Homeschooling During a Pandemic: Distance Learning and Coronavirus

Welcome to homeschooling! I know, this wasn’t in your plan. You don’t know what you’re doing, the schools don’t know what they’re doing, everything is upside down and you’re trying to figure out how to get through the days with your kids who are themselves in varying states of fear, excitement, confusion, squirrelliness, and surliness.

I have so much to say to all of you, but today I want to make two points. 

First, as parents, this pandemic is not the only challenge we’re facing with our kids. It didn’t replace teenage hormones or sleep training or discipline challenges or worries about our kids’ illnesses or mental health challenges. It got added to all that with a hefty dose of confusion and uncertainty and perplexity. For us and our children.

Life is straight-up weird right now. No one knows what they’re doing. Your kids don’t, you don’t, the schools don’t. We’re all just living by the seat of our pants and trying to do the next right thing. So let’s start by cutting ourselves and each other some slack. (And now I’ll try to stop throwing cliches at you.) We’ll get through this if we remember to be kind – especially to those we’re sharing so very much time with these days.

The second point I want to make is this: you’re not really homeschooling now. 

From the conversations I’ve had with schooling friends, it sounds like what most people are doing right now is a whole bunch of homework. Online learning and worksheets. Most of the teachers putting it together are not well-versed in distance learning, and they weren’t given a lot of time to put things together thoughtfully. They’re scrambling just like the rest of us. 

Your kids’ teachers want to be in the classroom interacting with your children and sharing the world with them. They miss your kids and they’re sad about the way things are right now. They’re doing their very best with the situation they’ve been given, but they’re just as turned upside down as the rest of us. 

No one knows when or even if kids will be going back to school this year. In our district, the official start date at the moment is April 20. But, as we’ve all seen, things are changing by the minute. These are very uncertain times.

So here’s what I’d like to suggest. If you have a kid in elementary or middle school, gratefully accept the work your child’s teacher has lovingly put together to the best of his or her ability. Look at it as an opportunity to interact with your child in a joyful way. But do not let homework become a source of stress or frustration for you or your child. We’ve all got enough of that in our lives right now. If you need to, just set it aside and trust that even if your kid fails 3rd-grade math, he can still go on to be a great physicist someday. Don’t worry about your child’s grades right now.

If you let it be, this can be a beautiful time of connection for your family. Yes, there will be squabbles and chaos. (Just before I sat down to write this my 5-year-old decided to microwave potato peels and filled the house with a choking smoke. I am acquainted with chaos.) But there is also great opportunity for discovering a new freedom in learning and relating.

I’m not at all telling you to stop learning. Next time I write, I want to share some really practical suggestions for meaningful learning that won’t make your kid cry or stress you out. You’ve stumbled upon something beautiful here. You might even find yourself overwhelmed by the wonderfulness of it all.

In the meantime, check out this earlier post of mine to give you a glimpse into what learning with freedom might look like. (This one is ancient. That kindergartener is now a highschool freshman!)

And if you’re reading this, shoot me an email and tell me what you need to hear right now! What questions do you have about this crazy adventure? How can I help you?

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