The term homeschooling – how would you define it? Merriam Webster says it’s “to teach school subjects to one’s children at home.” As someone who homeschooled her own 3 children, I agree with that definition. As least I did – until 3 weeks ago!
I’ve been active in the homeschooling world for over 30 years as a parent, homeschool program administrator, and independent consultant. While I often imagined a world in which many more parents would discover the joy and excitement of teaching their own children, I always assumed that they would be willingly choosing this lifestyle. I never dreamed that the entire state of California would be staying at home while all education moved online.
With my heart and mind still reeling from the abrupt cancellation of everyday life, I encountered the following headline:
Homeschooling during the Coronavirus will Set Back
a Generation of Children
Angrily I began to read this opinion piece by Kevin Hoffman which appeared in the Washington Post on March 27, 2020. Much to my surprise, I found myself agreeing with his ideas. He states that the U.S. is embarking upon a months-long virtual pedagogy experiment, that full-time virtual schools are not a good fit for many children, and that children fall backward in learning during long absences. He further explores how the largest burden will fall on the poorest kids. I concur!
He concludes his article with “our expectations for the remainder of this school year should be low. Our teachers are trying their best, but their hands are often tied by bureaucracy, limited student access to technology, the lack of lead time to prepare for this situation and the limited effectiveness of delivering school remotely.” Again, I agree.
However, neither his argument nor his conclusion apply to anyone who was homeschooling more than 4 weeks ago. Homeschoolers from the pre-coronavirus era use a variety of homeschooling methods including textbooks, project-based learning, classic literature, games, field trips, group classes, tutors, and real-life learning experiences. And homeschool parents spend hours researching curriculum, programs, and ways to teach. There are thousands of successful adults today who prove homeschooling success.
The danger in the headline of Hoffman’s article is that many will be left with the false impression that homeschooling overall is failing this year.
So it was with much relief that I saw another headline:
Opinion: This is not home schooling, distance learning
or online schooling
This is a guest column by Hilary Hughes and Stephanie Jones which appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on April 2, 2020. They make an excellent point that schooling and purposes have changed in the blink of an eye, “so let’s call this what it is: Covid-19 Schooling; or better yet, Teaching and Learning in Covid-19.”
They explain that American education had turned in to a rat race which hurt children, teachers, and their families. They go on to explore that since Covid-19 schooling is not anything close to the usual, perhaps it can provide “a chance to do something different: learn to be.” Rather than trying to mimic school, they suggest a type of learning that is “humane, generous, caring, and joyful.” That sounds really good to me!
Today in Spring 2020, there are so many different ways to learn and various methods of education. Let’s not confuse the issue by calling all types of education that happen at home homeschooling. It is quite difficult to draw any reasonable conclusions if we use one term interchangeably with many different meanings. And should this year’s virtual schooling experiment prove dismal, let’s not allow it to impact the hard efforts of people who have been successfully teaching their own children at home for years.