Coronavirus closings: surprisingly, this is NOT like homeschooling

As schools have closed down and are scrambling to provide instruction due to COVID-19—some parents are going to think that this is what homeschooling is like.

Ummmm… yes and no. 

Yes, the kids are learning at home or somewhere other than that building. Yes, you have to figure out a lot of new ways of doing things. Yes, you will feel completely lost.

No, it’s not generally like this—because you find your resources and your rhythm and things calm down.  For homeschoolers, it’s not temporary.  There’s no light at the end of the tunnel.  This is conceivably forever.  And that’s actually helpful because we can move forward knowing that what we put into place is staying there (barring a coronavirus-like catastrophe for homeschooling).

You will experience a very unplanned disruption that’s a state of limbo—which is nothing like transitioning to homeschooling.   It’s apples to oranges.

Some of you will not be on your own time schedule because of the school’s classes operating at their normal times, just remotely.  Is this like homeschooling?  Sometimes.  It depends on how your family “does” homeschooling.  Some families choose to outsource some of their learning; but they do get to choose whether to accept the days and times of classes as they are acceptable to the family and work in their schedule.  So that’s different.

Some of you will be on your own to find educational resources because your schools just can’t figure it out or don’t have a uniform way to offer instruction.  Is this like homeschooling?  Sorta.  The major difference is that we pretty much OWN that process from start to finish where you have been plopped down midstream to finish what the schools started and you’ll be popped back into that environment when this is over.  You’re looking to fill a gap for learning without nearly as much knowledge about how and what your children have been learning.  That’s a nightmare that homeschoolers do NOT have to deal with.  Those of us with children that we intend to enroll into the schools come at it with more time and therefore more time to research and plan that whole thing.  You don’t/didn’t have that.

To be fair, I’m sure the schools do not expect you to fill that gap.  But I’m also sure that as good parents, you have a concern about the transition back into school and are trying to do your best for your kids.  I get it.  It’s just different than homeschooling.

Some of you are not accustomed to having your kids home all day unless they’re on vacation and you were not really prepared for this “vacation” and perhaps breaks and vacations are pretty much a sh*t show at your house that leave you desperate for the return of school.  Is this like homeschooling?  No.  Not that we don’t have kids that work our last nerve because we ABSOLUTELY do. (I have a post brewing on the misconception that homeschooling parents have patience–we do not).  There are several major differences on this one.  First and foremost, our children know this is not a temporary thing and the novelty of it is now gone.  Believe it or not–that’s pretty big.  It changes so many things, including our children’s behavior.  We’ve found our flows and rhythms.  We’ve figured out the structures that work for us.  And we were pushed to do that because it wasn’t temporary like breaks and vacations.  When you don’t have a light at the end of the tunnel, you get down to business and figure it out.

Some of you have kids that are in their pajamas all day.  Is this like homeschooling?  It could be.  That also depends on how a family decides to homeschool.  But reality check:  it totally could be.

Many of us will be confined to our house for lack of activities to attend and suffering wicked cabin fever.  Is this like homeschooling?  Pre-COVID-19, no effing way.  Generally, we are a very social crowd and despite the cultural ignorance, we actually have far more socializing than kids in a brick and mortar school.  Trust me when I tell you:  this is killing us more than it’s killing you.  We don’t enjoy being confined to a building all day whereas your kids are kinda used to that.  Agreed: they’re used to doing it with a lot of other kids around, but they’re usually doing work and learning where we’re usually out and socializing and having a good time.  Not exactly the same thing, but I concede that it will be hard for your kids, too.  Still, we have a TON of cool stuff that we do during the day that’s now being canceled.  In addition to our Science Olympiad competitions being tanked and enrichment classes we share with your kids like acting, dance, sports, etc., my kids are currently facing their St. Patrick’s Day bash, a lock-in at a trampoline/laser tag/skating place and if it pushes out long enough, the spring formal just to name a few.  Trust me–we’re feeling this one.

Some of you are juggling working from home with kids underfoot.  Is this like homeschooling?  For many of us, it actually is.  The major difference is that it was a planned choice (for the majority of working parent homeschoolers).  As a result, we have figured out how to manage all of that before we did it and we have now fine-tuned it.  We have structured our days and responsibilities to accommodate it all.  You have effectively been thrown in the deep end and told to swim.  Not a fair comparison and I have some tips for you on that front.

Some things you will want to do if you’re homebound with your children:

  • If you are a working parent, read this post about trying to make all of that work.
  • Whether your child has school obligations or not, read up on building structure for your household so you can maintain your sanity.
  • TAKE WALKS.  Keep your distance from other walkers, but if you’re not in homebound lockdown per local regulations, get outside each day to move around, get fresh air (which has shown health benefits–see a National Institutes of Health study here), sunshine (although you should be out even on rainy days as long as it’s safe), and to help combat cabin fever.
  • Get a grip on food.  Most humans will eat out of boredom or worry/anxiety.  Make sure you don’t exacerbate things by eating starches, fruits and high glycemic foods without balancing them with some good fats.  Carrots and guacamole, bananas with peanut butter, crackers with cheese… you get my drift.  The fats tend to slow down the insulin surge needed to handle carbohydrates (see Harvard Public Health and National Institutes of Health on this topic.
  • If you are a family that enjoys screens for leisure, be mindful of your new situation and the new levels of screen exposure to create a healthy balance.  I’m sure it’s easier to let them watch shows or play games, but they may now also need to be on the screen for school in new proportions or on Skype or FaceTime to connect socially.  This is likely to be a time of more screen exposure than you have ever considered for your child–and just something to give a moment of pause and thought to.

Beyond all of that, take a deep breath.  If you are incredibly stressed, you might want to strongly consider focused meditation to manage your reactions to things in the coming weeks.  This may be a period that causes many of us to reflect on how we live and what’s not working or what’s not “the way we’d prefer”.  Much like the economic nightmare that was 2009-2010-ish, we may see a lot of people take a new direction for their family.

I hope for you all of the grace you can give yourself in a difficult time, all of the patience you need to manage the mayhem, and all of the wisdom you can gain from this experience.

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