Opinion: Now Is Not the Time for Homeschooling

Snyder+and+siblings+during+homeschooling+a+few+years+ago.

Snyder and siblings during homeschooling a few years ago.

Isabelle Snyder, Staff Writer

In just a few short weeks, so much has changed. COVID-19 has cancelled what feels like everything, even that seemingly immovable American pillar, the public school system. For me and my friends, juniors and seniors in high school, a shift to online learning is, if anything, impractical, but not earth-shattering. But for those with elementary students, a new movement seems to be sweeping the nation: homeschooling.

I, alongside my two younger brothers, was homeschooled by my mom from second grade to fifth grade. We lived in a low-income area, and my elementary school was overcrowded and underfunded. After one too many anxiety-inducing incidents for 7-year-old Isabelle, I asked to be homeschooled, and was privileged enough to have parents who financially could make that work. Essentially, we had a COVID-19 situation on our hands, just minus the toilet paper hoarding. My mom, like almost every parent now quarantined at home, had never homeschooled before, and was suddenly at home with three small children, all of whom had grown accustomed to the public school system and environment.

 You know what didn’t happen? 

My mother waking up one day, deciding right then to homeschool her children, and after calling us downstairs for a rustic oatmeal breakfast, sitting orderly around our school table while smiling, we all dove into some high school-level word problems. That didn’t happen. Not even a little bit. 

Despite what seems to be the general Facebook consensus, it is not possible to start homeschooling at the drop of a hat. When we decided to homeschool, my mom took months, you heard me, months, to research, order work books, and work out a curriculum. And when we finally started, it took real time to adjust. Again I say to you, months. Remember, I was in second grade, seven years old. I loved my mom, I looked up to my mom, she played with me all the time. We had and have a relationship that is strong and wonderful. It doesn’t matter how much your kids love you, or how great of a parent you are, your children will detest you when you start homeschooling. We have been taught our whole lives that parents and teachers are different people, they serve different purposes. Imagine, for instance, your significant other and your boss. If suddenly your boss comes and cozies up in bed with you, you would be confused and probably call the cops. When, with no warning, your parent tells you they are now your teacher, all your reference points for authority are thrown out of whack. For elementary students especially, they have to work hard enough as it is to avoid calling their teacher mom or dad. Learning the difference in expectations and behavioral standards between school and home is already a mental feat, and demanding that in the span of a few minutes your children combine these very separate spheres and prepare for a harmonious learning moment at your kitchen table is harmful for both you, and your children.

Homeschooling is hard, and honestly, assuming that it isn’t is a disservice to yourself and your children. It took my mom and I three years to truly develop a working relationship in a homeschool context. We had to be in it for the long haul. Hopefully, our schools will not be shutdown for three years. Realistically, we’ll probably be back to school in a month or two. All that to say, creating a truly effective teacher-student bond with your child is just not going to happen. So take the pressure off of yourself and stop trying.

When I look back at my time as a homeschooler, sure I remember the math worksheets and the science experiments, but mostly I remember the play. I danced with my brothers, I read picture books, I dressed up in costumes. I had time to be a kid. And as a girl currently in the public school system, the biggest thing missing is time. There is no time to explore, no time to play, no time to just be. Kids are tired, and in an effort to keep up with the curriculum, their time to rest, to figure out who they are, is shrinking every day. Homeschooling was valuable because I had time to figure out what I loved, to figure out who I loved. Playing with my brothers, reading with my mom, provided a foundation for the relationships I have with them to this day. So instead of seeing these weeks stuck home as a space needing to be filled by hardcore learning and structured homeschooling, let that pressure slide. For better or for worse, instantly forming an effective homeschool structure is impossible. Instead, see this time as exactly that, time. Read with your children, play with them. Draw and build and laugh. Maybe take a nap. Just let them be, because time is the best teacher in the long-run, and it’s the teacher public school students so rarely hear from.

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