These are times that most who live in the First World have never before experienced. I know some people have been very hard hit by the current health crisis. My sympathy is with those who are sick, perhaps fighting for their lives, or who have suffered loss. I would sit with you in your struggle if I could. There are those who fight on the front lines, putting themselves at risk to care for others in need, and I thank you and I pray for you. You are heroes, as are all caregivers. I know far more people are suffering secondary stress and pain from the repercussions of the pandemic or the current public health policy. My empathy is with those folks who have to wonder about their income and how to pay the bills, who cannot see their loved ones, who feel powerless to help, who need help that cannot readily come. (I myself can no longer go see my 90 year old mother, nor my 1 year old grandson.)
Life as we in the industrialized countries knew it changed drastically in a *very* short period of time. In my own state of Maine (USA), it has been just two weeks since the public and private schools were closed, initially for 2 weeks, then formally extended for 6 weeks. Now it is still just “hopeful” whether they will reopen at all this school year (current projected return date, April 27, 2020.) Around here, March 16th was the day that many people’s routines were thoroughly disrupted, when the kids didn’t go back to school on Monday, although there was no indication of that possibility on Friday when they came home from school. That date was certainly earlier in some parts of the country; whether it was earlier in your area or later, the changes happened rapidly. For some, those without children or those families who had already chosen home education, this wasn’t such a shock. For those with kids in school, though, it’s been a bit of pandemonium. Teachers have scrambled (valiantly, I will add) to adjust to a completely different scenario than that for which they were trained. Parents often had to figure out child care or how to work from home, on very short notice. Some are out of work, and out of income.
It has been a challenging time for all, but for some people far more than others. Any major life change is stressful, even joyous ones like weddings or the birth of a child. It takes time to adjust to the new normal; business as usual is impossible when you no longer recognize anything as “usual,” or when you are learning a whole new business. Switching overnight from public education in a school to public education in the home is a major transition, and for most it has not been an easy one. It is my opinion that this current plethora of “public school at home” options and expectations is possibly making many people think they could NEVER home educate their children. These trying times are a challenge for experienced home educators, so imagine how the neighbors feel when suddenly trying to do “school at home.” That is not home education, in my opinion, even if that parent feels like they’re suddenly supposed to be the teacher now. The difference between public school at home and home education (or home schooling) is WHO MAKES THE DECISIONS. If the public school is still in charge, then that’s not home schooling. In home education, the parent has chosen the responsibility for educating their child or children. In “public school at home,” that responsibility still belongs to the schools, who are trying to partner with parents to keep kids engaged in some kind of formal learning the best that they can under the circumstances.
The parents of public or private schooled kids are trying to do something they had not chosen. The teachers are trying to do something for which they never trained. The administrators are scrambling to make sure their schools are in compliance for a multitude of state and federal regulations surrounding privacy and equal access and how to keep kids fed (for there are children who depend on the schools for half their meals.) Some of the regulations are being relaxed, others are not, and there is uncertainty all around – a recipe for continuing stress!
Those who had already chosen home education had time to wrestle with hows and whys and wherefores before chaos erupted. Those who had not chosen that route perhaps feel overwhelmed. For ALL PARENTS, whether home educating or doing public school at home, there is a more excellent way. It is very simple, yet very powerful.
*Love your kids.*
Let everything else go, if you must, but love your kids. Play with your children, partner with them to prepare meals and keep up with the laundry (ouch! says the lady with 4 loads currently waiting to be folded.) Go for a walk, fly a kite, plant something. Look for reasons to be thankful, the crocus peeking through the snow, the dandelion pushing through the sidewalk, the bird singing near the window. This time with your children is a gift! Although I know there are still all those adult things you need to do, don’t squander this time. If the only thing you do for “school” for weeks or months is read aloud, and read independently, it is enough. Don’t fight over math papers or fuss over penmanship. Do things that you both enjoy, and do them often, sandwiching less pleasant tasks between far more fulfilling ones. You will all be happier if you do what you can and let the rest go, and a happy person has a stronger immune system.
“Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness, and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo…and it’s worth fighting for.”
JRR Tolkien, The Two Towers
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