We Need a New Term Because This is NOT Homeschooling.

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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.

That said…

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.

A lot.

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.

Andwe 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.

Homeschooling is an entire lifestlye of learning. Right now, we can embrace aspects of it that are working for everyone. I mean, who doesn’t want to learn with games or play with words right now? 

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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  1. Mary, I commented on IG, but wanted to comment here as well. Thank you for writing this so well worded response. I’ve been fighting this very feeling since this began, but have been so hesitant to say anything because I don’t want to offend anyone. And I’ve been saying this to anyone who would listen that this is so different and not to put too much pressure on themselves. But I don’t know that anyone is hearing that either. 🤷🏼‍♀️ And truthfully, the overuse of the term “homeschooling” makes me nervous about what happens after the dust settles. The paranoid part of me fears that this will be a good excuse for the government to take back some control from the homeschool community. Maybe it’s just the anxiety of the situation? Anyway, thank you again for this well worded post!

  2. I agree. What is currently happening fits under the definitions of “virtual/online schooling” or “distance learning.” It seems to me that early on, someone called it homeschooling as a joke, but it got repeated often enough that now people seem to actually believe it. What most parents are being forced to do right now is much more difficult and stressful, in my opinion, than homeschooling! They did not choose it and had no opportunity to plan for it. They do not have the freedom and privilege of selecting whatever curriculum suits them and their child. They have no control over assignments and are required to answer to teachers rather than getting to be the teacher. Calling this homeschooling is a little offensive to both groups: homeschoolers, and quarantined online learners and their parents. The styles and challenges of each are totally unique. Thanks for writing this article.

  3. Amen!!! Wise words. You are the best!! Thanks for sharing words that will help others put this in the right perspective. Love you. MOM

  4. Very true. There’s a lot of good and funny memes going around that even make me laugh…but the truth is this is nothing like real homeschooling where people do it out of conviction and passion. We homeschooled for 22 years and my kids were blessed to have so many friends and wonderful opportunities in their lives. They are now all adults that I have very proud of. I sincerely thank God and my husband for the blessing of homeschooling and I would do it all over again.

  5. I’m a grandma. I homeschooled my children, and now my daughter is homeschooling HER children. I am watching her and the kids struggle with this new thing, and try to find a rhythm in the midst of change and anxiety. You are so very right! This is NOT homeschooling, not even for those who have been doing it for years. My daughter used to complain about the rush and busy-ness of her life, taking children from one activity to another. Now all of those activities have stopped, and the family is all unbalanced. No one can concentrate, kids are anxious, bored, bickering, lonely and scared. But let us not blame homeschooling for all of those things!

  6. THANK YOU for posting this!!! I am the only one in my family that homeschool and I have had a few touches with them and they say, “Wow, and you do this all the time!” But you DEFINITELY made the distinction between the pandemic-schooling and homeschooling. I appreciate this so much!

  7. Thank you for sharing, Mary! I think you are spot on with your thoughts!! This is NOT true homeschooling and I think “virtual” or electronic is much better description. While I’ve never homeschooled myself I have such a deep respect and value what you and so many others do. I think it’s tremendous learning and yes, being stuck home in front of a computer or iPad is not the true definition. I am sad to think that after the dust settles people have even less true understanding what you all do. We too, BTW, are sad about libraries being closed. My daughter would have checked out about 50 books right before things shut down if we had realised how long this was going to last.

    I, too, have had so many thoughts, concerns questions during this process for Public school system. We had charter school experience for 10 years and our first year in the public system walking through this pandemic has left me with so many questions, concerns and doubts.

    Hang in there sweet friend!! Thanks again for sharing your thoughts – spot on!!

  8. Thank you for this post! I agree completely. This is not easy for anyone and it is most definitely not homeschooling. One of the most important reasons we chose to homeschool was freedom to go out in the world to learn on our own terms. That is literally impossible right now.

  9. Thank you for writing this! We homeschooled for nine years and now have almost two years of private school accomplished. I was hoping that this current education situation would help those who talk negatively about homeschooling have more understanding and appreciation for what their children’s teachers do daily.
    Your words were wise to state that this is not homeschooling and how stressful it is for homeschoolers.
    You go girl!!!😊👍🏻🎉

  10. Amen! I homeschooled my kids from birth to adults. I now have my grandchild who has been in a private school. What is happening now is absolutely not homeschooling. I see no teaching at all, only assigning page after page of worksheets. There is no extension of learning. I think I am now seeing what has been occuring all along. I am watching the zoom “lessons” and there is no teaching, only bookkeeping.

    1. It is equally as unfair to judge teachers during this time and call what they are being forced to do “teaching”. Our district is legally not allowed to teach, only foster retention of material learned, because only 25-50% are responding to teacher’s posts and many lack the ability to access online resources.

      1. Rhonda – Completely agree. I don’t know what the answer is, but it wasn’t to try and pretend that tradtional public school could continue at home. It’s not fair to teachers or students. Teachers are not able to actually “teach” and engage with thier kids in any meaningful way. The kids with access to internet and computers are spending more time doing busy work and trying to keep up with assignments than is normal for even an adult. And the kids without access to anything? That’s what should have been a determining factor in either calling it or establishing a completely different kind of learning expectation. And I don’t know what that is, but it isn’t doing this to our teachers and students.

  11. We are having very similar challenges here in Switzerland, too, and I’ve written about it on my blog. The reaction from a lot of people, however, is that they feel attacked when we correctly explain that this pandemic-schooling or distance learning is not homeschooling. I’ve had some pretty nasty comments and e-mails after writing such posts. Not sure why. However, it’s a reality that this is NOT homeschooling and we can only hope that this whole thing does not ultimately go against the homeschool movement.

  12. Thank you. You have described so well the swirling thoughts and emotions in my head. I homeschooled for two grades and then when I got a fulltime job, we decided as a family that our daughter would go back to school. So, the very first week (which was also spring break), I was ambitious and thought we could totally hack it! I was dead wrong. This is absolutely not homeschooling, nor what any homeschooler would try to create. Being on a computer for 6 hours a day to complete busywork? Not even college distance learning does it that way. I don’t know what the answer is, but trying to continue “traditional” schooling inside of the deep community trauma we are all experiencing was and is not the answer. Thank you again. Your words have given me hope that I haven’t been quite as crazy as I thought.

  13. I appreciate this post so much. I had a “friend” recently write me a very long note about her grandkids, “homeschooling” experience. I am not easily offended but I also have never received a note quite like that one in bashing my homeschool. I am going to respond now to her with a link to this post, (I could not explain it better). Thank you for making a ton of moms and dads feel so much better and spreading the truth about homeschool. 15 years of homeschool strong for my husband and I.

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