Teachers and Homeschoolers: Let’s Be Kinder to Parents in this Pandemic

As a remote-working parent who homeschooled for many years and is now finding herself being pulled back into home education thanks to the pandemic, I’m in a unique situation.

I’m comfortable with both public education and homeschooling as options for families. That’s why I’ve long followed a broad mix of homeschool and education social media influencers.

Thankfully, most people are playing nice on social media as we begin to ramp up the COVID-19 lockdowns.

But some of what I’m starting to see makes me uneasy.

A few bad apples in both groups are starting to brush off legitimate parental concerns.

That’s likely because getting lost in all of this “breaking news”—and the inevitable social chatter that comes with it—is the simple fact that many parents are new to having kids home during the school year. They’re responding the best they can during a global emergency.

Can we continue to treat these times and those responses as typical? Might we want to adapt our messages to one another accordingly, as soon as possible?

Earlier today, I encountered a post on Facebook by a well-meaning teacher attempting to reassure parents that their kids won’t fall behind too far this spring. In it, she pointed out that parents shouldn’t yell at their kids about math problems.

I agree wholeheartedly that yelling isn’t typically a good motivational strategy when teaching any subject.

But maybe now raised voices about lessons are connected to deeper-seated parental anxiety about paying the rent or losing a job or, soon, perhaps staying alive?

In her rush to tell everyone to trust that teachers will get everyone up to speed again in the fall, the well-meaning teacher glossed over what parents are actually dealing with right now.

She was right, but it rang a little hollow once I realized what was left unsaid.

In a similar vein, I’ve seen a couple of homeschool influencers dismiss efforts made by parents to find a week’s worth of school lessons quickly and on the cheap. “Let them play,” they say.

Again, while I agree that embracing open-ended, play-centered endeavors is a valid approach for many homeschool families (especially those who choose to embrace the unschooling approach), I think much more is going on in this moment that needs to be acknowledged.

In my social circles, the parents I’m seeing scramble to find things to keep occupied are those suddenly thrown into working remotely. But I know they’re not alone. Together with first responders, healthcare providers and hourly workers, these hard-charging parents are all in dire, urgent need of finding a substitute for the childcare inherently provided by schools.

These parents need workable solutions to keep their kids occupied. They’re looking for workbooks and digital options, but they need scheduling tips.

They’re not saying it, but they need moral support.

No, scratch that.

We need moral support.

Social distancing is complicating everything, all at once. Jobs are in jeopardy. People are at risk of becoming sick.

We need to acknowledge those realities more directly and mindfully, especially when it comes to how it’s impacting families.

Whether or not there’s community spread in your town, odds are parents near you are already feeling varying degrees of emotional and economic strain. Frankly, many of them were feeling uneasiness before this pandemic began, so they may be even closer to their personal breaking points.

All the more reason for us to be kinder, more thoughtful and supportive.

I wish I had all the answers on how we work to keep families healthy, happy and sane until this crisis ends. I don’t. I’m reeling a little bit myself at times.

Maybe this phase of anxiety is the first step on the road to a new normal?

Until we feel on firmer footing and, hopefully, safer, let’s all work on finding better ways of communicating with one another, human-to-human. Let’s lift one another up, lean in and be even more thoughtful about what we say and share. Especially when it comes to talking with parents.

Our collective well-being may depend upon it.

 

In 2013, Pamela Price wrote How to Work and Homeschool (no longer in print) and homeschooled for almost a decade. Now, like many parents, she’s juggling a full-time remote job (in corporate marketing) while helping her public school teenager adjust to digital learning. She’s also sharing practical tips and pragmatic advice for parents with a team of seasoned homeschool moms at Facebook.com/HowtoWorkandHomeschool

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