I just spent almost two weeks in quarantine doing at-home school with my kids. It was hard. Just as hard as the last time we were quarantined in the fall, forced to do school at home. Just as hard as last spring when the lockdowns closed our school for much of the second semester. And this most recent attempt to teach them at home reminded me of the countless families who are still unable to send their kids to full-time, in-person school.
In the past year, I’ve seen countless articles about becoming a homeschool mom. It’s true our kids are home during the days and hours they’d normally be in school. It’s true their school work and learning now happens inside our homes.
But that does not make us homeschoolers.
Homeschooling is a choice. Many of us have had none.
When a family decides to homeschool, it is preceded by hours of discussion and countless prayers. They base their decision on the needs of their children and their own capabilities and desires. I had no such discussions with my husband. And if I’m honest, my main prayer during at-home school was Lord, please help me endure this and try my best. Our schools were closed by authorities who determined the safest place for our children was in our homes. Homeschool was not a choice for our families.
Homeschoolers spend time planning and preparing for the jump into education.
I am a trained and certified teacher . . . for middle and high school English/language arts. This does not qualify me to teach pre-K, second, or fifth grades. Nor does it prepare me to teach middle school math or science. With a toddler in the “classroom.” I am not trained to teach my own children. Parents who homeschool spend valuable time researching curriculum, lessons, and resources that best fit their family. I know I can rely on our teachers to design and send home quality work, but neither they nor I really know what we’re doing.
We are attempting to embrace a new and different kind of school that none of us have experienced. There is no baseline at which to begin.
Homeschoolers generally begin the lifestyle early on.
As preschoolers, their children likely spend time working on lessons. Each year, the routine is rediscovered and adjusted to accommodate their growth, but the feel of homeschool, I would imagine, is much like riding a bike—familiar and easy to return to. Our kids have been thrust into this, literally for some, overnight. We’re facilitating learning in our homes for students who have been accustomed to traditional schooling for their entire educational career. The adjustment is hard.
Homeschooling has evolved to include a network of support.
Homeschool families develop relationships with homeschoolers with whom they can connect and interact. The homeschool families I know arrange field trips and plan activities within these groups. They share tips and tricks. They encourage each other and enjoy a sense of community. Not only do we lack these already established groups, but we are very limited on the places we can go.
Homeschool families generally have at least one parent whose primary responsibility is to educate and care for the kids.
This parent likely does not have work or career responsibilities outside the home. Now, many families are switching from both parents working outside the home to one or both transitioning to working from home. This is a huge change. These parents continue to carry the burden of their work responsibilities while also adding the full-time job of teaching and caring for their kids who are home all day, every day. And this change comes with little to no training on how to effectively work from home.
So though the world continues to tell us we’ve become homeschoolers, we have not.
And for the record, the real homeschoolers (whom I admire more than they will ever know) are experiencing a major change as well. I’m afraid we are insulting them a bit by saying we’ve all joined their exclusive group. These men and women have spent years perfecting their strategies and schedules. They have deliberately created an environment best for their children.
They have earned the title of homeschooler. And, honestly, they can keep it. I am far from interested in stealing it from them.