Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Educating in Extremes

The Challenges of Educating during the Covid-19 Pandemic and Lockdown.

You'd think for homeschoolers not much would change about schooling in this pandemic lockdown situation. However, things have definitely changed! We still do school at home, but it's definitely not the same. The whole ebb and flow of life has changed which affects every part of life - even homeschooling.

Most homeschoolers have a co-op group that they meet with at least once a week. This group of up to 15 students convenes to discuss the work for the week, work on special projects, and enjoy socialization. Due to the current pandemic and social distancing precautions, these groups have moved online for the most part.

The online setting has its own set of challenges such as the safety and security of your online feed. However, the biggest problem we personally have encountered is lag. Yep, lag and feedback, that annoying whistling noise that occurs when two or more devices are trying to share the same space a little too closely. The whistling noise and the millisecond lag of responses are constant reminders that even though we're face-to-face with our group, we're not really together. It interrupts the flow of conversation and the important discussions that take place in a group setting as we have to ask for things to be repeated and constantly be moving around to try to eliminate the high-pitched whining that tells us this is different.

There is also a difference in motivation to get the assignments completed. After all, we're not really going to be getting together in person. So, the deadline becomes fluid. This whole lockdown thing has us in a weird place. Are we on an extended Spring Break? This feels like summertime. I'll catch up tomorrow, but today, I'm going to take a nap or play video games online with my friends. Unless we as parents are really on top of things, these are the kinds of problems we're having trying to keep our students on track while homeschooling during a pandemic.

To be honest, I'm really not on top of things. The whole cadence of our lives has been interrupted and interfered with. Trying to keep myself together and motivated to pursue my personal career is about all I can handle. But, oh yeah, the reality is that I still have two kids who I am trying to educate so that someday they can pursue their careers; hopefully, in a more normal functioning world.

I'm a pretty laid back person, which can be a good thing or a bad thing in extreme situations. The good thing is that I'm willing and have always been willing to allow current situations to shape our current education. Just yesterday during our online Zoom homeschooling group one of the students shared with us her Covid-19 journal. She had been keeping track of numbers and trends while being on lockdown. What a great research project! Another project that we were able to participate in was an online Easter Egg Hunt for the neighborhood kids. We created hand-crafted paper eggs to hang in our windows. Parents could then drive their children around to "hunt" for the eggs from a safe social distance. Looking for opportunities like these to incorporate into your ongoing curriculum is a great way to teach our children to work with what life gives you.

Choosing to homeschool means sacrifice and a lot of hard work for the parents. During this pandemic and lockdown, many parents have been thrown into schooling at home not by choice but out of necessity. I'm encouraging myself and hopefully encouraging you too, fellow parents, that this is worth it. We are teaching our children more than reading and writing and 'rithmatic. We are teaching our children to handle what life hands us with strength, courage, and curiosity even in the midst of change. 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Worst of Times or Best of Times?

"It was the best of times. It was the worst of times" 

(A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)

In any given situation, no matter how bleak it seems, there is always the possibility of good coming from it. Right now, the whole world is experiencing a very bad situation - a pandemic. Which one of us has ever, EVER been in this situation before? I'm guessing none of us. We need hope. We need to find the good that's possible in this very bad situation.

So, where is the good in all of this? Is good possible in such a bad situation?

As I was watching the local and national news coverage this past week, there were announcements of several school districts closing down across the country from the West Coast to the East Coast. The big question was, what are the parents supposed to do? How will education continue? How will students be able to learn without going to school?

As a 17-year veteran, homeschooling mom of 4, I was thrilled to see an interview with a family of three children and their mother. They were sitting at the kitchen table doing school!!! The story showed the children squabbling a bit while working on their classes. Their mom was explaining the difficulties of doing school at home and that they would figure it out because they had to. When the students were asked how they felt about doing school at home, the comments were mostly positive. They didn't mind. They were having trouble getting used to it, but they were handling it and seeing the positive in it. The only negative was that they missed their friends - oh, and one of them missed her online class, oops!

These kids and their mother were experiencing what it's like to homeschool. It was so enjoyable for me to see homeschooling happening as a mainstream experience and being shown on primetime news. This has been our life and the life of thousands of homeschooling families across the country on a daily basis for years and years. I'm thinking that one positive result of the isolation brought on by the Coronavirus could be that homeschooling will become mainstream - at least for a week or two.

It started me wondering if some of these families will find out that homeschooling is actually a great fit for them. With so many jobs offering the availability for remote work, parents may also find out that they enjoy the homeschooling process as well as the extra time spent with their children.

Of all the positive benefits of homeschooling, more time with your children is one of the best. On average, most families with two working parents only have 2-3 hours to actively engage with their children on any given weekday. This means that someone else is spending more time influencing those children than their parents who are supposed to be the most important influence in a child's life. Being at home, schooling their children, will definitely be an eye-opening and hopefully desirable and pleasant experience for these families.

Schooling at home even for just these couple of weeks will give these parents an opportunity to see what's possible, to get to know their children better due to spending more time with them and also to take an intimate role in the education of their children. In these worst of times, this forced schooling at home could possibly become the best of times for families.