Let's quit trying to home school and start crisis learning instead

Let’s quit trying to home school and start crisis learning instead

We can't replicate the school system overnight. We are in crisis mode. Let's take the pressure off ourselves and think crisis learning.
crisis learning

It’s the last day of term one in our little space of self isolation and I can safely say the last few weeks have not been particularly productive on the ‘school’ front.

Instead it’s been a dramatic, attempted, learning curve regarding how you actually teach a child to sit and listen and stay still long enough to complete three short-answered questions on a work sheet.

So much so that I quit. I will not be ‘home schooling’ my kids in term two and I’m closing down the home ‘school’. While we will participate in various forms of learning and hopefully access plenty of the new resources that are currently being developed to make it easier than it’s been these past few weeks, I will be rethinking the idea of trying to replicate the experience my kids would have at school.

This is not nine to three, with every half hour segment accounted for. It’s barely even nine to ten.

This is crisis schooling. Or emergency schooling. Or maybe it’s pandemic schooling.

It’s certainly not home schooling, unless you can call the little space between the laptop where I work and the corner of my desk where my child sits next to me for the 17 minutes I can engage him at any one time, a ‘school’.

Indeed it may be better to remove any reference to ‘school’ at all and stick with ‘crisis learning’ instead. Even ‘remote learning’ is a step too far, implying again that well-planned tools and structures are in place to make it happen.

We didn’t plan this. We didn’t want this. Rather we are responding to a crisis and the responsibility to listen to health and government officials and keep as many people as safe as possible over the coming months. It will be a period we’ll long to get over with, but one we’ll also remember and recall for the rest of our lives. This is the most pivotal year in recent global history, and one that will define the years and decades to come. History lesson? You’re living it, tick.

I’ve found ‘crisis schooling’ is being used in some cases internationally in response to COVID-19 and has been raised by The Ethics Centre in Australia. Heather Anne Art and Soul in the United States appears to have started using the term first in a post that’s been shared widely. She describes herself as both a “long term public school teacher and home school mom” and notes that what parents across the world are experiencing doesn’t look anything like ‘home schooling’.

I have no idea how to ‘home school’ a kid because while I might be an ok-ish parent with some experience on what does and doesn’t work on the parenting front, I’m definitely not a qualified teacher and have zero experience on how to teach the year one curriculum.

From what I’ve read from those who actually do home school children successfully, including from Heather Anne, they rarely jump into such a situation overnight — they’ll spend significant time planning the home school environment and acquiring resources accordingly. They don’t wake up one morning to find themselves living through a pandemic and googling ‘year one music lessons’, as I did. They’re unlikely to also be figuring out how to work full time running a business during a crisis. Home schoolers can leave the house, meet with friends, participate in extra curricular activities. They’re not, as a rule, confined to their homes.

From what I’ve also learnt from those who have missed extended periods of school, it’s not an utter disaster for their future ambitions  — these growing brains continue to soak up information outside of their classrooms. They’re remarkably adaptable and as long as they can return to some form of formal schooling at some point in the near future, they will move on to the next lesson. They’re also all experiencing this, at the same time.

Anyone who currently has a job that they are able to do from home is particularly lucky right now. But what are we asking of working parents, those who were already exhausted and in many cases struggling to balance the home and life situation, when we set over the top expectations of their child at home? What about those without access to a spare laptop or device, or any technology at all? What are we asking of single parents? And those with children with learning difficulties or a disability?

And what are we asking of teachers — many of whom still need to be at school providing services to kids that can’t stay at home — when we expect them to have magically created remote learning and school opportunities in order for our kids to get a similar ‘schooling’ experience at home?

For many parents, it’s not just balancing work and care and education, it’s also managing the deep fears and uncertainties we feel as we adjust to life in isolation and the need to manage our physical and mental well-being.

It’s taking on the role of entertainer and creative strategist for your kids, when all the outside activities you’ve previously relied on — like playgrounds — are no longer available. It’s adjusting to life as a 24/7 carer, when previously you may have had care structures in place to get through the work day, such as childcare and support from grandparents. It’s being a new kind of mental health provider as kids ask the inevitable questions about why they can’t play with their neighbours, their friends, their grandparents, and why they’re missing out on that much longed for birthday party.

While I started with the best of intentions to replicate the school system from home, alongside work and younger kids requiring our attention, we’ve pretty much failed on term one. And from what I’ve heard from friends in a similar situations, we’re far from alone.

But we have watched some pretty awesome kids videos about Ancient Egypt, blue holes,  mosquitoes and other niche topics that are requested day to day. We’ve learnt to skateboard the front driveway, and make muffins from whatever ingredients we can get our hands on. My kids have been introduced to my colleagues and clients during video chats. They’ve learnt to fetch their own bananas and biscuits and in some cases even find their own stuff, when I give the ‘I’m on the phone’ signal. Every day, we’re learning a little bit more about how to play.

We’re also living the lessons we’ll pass on to future generations. We’re witnessing the crisis, the horror, the kindness, the innovation and the sudden shifts we all had to make to save ourselves and each other in the year 2020.

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