Facetime and other platforms or via telephone.
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