Enough. That’s my message to you for this week. What you are doing right now is enough. What your children are doing right now is enough.
Do not be fooled by the social media world that wants us to believe that everyone else is spending #athome using color-coded charts to home-school their children for 6 hours per day, garden and bake, and finish home improvement projects. It’s simply not true.
Instead, people all over the globe are struggling with added demands from being at home all day every day with their loved ones while also worrying about a global pandemic and all its repercussions.
I find that my daily life is highly repetitious—to the point that I lose track of what day it is—while at the same time I am experiencing wide shifts in mood, energy level, and outlook. I know I am not alone in these feelings.
Our own survey results (thank to all who responded!) found that parents are struggling right now with finding time to help manage their children’s schoolwork and also with motivating their children to do their schoolwork. This is not a great surprise.
One concern I hear from parents and from the media: will this pandemic cause my child to be behind in school? I truly believe the answer to that is “no.” Or at least that the answer is more complex than a simple “of course!”
The obvious first question is “behind whom?” Everyone is in the same boat. All children in the state of Illinois will have missed 3 months of in-school learning in 2019-20. Yes, that is a loss. But no, it is not an unmitigated disaster.
The idea that students will be “behind” is based on some underlying assumptions, which I’d like to call out:
That there is one standard benchmark “place” where each child should be at the end of their current grade, rather than a whole panoply of academic and non-academic skills and goals which children are always growing towards at their own personal rate
That growth in children is linear, a steady line of progression rather than a series of hills and valleys—again across all academic and social-emotional domains—that trends upwards
That education means having a teacher tell or show a child a bunch of things they need to know. That teaching is like opening up a child’s head and pouring in knowledge. That every day when children are in school, “learning” is happening in this very specific way.
Progressive philosophy disagrees with all of these assumptions. Instead, we see education as a place for exploring your own interests and talents, discovering and making meaning for yourself, and reflecting on what you want and need as a learner and as a person. I think if we are honest with ourselves, most adults would say that their most profound learning experiences occurred outside of a school setting, the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting rather than of formal instruction. (Russell Mayo, 2019).
This is why home is such a powerful learning environment—because it is the ultimate meaningful setting. Reading alone or together, writing letters or stories or lists, playing games and using patterns and other math concepts in art or everyday life—these will ensure that your students keep using and growing their academic skills.
Meanwhile your children are learning so many other important things about how to deal with stress and uncertainty, how to find joy in difficult circumstances, how to care for themselves and others, what they really like to do in their spare time.
So—in this crazy time when parents are stressed and either working too hard or worrying about not working, and all of us are spending way too much time on screens—I want to reassure you that what you are doing at home with your children is OK, it is enough, it is good.