Parents keep commenting to me: “Wow- this is so hard! I don’t know how you do this all the time.”
And I answer: “We don’t. We homeschool. It’s a totally different thing than what’s happening here.”
Families who are trying to meet the Corona-induced demands of “regular” schools while quarantined at home (and trying to work) are not homeschooling. I’ve been calling it “school-homing-“ instead of adapting the schooling to fit the home, it’s having the home mandated by the school. And people are struggling. For some families it’s working decently, even well. But many, many others are overwhelmed and frustrated. This is not what anyone signed up for. It’s no one’s fault, but it needs to be acknowledged.
Running around looking for kids and devices to connect at specific times so that teachers may or may not successfully convey classroom learning virtually? Printing out extra work, and policing their completion? Trying, during a global crisis, to manage multiple kids, housework, and making a living in a way that was never coordinated? This is not homeschooling.
In real homeschool families, we don’t answer to an external institution, that makes unrealistic demands on families, and streams clumsily designed zoom calls into limited devices at inconvenient times. We don’t abdicate the privilege of educating our children to others who have dozens of other children to consider and compromise along with our own. We don’t worry that they will ‘get in trouble’ or ‘fall behind’ because of things that are not at all their faults. And we don’t pay tuition for work that we have to do.
I’m not villainizing schools and educators- I empathize with them, and I was a classroom teacher for a decade, once upon a time, so I empathize. They, like the rest of the world, are trying to cope with unforeseeable obstacles. They are trying to serve their populations however they can, and keep their organizations afloat, but make no mistake: This is not homeschooling.
In actual homeschooling, you are the custom designers of your children’s learning experience. You can enlist guidance, delegate, or do your own research. You decide when, how, where, why, and what they learn. You tailor the programming to the needs of your family- your work, your other kids, and most importantly the students’ emotional and academic needs. You can slow it down if they need more practice or patience. You can move it along when they master material easily or grow bored with unnecessary units. You can afford to digress and enrich and specialize. You can incorporate creativity, sensitivity, fun, and relevance. You can take advantage of the cultural resources and activities in your area. You can travel (well, except during a Pandemic) and spend more time on creative outlets, the arts, nature, sports, music, recreational hobbies and volunteering. You can work on cultivating social responsibility, values, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness. Children learn to tune in to their own minds, hearts, conscience, gifts, talents, and intuition, and to express and process with adults who know and love them, and make time to hear them out. We reassess and improve as we go along, because we understand that child development is not an assembly line production, it's dynamic and individualized.
When we began, we honestly got most of our information for free online, accumulating more as we went along. But we had time to prepare and adjust. This ad hoc, school-homing band-aid situation is not the same thing. If it’s not working for your family, real homeschooling, even temporarily, might be a more feasible alternative. Check this out to learn more: Are You Interested in Homeschooling?