Upon hearing that the schools were closing down for a time, my first thought was "what an incredible opportunity for families to connect, to heal, to grow and learn together". And then I started to hear how the schools were "supporting" families by sending home large amounts of work that parents were obligated to administer. And my heart broke just a bit for all of you. For the record, you are not being asked to homeschool, because homeschooling is freedom and ownership. You are being asked to jump through hoops you did not agree to, at a time when your kid's whole normal is temporarily obliterated. This virus has made it so that school needs to be canceled. You need to make sure your kids are healthy and learning. But there are other ways to accomplish this. I understand how daunting this whole thing is. I chose to take my kids out of school. I planned and prayed. And still our journey has not been free of chaos and mistakes. But our family owned the chaos and the mistakes. When something wasn't working, we could drop it at any time. That is the reason it has worked for us. Please let me tell all of you who are only a few days in, and are already panicking and lost: Yes, you can do this! And no, despite all the memes, you do not need to become an alcoholic along the way! What you will need are a few thinking adjustments, and perhaps a slight paradigm shift.
Firstly realize that teaching at home is a vastly different animal than teaching at school. Schools are imposing their mandate to families through the lens of the school environment. This has no way of working for the majority of families who are now stuck at home. Those of you who are teachers by trade have likely come to this conclusion already. What works in the classroom is not going to work with your kids in your home environment. Busy work, for example is often needed in classrooms to keep the kids occupied. At home... well it is painful and frustrating for all involved. Provincial standards are set up so that all kids learn the same thing at the same age. Teachers are mandated to cover those topics before the close of the year. But homes are not composed of same aged kids. So what do you do with those mammoth sized school packs you now have on the counter, and the mandate to get through it all so your kid is not behind when all this crazy town is finished? Put it away. At least for now. What about the on-line check ups and teacher schedules? Graciously thank them them for all the work they have put into setting everything up. Goodness knows this is as much a shock to them as it is to you. Then explain to them that it will not work for your family. The pressure teachers feel to get through the government curriculum does not (and should not) be passed on to you. Teacher's role as the primary educator in children's lives has been put on hold. As I see it, their role needs to transition to one of support for families. And further, school divisions would benefit greatly from encouraging this as well. Who rules your home? I hope you do. As daunting as it is, you need to drive this ship. Your kids, your home, your say. Educating your children has now been placed indefinitely in your capable hands. I hope this is far more exciting to you than frightening.
Why such an extreme view of ownership? Well, in case you missed it, we are all in the middle of an uneasy time. Which means that we are distracted, worried, uneasy... etc. And so are our kids. Does that sound like a good place from which to inspire learning? Especially a pressure imposed learning? More likely it will lead to mandating our kids to get working NOW! Followed by blow ups, tears, and in the end, no learning. And worse than that, a reinforcement in our kids that the world is in fact falling apart. But won't schedules help kids now perhaps more than ever? Yes, but externally imposed schedules are not the only option.
In the following weeks I want to share with you 'forced homeschoolers' some wisdom from those of us who, for years, have willingly decided to take full ownership, with our kids, of their education at home. You know, before we were all told to not leave said homes...
To give you some encouragement already, I have written up one of the primary things all homeschool moms will say to newbies. The value of this is great.
I homeschooled my oldest daughter through kindergarten, and then sent her to a private school for 1st grade. She did not thrive in the school environment, so I pulled her out shortly after Christmas that same year. I spent the rest of that school year reading with her. Within a couple months she shocked me by picking up a chapter book and reading it on her own. No curriculum needed. I was incredibly blessed that her teacher was encouraging and willing to set me up with various resources to get us started. She suggested to me not to find a math curriculum, but if we did anything, to play math games with her for the rest of the year. She recognized what my first point is:
1. How do you start?! Ease into it!
Many homeschool sites recommend a period of time to "deschool". Deschooling is a time set aside immediately after being pulled from school. During this time children are encouraged to explore their interests, and quite simply, to take a breather. Don't take my word for it, check into it! All homeschool forums, sites, and groups I have been a part of recommend this. There is a real life transition that takes place when a child switches from learning at school to learning at home. It is often recommended to give the kid 6 months, however I will leave the time frame up to your own discernment. But please consider allotting some time to adjust before imposing a workload on them. Let them play. Involve them in cooking and chores. Go for walks. Let them be bored. This will also give you time to come to terms with this crazy season we find ourselves in, and the shifting of roles we must play.
Thank you for reading this far! I hope in the following weeks you will receive encouragement and confidence that you can do this!
From my lock-down home to yours,
be blessed, choose joy, and stay sane!