If you’re a parent, in the last five weeks the odds are good that when you open up your social networks seeking some encouragement, something positive, something that says “I feel you and I see you”, you’ve come across tips, articles and memes that talk about how you’ve become a homeschool parent now. Kids aren’t at school, they are learning at home, so we’re now all homeschooling, right?
This is not homeschool. Let me repeat, this is not homeschool.
I am a parent who sends my children to public school. That was always the plan and now several years into the elementary years, it is still very much the plan. Our family LOVES school. We love our teachers. We love the rhythm it brings to our days and the sense of community we build through our schools. We love school.
I also have a number of friends in this community who homeschool, or have homeschooled in the past. I am fascinated by their ways and occasionally ask them questions when it comes to the things I tackle at home with my kids whether it be during the school year or over summer breaks. Without personally doing it myself, I feel like I have a halfway decent grasp on what it means to homeschool.
What we are in right now? This is not homeschool.
We have found ourselves, along with our children, smack dab in the middle of an unprecedented (in the last century) global crisis that has led us to this point where we are, in many cases, sheltering under one roof, all day, to do all our usual things. We are being resourced by our much-loved schools and teachers with things that two months ago weren’t even in existence, yet alone fathomable. We have Zoom meetings on our calendars, Chromebooks on our kitchen tables and children square in the middle. Not to mention work responsibilities, the absence of our usual support people who are sheltering under their own roofs and an ever-changing slew of information and recommendations on how to live life right now.
This is not public schooling either.
Our teachers? They have been tasked with the challenge of their entire career being put in a shaker bottle, shaken up and turned upside down as they pour their heart into teaching without students in desks in front of them. Kindergarten teachers send messages of hugs and love; high school teachers are educating students in a remote learning fashion that most people never experience until the end of their college careers; and educators at every age and stage are navigating their own experiences in this pandemic. And, meanwhile, they are staying up at night and going through their entire days thinking of the 20-30 (or more) young people they have spent seven months getting to know and educate and anticipate their unique needs.
Homeschool, from what I understand, is a choice in many cases. Plans are made, co-ops are joined, curriculum carefully chosen and schedules structured in such a way to make school possible. While homeschool doesn’t necessitate a stay-at-home parent in the equation, parental responsibilities are discussed in such a way as to who is taking the lead on what when it comes to schooling children. Expectations are shared, parents are prepared (well, as prepared as one can be for any parenting challenge) and the ball is set into motion.
And right now? If you check in with your friends that homeschool, you’ll find they are having days in the midst of these trying times where school doesn’t get done, schedules aren’t followed and things are put on hold, too.
So why? Why, for all of us who are used to our children walking through the school doors five days a week, why are we putting the pressure on ourselves right now, thrust into these circumstances by no choice of our own, to “perfectly” homeschool? I see the color-coded schedules (which are fine if they work for your family), the Pinterest projects and even the “school boards” in homes posted on social media, and while nothing is wrong with any of these things if they are working for your family, this is not what you are “expected” to do in these times.
Expectations are minimal … or there are no expectations at all.
Personally, in our district our teachers and staff have had one consistent message throughout the last month since we were inside the school buildings: Your child’s mental and physical health, and your mental and physical health, are the most important things right now. This mom exhaled a big sigh and dropped her shoulders a couple inches when I read those words for the first time (and every time I’ve heard them since).
So while I have the table full of resources — from the school; things dropped on my porch from friends and family; a Chromebook that’s never been in my home before; and “plans” laid out as we start each week — I’m holding those plans loosely. And I encourage you to do the same. Because what we are doing is most definitely not homeschool, public school or anything in between.
Take care of you. Love on your kids. And take those nuggets into the days ahead as you walk out the weeks to come.
Amy Cunningham is the chief content strategist for chambanamoms.com. She lives in Mahomet with her husband and two elementary school-age children.