Identifying the Problem: the First Step in Finding a Solution
Six months ago, we lived in a different world. Parents could send their children to school without questioning their safety. Elementary schoolers were in their earliest days of discovering
their first friends, mastering their first picture books, and spelling out their first words. They had established a routine that included school every weekday. This sense of structure and normalcy coupled with a positive learning environment makes up any good elementary classroom, and it is responsible for more of children’s success than most people can imagine.
Though some young students may have struggled more than others, you as a parent probably knew that your child was going to develop three critical life skills just by experiencing elementary school: social skills, a basic understanding of academic concepts, and independence. I like to refer to this trio as the “kindergarten skills.” For each of these three aspects, some students are very advanced, while others struggle a bit more, but for the most part, they are universally developed by elementary schoolers.
The Kindergarten Skills:
In their earliest school grades, children gain their first experiences with other kids outside of the home — without their parents’ intervention. Children learn cooperation and teamwork as early as kindergarten when they encounter other kids from a diverse backgrounds and with very different personalities. They are exposed to others who they get along with easily, and to kids that they might not be so enthusiastic about… but must learn to tolerate.
The obvious main purpose of an elementary school is to teach children simple learning skills that can be built on in higher grade levels and as they transition to secondary school. Most elementary schoolers are successful in learning basic reading, writing, and math skills, and also may dabble in science or social studies throughout their primary schooling experience. These skills are unavoidable, because without them, there is essentially no way for a child to progress into higher grade levels and to understand more complicated concepts in school.
The kind of independence that kids gain from elementary school is irreplaceable. Even just sending them on the bus to school by themselves creates a kind of self-sufficiency for a child. Before kindergarten, your child rarely left your side, unless it was to play with a friend, to spend time in daycare, or to visit their grandparents. Children gain responsibility and pride when they are able to function independently, which is an early step towards succeeding in the real world. At school, they are expected to behave, learn, and listen in an environment outside of home, and away from mom and dad.
For most families, these three crucial skills were a given, and something that parents never worried about their children developing. There is a reason that out government established public schools, which is mirrored by the fact that a large percentage of parents in this country choose not to homeschool their kids. So why not begin your child’s first few grades of education at home? After all, you were probably teaching them some basic skills, such as how to recite numbers up to 100 and sing their ABC’s before you sent them off to kindergarten. The answer is that homeschooling isn’t so simple. As much as you may love your children, you, like most parents, will probably struggle to become their teacher. The act of switching from “Mommy” or “Daddy” to teacher can be confusing to little kids. They are used to home and school being two separate environments, and to them, a teacher doesn’t belong in their house, and neither does schoolwork. Not to mention, their listening skills may falter at home, and they might end up spending more time in the “time-out” chair than actually learning how to spell.
Identifying the Problem
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we unfortunately may not have a choice in whether or not school can happen in person. Many schools are shutting down and sticking with virtual learning, while a lot of parents have opted to keep their children at home even should their schools reopen. These are hard decisions you as parents have to make, but when your child’s health is at risk, it’s hard to argue that education should take priority. During the 2020-2021 school year, most parents will take on the daunting task of homeschooling their children again. This is no small feat, because education can be one of the most important aspects of a child’s life. We are living under unique circumstances, but even so, your child’s education is important.
The problem is that so many parents are at a loss for words as to how to advocate for their child’s education. When you are busy with work, with a house full of three or four other kiddos with needs, or with the cleaning, cooking, and endless demands of managing the household, there is little room in your schedule to play the role of elementary school teacher, too. As I mentioned earlier, there is a reason why most parents, especially those who work, opt not to homeschool their children in a normal year. As a parent, implementing a successful and structured homeschool program for your child is no easy feat.
Making the Most of a Difficult Situation: Why I’m Writing This Blog
I don’t blame you for feeling overwhelmed. I am a teenager — I’ve never owned a house, worked a full time job, or a had a child of my own. Nor can I say that I am an elementary school educator, or that I plan on becoming one. I am a volunteer tutor, and though working with children is one of the best parts of my day, I don’t have to take on the role of parenting and raising them once their weekly online lesson is over. I cannot even begin to imagine the challenges that you are facing right now. Though I can’t make those problems all disappear (as much as I would like to!), what I can do is give you the best advice possible to help you work around that challenge. As someone who is neither a teacher nor a mother, I can provide you with the kind of outside perspective that you might never have thought of. More importantly, as a student who has been through the elementary education system in this community, and who has continued high school in a virtual setting throughout COVID-19, I can understand your child, and I will do my best to explain the challenges they are facing to you, the parent.
If you have made it this far into my first blog post, you have gained a critical understanding of why homeschool, in so many cases, doesn’t work. The problem is that this year, we might have to make it work, whether we want to or not. If you have an elementary schooler of your own, chances are that they could be learning online for part of this school year, whether that is a decision made personally by you or by your child’s school or district. For the next year, and maybe even the next couple of years, this is our new reality as parents and students — and it’s a hard reality. But, as they always say, good things are always possible if you are willing to work hard.