Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Schooling in the time of Covid

So in March, our lives basically imploded.  For many Texas children, they went home for Spring Break and then did not go back to school.  We are day 120-something of social distancing and quarantine.  I know for me it feels chaotic.  I imagine for the children watching all of us grown-ish folx, this is a very confusing time.   

Now, if you remember correctly, my doctoral dissertation was written on unschooling, and pretty close to 100% of my writing and research during my doctoral studies were focused on homeschooling.  To say that my views and recommendations have been in demand is an understatement.  Now, I haven't gotten any media attention, thankfully, but many friends and family members have been reaching out.  So I'm going to give my perspective on the current situation.  I'm going to avoid the politics of it; that may become a post over on Wetback American since I try to keep my politics over there.  

Things to keep in mind as you read:
1 - I was a public school educator for 9 years.
2 - I was a private school administrator for 3 years.
3 - My oldest child, Gymgirl, has been educated with a mixture of private school and homeschooling.
4 - I believe in the power of children and as such, I am a firm believer in unschooling.
5 - My own education has been a mixture of public and private schools at the k-12 level and in higher education.

Okay so you don't feel mislead or like I'm hiding anything.  I will also admit, I have a lot of issues with public schooling, namely, it is schooling and not education.  Again, I'm going to leave the politics at the door but if I'm not transparent then I feel like I'm trying to hide something or that I'm ashamed of something.

Now the meat of the issue:
Where should I put my children next year?  The only real answer is to do what is best for you and your family.  That is the beginning and the end of the conversation.  You can take what I say and other experts say into consideration but the decision is yours and yours alone.  

Things to consider:
1 - Can you keep your children at home, safely?
    Who can provide supervision?
    If my children are old enough to stay by themselves, who can be your backup if suddenly your children need help?  Last-minute illness?  No electricity?  Other safe spaces for them?

2 - What kind of learner is your child?
    Does your child need lots of structure?
    Do they go to bed late?  Are they early risers?
    Does your child have special learning needs?

3 - Does your child seek/need routine?
    This is especially important in light that school may close and open randomly throughout the semester.  

4 - Are you a seeker of routine?
    I love routine.  I need to know basically what my day is going to look like, my meetings or if I am on-campus or off-campus.  Honestly, sick days ruin my whole week.  I need a routine.  Public and private schools are more than likely going to have to close and reopen a couple of times.  Do you have a plan?

5 - What is your backup school plan?
    Like I have mentioned above.  Public and private schools are going to have to respond and follow state and local guidelines.  If your area becomes a hotspot and you are an essential worker, what is your plan for your children?  If there is an exposure and schools close for a day, week, month, what will you do?

6 - Does your child have any special medical needs/conditions?
    If your child were to get Covid, is there any reason for you to think your child would be hit harder, ie is your child high-risk or medically fragile?

7 - Is there anyone in your household or back-up household, who is high-risk/medically fragile?
    Again, this isn't a disease that is generally fatal for healthy people so it is possible that your household can get Covid and everyone does just fine.  You need to consider things like an older parent in the house, someone with a chronic health condition, and not just in your household but in the household of whoever is your backup in case of a shutdown.
As you can see this is an ultra-personal choice and frankly it is nobody's business.  If you are sending your children to school here is advice:

A - Prepare them with positive viewpoints of the situation.  Your hatred of mask, Trump, Covid, none of that is the teacher or school's fault.  Your children will reflect your attitude so fix it now!

B - Be prepared for chaos, especially at first.  So talk to your kids.  This is a brand new situation to all of us.  Yes, the first day will be strange and difficult. Again, it is not the teacher or school's fault.  

C - Prepare your sometimes people die talk.  I am praying that you never need it but get it ready.  More than likely your child will know someone who has lost someone to COVID and they'll bring that talk home.  Be ready.  If the health officials are correct, we will lose teachers and students.  Be ready.  It is a tough topic.  As an administrator, sharing bad news was always hard, and watching the effects on the class, students and teachers, was heartbreaking.

D - Find out the district's plan for exposures.  This is the hardest one really because there are so many unknowns.

E - Support teachers and school staff.  This is hard on everyone.  As school personnel, we love our students.  We want to get back to normal.  There isn't a teacher around that want to infect a child with COVID.  We are also human and have to work with the system and the rules set forth.  

Finally, my recommendations:

If you need to keep your child at home, I suggest looking into online computer-based schooling.  In Texas, we have a few companies.  I highly recommend  I have known people who worked for them and have seen a few students transition to this program pretty well.  Teachers and administrators are certified so the curriculum mirrors that of the public schools.  Before you pick an online school, check out their requirements for their instructors.  Not everyone requires a teaching license or previous experience.  This is nice option since your child has to log-on to do their work so they can create a routine and have support from a real person.

Also, you don't have to pick an online school.  You can unschool.  You can buy a prepackage curriculum like Seton Home Study (Catholic) or Abeka Homeschool (Baptist) if you want something with worksheets and books but not on screen.

No tee, no shade, you have to do what is best for you and your family.  It takes a village to keep your kids at home and not everybody has a village full of retired teachers ready to teach the neighborhood kids.  If you need more information or want to just talk it out, email me (martha (at) wheatlessmama (dot) com).  We can set up a zoom meeting.  This is hard.  You are not alone.  It feels like a political statement no matter what you do but seriously, keep your politics out of it and focus on what works best for you and your kids!

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