I reserve the right to change them or answer them totally out of order, not at all, divide them up, combine them, etc etc etc.
lepid0ptera asked me "How do you feel about homeschooling?" and with school ending this week, it's a timely question, so that's what I'll write about today.
I'll say this much for sure: it's not for us.
Schools closed in early March. Spring break happened around the same time as the pandemic, and our governor decided that nobody should come back. I was fine with this because it was safe and necessary. Our school district published PDF packets of worksheets and instructed us have our kids work through those in addition to some web apps. They had weekly classroom zoom meetings for the teachers to stay tied in. They said we should let the kids be kids, it's a stressful time so don't try to duplicate school. Spend 30-45 minutes a day on the packets. And try other classes... go on a bike ride and call it PE, hold art and music classes, have fun!
This all went terribly. We were very bad at it. We'd try to enforce a daily 2pm study time, but half the time it go away from us and these past few weeks we just stopped caring. The kids are definitely spending too much time playing videogames and not enough time reading. Marc and I are both pretty bad teachers. Olive, age 6, shuts down when something is "too hard" and it takes constant sitting there to coax her to just TRY anything. Josie wants to stay up all night and sleep all day.
When we admitted this to their teachers, we were met with "compared to the other parents you're doing pretty good".
This week we were allowed to drive to the school to pick up the school supplies, projects and papers our kids had left behind when they thought we were coming back. Each child got a grocery bag full of papers, and Olive delighted in showing me the worksheets, art class projects, social studies units.
I got really sad. All those papers were physical, tangible evidence of all the group enrichment my kids had been getting, spending six hours a day learning in their classrooms, and realized we hadn't been anywhere close to duplicating it. Part of it is my own badness, just not motivating enough. I'm also not a professional. It's also hard to take my kids out of their house full of everything else to sit them down in a group with rules where the only thing to do is learn.
It's parenting, you might say, you lay down the law, you do it, just like when you had a toddler you made them stay away from the stove, now you take your 10 year old and make her do a worksheet! take away the TV, be hardcore!
We did, we tried, but overall I feel like I failed, and I'm not the only one.
I was always skeptical of homeschooling in general. I think it was good for some kids who have trouble with regular school. I have more faith in parents who are trained educators. I have known homeschooled kids who thrived. So I'm glad it's an option.
But I've also known some non-teacher parents who homeschooled their kids so they wouldn't be held back by the pace of a classroom, and I didn't like that. I think life is about going at the pace of a group. I design airplanes with 1000 people - we have to be organized, communicate, slow down for each other, speed up for somebody else. There are inefficiencies and bureaucratic roadblocks that we have to navigate without getting frustrated. I jokingly said once that the best training for the craziness of corporate America is public schools... and I still say that! They are both a system that is not designed for you, the individual. You learn to be a little bored and misunderstood, but you march on. We are a society. School is your kid's first introduction to it. We have seen kids dangerously isolated when their parents opt out of schools for religious reasons. I have worked with engineers who spent a time being homeschooled and thought every design they cranked out would be immediately classified as brilliant, because they started learning differential equations at age 10. They didn't realize they'd have to show their work, document, and bring a whole team along with them to troubleshoot. They were the worst kind of individuals, with the chronic attitudes of "if anything breaks I'll fix it myself" and "I can't accept help. I need to do this myself and take six months to do it".
I like public schools. I like the idea of them, about working together to make them better. I like my privileged kid who got read to every night sitting by an underprivileged kid who needs help catching up with assignments. I like colorful classrooms, dedicated teachers, choir concerts, recess and playgrounds. I like the friends they talk about and the new books they learn about. I like new ways of teaching math in ten blocks.
You could definitely say that what we're doing now is not homeschooling, and I'd be fine with it. But now I'm finding NEW things I took for granted about public school.
The pandemic has taken so many lives and hurt people, and we've sacrificed other things in life to try and fight it. The sacrifices are peanut-butter spread across everything, I doesn't matter that I'd give up restaurants if I could just have the schools open again. And what else? I've had to burn vacation hours at work and worry about my job security. I miss haircuts, restaurants, my makerspace, parties, families, museums. But none of those sacrifices matter as much as education for my kids. I wish they could go back to school.