Updated: Aug 21
So let me start off by stating that my wife is a principal of an elementary school. I was also a teacher for 13 years and worked in schools for much longer than that. So my view of school is pretty positive and for the most part I am team school. So here is the reality. For many kids and families this sucks. Not having school just sucks. For many kids school a safe haven. This is their opportunity to eat, get shelter, receive love, a place to build confidence, and of course, a place to learn. School is awesome and important and crucial for so many reasons. And for parents it can also be an invaluable resource for things like family services, crisis intervention, community resources, and many others. So schools are more than schools and teachers, educators, administrators, and everyone that makes a school run are invaluable and deserve a winning spot on the grand podium of life for being the most awesome of awesome.
But here we are. At home. With our kids. Suddenly we are the teachers, the aides, the specialists, the custodians, the lunch staff, the therapists, the counselors, and the parent. How's everyone doing so far? Well, for me personally my annual review is next month and I'm not confident I'm going to get my contract renewed. For any of my new job titles. I'm constantly late, I forget to grade assignments, I yell at my students, and I've even played hooky on occasion.
But that's OK because we can't do it all. We are parents first and some of us are lucky enough to be working from home which makes doing two full time jobs near impossible. Some of us are struggling to make ends meet. Some of us have other difficult matters like elderly parents, sicknesses, providing food, keeping our families safe. These matters take precedent to our kids education. We have to take care of business and provide a safe environment before kids can learn so home schooling our kids can be one of the hardest things to do even in the best of circumstances.
So, my boys are getting a different education. We were trying so hard at first to stay on top of all the emailed assignments, making lessons align with Common Core, doing our best to keep them on the path they were when they left. But reality set in. Work had to be done, meals had to be made, and mental breaks had to be taken. So my kids had more free time. Free time to play outside. Free time to play together. Time to build forts, throw rocks, do puzzles, stare at the wall, be bored, get stuck in the pricker bushes, climb trees, take my tools and make a mess in the basement. And this is what I noticed:
Less melt downs, my boys getting along better, they eat better, they sleep better, and they are crushing math and reading. We are not rushing in the morning to catch the bus, we're not rushing to some practice after school, not rushing to finish dinner to get to bed so they can wake up early to catch the bus so I don't have to drive them because if I do then I'm late for my 8:30 client and then I'm stressed and yelling and then my kids are stressed and yelling and now everyone is yelling! So less yelling all around.
My kids are cooking, cleaning, building, doing laundry, walking the dog, exploring our yard, creating. They are building so many important skills that are crucial to development that we sometimes miss because of school. Building gross motor skills and fine motor skills through play and creativity is so important in order to build those higher cognitive skills that school demands. These are sometimes overlooked or put on a lower priority level and we see kids struggle in school. Which makes me think how much different kids will do in school after this. For some kids, they are getting this chance to move and create and to even be bored. They are spending quantity and quality time with their siblings or parents or others in their household. They are learning life skills such as cooking and cleaning, yard work, music, dancing. These are all incredibly important for not only the motor skills and brain development but also for the soul and spirit. And they are moving more! If you're not sure on my stance on the importance of movement then please read my other blogs. I'm kind of obsessed.
School is important and there is no replacement for it. So don't worry about recreating school in your home. Instead allow home to be home and use your strengths as a person to teach your kid. One on one instruction is proven to be the best form of delivering content so quality is more important than quantity. They get more from a 20 min session with you alone than an hour session with their classmates.
So I'm looking at the bright side of this horrible pandemic. For many there isn't a bright side and this new normal is the toughest thing that's happened. For many, both kids and parents are struggling at home. So if you're struggling in any way and you're worried about your kids education remember Teddy Rosevelt said "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are". This is all we can do. Removing the stress and anxiety allows you to be creative and do your best work. This is true for both students and teachers. Your kids and you.
Life requires many skills. And you have many skills to teach your child. Skills that will serve them well in the long, tough road ahead. So do your best to meet the demands of this new school, then when the stress sets in, teach what you know, teach your skills, and don't forget what George Carlin said; "Let kids stare at a tree for an hour. It's good for 'em".