We are all Homeschoolers Now

How things have changed!  Now instead of limiting screen time, families across the province are juggling to provide screens and internet to their children to allow them access to assignments, learning tools and their teachers so they can get some school work done.

Parents have always been their children’s’ first educators, but the sudden shift to online curriculum delivery has made most of them the primary educator now, assuming final responsibility for the management and supervision of their children’s education.  How are they handling that?

Many parents are trying to work from home, needing their own screen time and some quiet to gather their thoughts and deliver whatever is expected of them.  Or as essential service providers, they leave home each day and worry about what uninvited guest they bring home to their families on their return.   Others have taken time off from work to look after their families.  None of them ever asked nor expected to be required to be their children’s teachers.  For most, it’s another pressure during a difficult time.

Mary Benson is the School Council Chair at North Cavan Public School.  As a day care service provider, she has chosen to work with children for a living.  She understands them and enjoys spending time with them.  When Mary first learned that schools would be closed for a period of time, she looked forward to an unprecedented bonding opportunity with her girls aged nine and eleven.   Through her experience with the School Council, she has a better understanding than most parents of the structure and support the school environment provides and was confident in her ability to guide her children through the remote learning process ahead. In short, Mary was pumped.

Fast forward ten weeks.  The bonding is happening, for sure, but how much learning is actually taking place?  Less and less it seems, as the days warm up and the summer vacation vibe grows.  Mary is finding it difficult to motivate her children to do school work, despite their former enthusiasm for learning.  There are life-skills developing in the kitchen and the garden, but she worries about the school work.  She is not alone.

Many parents of older children are stepping back and letting their children work out the academics with their teachers, with varying results.  Mature students are embracing independent learning and are happy to work on their own schedules, as middle of the night messages to teachers confirm.  Some are struggling, particularly with subjects like math, where face-to-face support from a teacher would help.  Even when parents understand the subject matter, the lingo and the delivery used in the curriculum can confuse, making it difficult for parents to provide meaningful assistance.

Teachers have different delivery styles and expectations.  Without the daily structure, the variability in curriculum delivery becomes apparent.  One parent of two high school students sees that clearly.  One teacher is structured, and has set a daily schedule for assignments and feedback, while the other leaves the timeline to submit assignments and ask questions to the student.

Children are missing their friends at school.  They want some fun.  Peers in the classroom also provide motivation to perform, through collaboration and competition.  In addition to the lack of social interaction with their peers, their absence in a learning setting is reducing the motivation to work on school assignments for some students.

Despite the many challenges, most parents support Premier Ford’s decision to keep schools closed for the rest of the year.  With few exceptions, they also hope schools reopen in September so they can revert to a supporting role in their children’s education.  This experience will certainly leave them all with a greater understanding and appreciation of the role teachers play in their children’s lives, and that’s good for everyone.  KG

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