In Which We Homeschool. Sort Of.

As we headed into the quasi-quarantine that is social distancing, a lot of people were nervous. They were worried about getting sick. They were worried about their financial stability. They were very worried – apparently – that they would run out of toilet paper.

All of those are reasonable and valid concerns, but they weren’t at the top of my mind. No, the thing that really scared me about the looming pandemic? The prospect of being put in charge of my children’s education for a month, once the cascade of school closures began.

It happened quickly – with information sometimes changing hour by hour – but at the same time, it felt like watching a slow-motion car wreck. You have enough time to panic, but no ability to change the ultimate outcome of the impending disaster.

Look, folks. I am an educated and intelligent woman. I loved school and I excelled academically. But there are reasons why I never ever considered homeschooling. Never. Not once. Those reasons include apathy about curriculum development, limited patience, and a tendency to get extremely overwhelmed by an overabundance of choices.

When it became clear that we were headed for at least a few weeks at home, I put out a call on Facebook for educational sites and apps – which yielded an avalanche of helpful tips that nearly gave me a panic attack. Too many options! Which ones are best? How could I possibly vet them in a single weekend? What if I chose poorly, stunted my children’s academic trajectory, and permanently damaged their intellectual growth?

Or – even more frightening – what if I accidentally picked an app with really annoying sound effects that I would then have to listen to for four weeks straight?

The first round of instructions that came home from the school helped to calm my fears. The message was this: read a lot and try not to stress. I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist. More detailed work plans followed, but that first grounding communication has helped to focus my efforts. I’m not trying to recreate the classroom learning experience. Mostly I’m just trying to keep my kids’ brains engaged, prevent them from binge-watching bad children’s sitcoms 8 hours a day, and also manage to maintain a full-time job from home.

This is only possible due to an incredible invention called “grandparents.” Seriously. I cannot say enough good things about my amazing parents, as they are the ones primarily running our little homeschool on the days the kids are with me. I plan out lessons, then hole up in the bedroom with my laptop, popping out for lunch breaks and family reading time.

Our days are finding a rhythm that I enjoy. It’s fun too see how the kids respond creatively to a new style of education. My girls have started creating an illustrated travel guide to Danville, identifying their favorite places and then creating info cards listing favorite features. Shout-out to the bunny at the Boyle County Public Library! We miss you, Lily!

They also spent several days building an elaborate cardboard playhouse, complete with bookshelves and a “microwave” taped to the wall. Every day, I read a chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix aloud and we have deep conversations about animagi and patronus charms. One evening we all watched a science program about germs, which may have been ill-advised given the current situation. Nobody felt safer after that.

Technology helps. My oldest daughter does reading comprehension exercises through an online program, and is learning proper typing posture. My son has fallen in love with an online math game that is probably 80% video game and 20% math, but 20% is better than nothing. One of my daughter’s classmates set up a video conference this week so the girls could see each other and catch up. I was shooed out of the room, but the giggling could be heard throughout the house. It was great for morale.

I think keeping morale up may be the most important part of all. This is hard on everyone. We’re not used to being so off-schedule. We’re not used to spending this many hours together. We’re not used to being so isolated from everyone else.

But we’re adapting. Kids are resilient. Parents are too.

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