Last updated on March 29, 2020
Déjà vu all over again.
It’s the Monday after spring break, and I suddenly find myself homeschooling again. Jack (who officially starts tomorrow), and 60 middle schoolers I call my kids despite no familial relation.
To say I did not expect this would be a vast understatement.
At least this time ’round it wasn’t preceded by terror and sleepless nights and fear of the future and…wait. Crap. Um. At least this time ’round I know what I’m doing! Kinda. Sorta. Mostly.
Jack will start e-learning or remote learning or whatever the state finally lands on calling it. What will it look like? No idea; I’m assuming we’ll hear something before Tuesday. If not, I still plan to get his furry teenaged butt out of bed at a reasonable hour, showered, fed, and doing something resembling not programming or gaming. There may even be an analog book involved, and I’m certain you’ll hear the bellows of angst and protest.
My middle school starts today. The kids have packets that should get them through a month of being out of the building; language arts, math, science, social/emotional learning. None of it graded.
And then there’s us, the non-core but every bit as important classes, the ones that connect us to our shared humanity. Band? Kinda tough…impossible…to run a 60 person ensemble over the internet. So my colleagues and I are setting up alternative music lessons, ones that supplement rehearsals, and
pray hope the kids practice. That plus small group lessons (almost more of relationship check-ins than anything), and we’ll see how it goes. Pretty much all we can do at this point.
Homeschooling Andy for eight years opened my eyes to what is possible through alternative manners of learning. I did not want to homeschool him, and did so under duress; it ended up being the best thing in the world for him and the family. So, a few pieces of advice (take it or leave it, no harm no foul) for the parents out there who suddenly find themselves unexpectedly homeschooling.
YOU are in charge of their education. Always have been, always will be. It’s so easy to forget that when we send them off to the “experts,” but we’re the experts of our children and in charge of their education. Now we’re just a little more hands-on.
You do NOT need to recreate the school day at home. No, nein, nada, nyet, nope. Please don’t. Unless your school has set up specific times that your kid has to be in front of a webcam for school, don’t. And if the school is doing that, for god’s sake, school, have a little empathy, We’re in a global crisis here, maintaining structure for the sake of it isn’t going to help the kids feel more secure. So, if you can, make it work for you. If your kid is more awake and functional later in the day, that’s schoolwork time. The rest of the day can be filled with personal exploration. Just not endless online gaming (note to self…).
This whole thing has to work for you. I know many parents (us included) are working from home, and now have to oversee schoolwork as well. I highly recommend some sort of afternoon quiet time. I have a friend who has decreed that 1-3 every day is “headphones time,” and as long as you don’t bother us or do anything illegal/immoral/idiotic, you’re on your own. My personal categories are blood, bone, vomit, fire, flood, zombie…everything else can wait. Figure out what works for the souls under your roof and go from there, because if you ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. And if it doesn’t work, try again tomorrow. There is no homeschool police right now.
Y’all gotta take care of yourselves. Self-care, please. I’ve relaxed my boundaries between self-care and self-indulgence lately, and for the time being I’m okay with that. I don’t have the mental and emotional bandwidth to keep that boundary rock solid, and while that means that yesterday I saw a number on the scale that made me gasp out loud, I’m not fretting about it. There’s so much more I’m worried about these days. So figure out what you need to keep yourself functioning through this crisis. For those of us who need solitude to function, it’s now so much harder with everyone at home all day long with no end in sight. It took forever, but my sons (and husband) now do recognize that my alone time is for your safety. Please. Somehow. Self-care.
Reach out to your support network. Create one. Start a group messaging chat. I’m in several different chats, with friends of all sorts, and right now it’s constant bursts of chatter. News, memes, jokes, updates, lesson plans. My husband is also in several chats of his own. Do not go this alone. Homeschooling can be isolating, right now even more so because we can’t do field trips, so reach past the daily panic and weave a safety net of friends.
These are unprecedented…sigh…screw that. These are deeply f*cked up times. The uncertainty alone is surely causing ulcers in half the populace, ulcers I think we should name after hideous relationships of years past. Homeschooling our kids, our quirky, out-of-the-box, complex kids may actually reduce the stress we feel. We’re not battling the school (or not battling quite as often), sleep schedules can better follow our kids’ cycles, we can work to be “us vs the world,” something that is so incredibly hard to do but invaluable beyond words.
We’re going to get through this, someday, somehow. I don’t know what education will look like on the other side, because boy howdy is this shaking things up. I’m hopeful education will pivot to be more a more individualized, hybrid system, and less like the factory model of the last 150 years. But for now, the whole country is homeschooling in one form or another, and no one expected that.