Right now, all across the USA, schools are closed, leaving kids and parents trying their best to figure out how to finish the school year at home.
In some cases, the school has provided assignments or has moved to a system of online learning. In other cases, parents have had to find educational options on their own.
Either way, it’s hard. It’s challenging. It’s frustrating. It’s brand new. And it is a complete shock to the daily routine of our lives.
It is all of these things.
But it is not homeschooling.
Last week we were "all in this together" and everyone was "suddenly homeschooling." And it all seemed okay.
But the vibe has changed this week. I've talked to enough people and read enough social media and news articles to know that homeschooling is starting to get a bad rap because everyone is struggling with this current situation.
And people think it is about the homeschooling.
Learning like this isn't effective.
Homeschool is so boring.
So much of this work is busy work.
This proves it. We could never homeschool.
I don't know how homeschool families do this all day.
And the kicker for this post was an headline that read, "Homeschooling during the coronavirus will set back a generation of children."
Yikes. Homeschooling is setting back children?
Uh. No. It isn't.
Because this current situation is not homeschooling.
In fact, most homeschoolers (including me!) are struggling too.
This is not the way we spend our homeschool days. In fact, just like everyone else we are struggling to find a new normal.
Yet, I realize this "stay-at-home" situation is more similar to homeschooling than it is to public schooling.
It's true that homeschoolers have a bit of an advantage.
We have more experience educating our kids and already know great resources for learning at home. Many of us have also had to balance working at home and learning at home with our kids for many years.
And because of our homeschool experiences, we are more than willing to support families adjusting to this new reality by sharing resources and knowledge right now.
this isn't the way we do education,
our days do look different right now,
and we are struggling too.
So let's give this situation a more accurate name. Let's call it pandemic-schooling or quarantine-schooling.
Because it shouldn't share a name with anything any of us have been doing before.
When Will I See My Friends?
Because homeschoolers actually do socialize.
Our kids attend book clubs and weekly classes. Our famliies gather for co-ops, field trips, and field day events. Our teens meet up for coffee and homework dates. And the moms have plenty of activities too!
I haven't even started to list all of the evening sports, theater, and scout groups we are involved in just like the rest of the world.
And we are trying to make these opportunities work over zoom. Just like everyone else.
But it isn't the same.
I mean, there are tons of games we can play over video chat, but we are so ready to see our people in person!
So homeschoolers feel just as lonely and isolated as everyone else.
Because this pandemic-schooling isn't what we do.
When Can We Leave This House?
If you have ever looked at a picture of the Grand Canyon (or any National Park) and then compared it to a visit to the Grand Canyon, then you know that virtual visits aren't the same as the real thing.
That's one reason that field trips are my favorite part of homeschooling. And we do them frequently.
Take this year. We are studying World Religions and we have visited a different place of worship every month. After an informational tour we are treated to a Q&A session with a religious leader.
My kids have been to a temple, a mosque, a synagogue, and more. We spent time talking with a kind rabbi and a welcoming Buddhist monk.
There is no better way to learn about world religion than to talk to the people who practice them.
But sadly, all of our field trips have all been cancelled, so we have no choice but to find replacements activities and ideas.
We are being required to continue learning at home like everyone else.
And we are all being required to do it without the parts of a homeschool day that make it truly fantastic.
Where are the Library Books?
I know this impacts everyone.
And homeschoolers are included in that group in a big way. The library is an integral part of the way we function.
It is where we gather materials for unit studies. It's where we pick up required and fun reading. It is where we fill our rolling carts with at least 30 books every time we walk through the door.
And we are lost with out it. Depsite the options available for books online.
Learning at home isn't as easy, cheap, or fun without the library.
Routine? What Routine?
I can not remember the last time all four of my kids were home during an entire school day.
My 17 year old is either working, at the community college, studying with friends, or at a local class. And when she is home, one of my other kids is at a class or involved in an activity outside of the house.
And now the entire flow of our week is interrupted because our normal checkpoints and consistent activities are gone.
No one has anywhere to go other than their laptop to log into zoom for class.
Everyday is the same. One day fades into the next one and no one can keep track of the day or time.
It is so weird.
This is not our homeschool lifestyle. This is something new and different and hard and strange.
Why Can't I Focus?
I am raising and homeschooling four pretty typical kids. This means they are frequently distracted during the school day and I have to reign them back in from their tendency to wander off.
But in this world of pandemic-schooling, I have to fight my own anxiety and distraction more than theirs.
I am living with constant levels of fear, worry, sadness, and anxiety. And I never know when one of those feelings will hit particularly hard.
There are moments and even days that feel pretty normal. And then suddenly I am very aware that nothing is normal and I want to crawl in bed, read the news, and watch Netflix.
I can not focus on simply finishing our school year. No matter how hard I try. My brain focuses for 24 hours and then my flow is interrupted by my emotions. There is too much on my mind.
And these high levels of anxiety and distractability are not part of our regular homeschool world.
When Will I Get a Break?
Yes. Homeschooled kids are typically around their parent for a large portion of the day.
But not the entire day!
Take my word for it. Homeschool parents feel just as flustered as their neighbors. Because no one has had a break.
There is no Starbucks to escape to with our laptops. There are no friends to meet at a playground. There is no where to drop off the kids for awhile.
It's just all of us together all of the time and our families are having a hard time too.
So What's the Point?
My point is this:
What you are doing and what I am doing and what 80% of the USA is doing right now is not an accurate picture of homeschooling.
There is a lot more to the homeschooling than online classes and conversations on Zoom.
But some of the best parts of our homeschool lifestyle are absent right now.
And it is hard. And we are all feeling edgy.
But I gotta tell you, when people start throwing shade at homeschooling, I'm gonna make it clear that this isn't homeschooling.
And I would rather find a phrase that encompasses what we are all doing right now.
Because we are all in this together and we are going to need each other to figure out these next few months.
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