Like so many parents around the country, I was dreading homeschooling my daughter when it first became clear schools would not be opening back up. This is not a role I ever would have chosen, nor is it how I ever imagined her education going.
To be honest, I’m not the most patient person when it comes to teaching anyone anything, and even helping her with her homework has been a struggle for us in the past.
How was I supposed to spend several hours a day teaching her while also managing my work schedule and keeping a roof over our heads?
Of course I was tempted to latch onto the memes and Facebook posts about eschewing homeschooling altogether and allowing us both to just relax into this moment. After all, how much could she possibly miss over the next 6 weeks of school? She’s only in first grade. Couldn’t all the kids just catch up together when school resumes?
I knew the answer was “yes.” But deep down, I also knew that homeschooling under these circumstances wasn’t necessarily meant to be about academics alone.
“One of the main points of continuing to learn, in my view, is to give kids a sense of normalcy and growth,” said Kathryn Haydon, a former second grade teacher and education consultant who spends her days now as the innovation strategist behind Sparkitivity.
Haydon explained that while many parents may be feeling as though kids “deserve a break” right now, allowing them to spend their days playing video games and watching movies without any kind of structure is something most kids will grow tired of very quickly. Especially when children are otherwise being deprived of social interaction as well.
“A specific benefit to distance learning programs is to provide connection with outside teachers, mentors, and kids when most people are not able to even visit neighbors,” Haydon said.
Psychologist and author Wendy Walsh, PhD, specializes in attachment. And she agrees. “We hope this will be temporary, but none of us really knows for sure,” she said. “The point of homeschooling in the meantime is structure. Not rigid structure, but enough structure to get things done during the day.”
Walsh explained that a lack of structure can cause cognitive impairment for both kids and adults, leading to a likely rise in depression as a result.
“Having schoolwork to focus on, and the structure and normalcy that provides, can help keep kids from succumbing to that depression too,” she said.
Haydon further explained that the goal of distance learning should be to engage kids in learning, to provide connection, and to provide a sense of continuity and normalcy.
“The goal should not be to cram a ton of concepts down kids’ throats out of fear that they will ‘be behind.’ This is an opportunity to find different ways of learning in a new context,” she said.