Before the novel coronavirus pandemic, I swore up and down that I’d never homeschool my kids. Patience is not one of my virtues. I hate crafts. Playgroups are not my thing. I work full-time in a job I love. Homeschooling was not happening – until it did.
Like every other parent in the country who had their child in school, I had to figure out how to crisis homeschool, cover the basics with eLearning and wrangle kids all day long to do their schoolwork. It was hard and I fought with my kids and I worked late, late hours but admittedly, I loved having my two children home with me.
Yet as I watched the pandemic unfold to epic proportions, I realized I needed to seriously consider homeschooling as they enter kindergarten and fourth grade this coming school year.
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The coronavirus itself was not the deciding factor in pulling my children out of school in order to homeschool. Several other things came in ahead of the possibility of getting sick: the complete chaos and uncertainty of if/when they would be able to go to school for in-person instruction, the probability of spending the entire day indoors and in one room, the high chances of school going completely virtual and having to sit in front of a screen for hours every day, and the lack of outdoor time.
E-learning was not a total bust for my oldest child but my youngest was having none of it. My 5-year-old would close the laptop screen during Zoom calls with her teacher and classmates, leaving me to embarrassingly explain to her teacher, who was just trying her best, that she was having none of it. Ample studies point to the negative effects of too much screen time in kids like delayed developmental skills, headaches, vision problems, poor behavior, irritability and negative academic performance.
On other hand, being outdoors provides kids with activities for physical growth, time to explore and learn on their own, an increase in immunity and attention spans, overall better health, and opportunities to learn through senses and even be happier individuals. I spend a lot of time in nature with my kids and those are some of our most fun and engaging times together. Even better, I’ve seen my kids be so creative together when given the time to freely play and explore things that interest them. Now I can count all of that as homeschooling.
I’m not the only parent choosing the homeschool route. One RealClear Opinion Research study in May found that 40 percent of parents were looking at homeschooling for the fall. And North Carolina’s school website crashed in early July from parents submitting notices of intent to pull their kids from public school after the state announced reopening plans for the fall.
I’m the primary educator of my children and I can’t rely on the state to do it for me.
I didn’t want to wait for the state to tell me what to do or to have to decide at the last minute to pull my kids from school because of the crazy schedules proposed by my school district. I’ve taken the summer to talk to homeschooling parents and learn everything I possibly can about our state law, available curriculums and what works and what doesn’t. It has been overwhelming but the alternative is even more unpredictable and an option I wasn’t willing to entertain – and thankfully I am in the position with my profession where I could make such a choice.
Even so, the biggest obstacle I’ve faced is figuring out just how I can homeschool my kids and work full time. I’ve worked from home for the last several years in my chosen profession but a close family member commented that choosing to homeschool would be unfair to my kids because I couldn’t focus solely on them. That one stung.
Any working mom has likely struggled with trying to balance work and family time. We have a lot of guilt already in this area. Would homeschooling add to that? Probably. But it would be more unfair to put my kids in a restrictive learning environment at school or in front of a screen all day than it would be to do my best to homeschool them and keep working.
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I’m the primary educator of my children and I can’t rely on the state to do it for me. No decision right now is easy for anyone and my heart goes out to parents who are in completely unworkable situations with their jobs, child care and school. This will be hard. I have no idea how hard, but I imagine it will be a time where I will need to dig deep, to summon the courage and grace and supermom strength I know is within me to make this work.
I’m a mom and isn’t this what moms do? We always find some way to work it out. I hope that my kids will look back on this decision and be happy for the time they will get to spend with me, with each other, learning and doing something completely new and exciting with their parents. Or it could be a dumpster fire some days.
I take consolation in the fact that I’m the one making our day-to-day decisions about what to study and where to go instead of someone else who also happens to be responsible for thousands of children and teachers every day.
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My kids – and really myself as someone who has obligations for work outside my family – need stability and schedules. It’s these reasons that now count my family as one of the thousands who will be homeschooling this year.
Good luck to us all.
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