Congratulations! You’ve just graduated from the University of Corona with a degree in Home Education and an emphasis in What Do I Do Now? Should you unroll that diploma, you’ll find it’s actually just a rainbow-colored schedule that perfectly breaks out each second of quarantine time into activities, such as designing abstract oil pastel murals and learning about 19th century Russian literature. It’s gorgeous. It’s perfectly crafted. It will send your child to Harvard and then Cambridge and then, probably, the White House.
Now spread out that beautiful, prismatic schedule, and set it on fire.
There are no schedules in Corona school, my friend. Things are probably going to look a little crazy at your house for the next forever, and that’s okay. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you have spent your whole life preparing to teach your child algebra while a pandemic rages outside. Maybe you are literally Captain Von Trapp and your children answer to varying whistle pitches. But if your kids do not march to your orders in the key of B-flat, don’t panic.
I’ll admit I don’t have to worry about throwing an educational packet into the mix in my home. I have a 20-month-old who is currently learning two-syllable words and how to eat at least 10% of the soup in his bowl before he spills it in his lap. There is no educational packet for soup spoon dexterity. I have checked. So, no, I don’t have to stop everything I’m doing to suddenly get on the level of a public school teacher—but I’ve been on the other side of that worksheet on the kitchen table. For six months in the early aughts, I was homeschooled.
When we first moved to Missouri, my parents had grand dreams about living off the land and raising salt-of-the-earth children who learned their times tables right at home. They grabbed some chickens, a few melon seeds, some textbooks from Barnes and Noble, and then set off on their gallant quest. In six months, the dog had eaten the chickens, the deer had eaten the garden, and my brother and I had eaten away at my mom’s sanity. One cold February day, she said, “We’re going on a field trip.” That field trip was to the local school. She told the teachers “Good luck,” and threw a PB&J in our general direction. Just like that, we were back to being wards of the public educational system.
Here’s the thing to know about my mom in this scenario: she is THE mom. You know the type. The bakes-cookies-and-volunteers-at-the-school-and-hugs-and-makes-up-adorable-songs-that-rhyme-with-everyone’s-names type. If she cannot handle homeschool, God bless the parent that can.
Even though our experience with homeschooling ended in flames, it really wasn’t all bad. For one, most homeschoolers don’t spend all day behind a textbook. Since there are less kids in the “classroom” and more individualized attention, you really don’t need more than a few hours a day to get your schoolwork done.
Corona school lesson #1:
Your kids probably don’t need to spend a whole 8 hours with their schoolwork. Now, you might need to distract them for 8 hours because, you know, you might have to also do your full-time job on top of educating your kids. In that case, may I suggest a Planet Earth documentary? There are lots of colorful birds, and the animal mating scenes could double as your puberty education class. Win-win.
Corona school lesson #2:
It’s cool if your kid wants to focus more on what they’re good at. I had a book that gave you scary story prompts and encouraged you to finish the plot. My mom didn’t have to twist my arm to get me to exercise my brain with a pen, like she had to when numbers were involved. And guess what I ended up working with after school? Okay, not Goosebumps-esque stories specifically (where is THAT job?), but I definitely get to work with words! Yes, your kiddos should absolutely spend time doing all their supplied schoolwork, but if they take the next few months to fall in love with one subject over another … who cares? They’re just becoming the tiny, successful humans they were always meant to be.
Here’s the biggest thing I realize now after looking back at our homeschool months. My mom was teaching us way before she signed up to do it full-time. We helped her in the kitchen and learned fractions. We ran outside while she hung laundry and had P.E. (besides “getting-back-to-the-land,” they were also very into “getting-back-to-early-20th-century-laundry-practices”). We read. We read new books, old books, educational books, fictional books, books from our bookshelves and books from the library (and, yes, the library is still a useful resource during the pandemic).
So, Corona school lesson #3:
You’re a parent. Teaching is in your blood. Even if you think you’re getting nothing across to your kids, I promise you: they are learning from you.
And Corona school lesson #4: read.
If you’re worried your kid will never be on the same path to success after this bump in their education, don’t be. Kids are resilient. Their teachers are resilient. They’ll get back on track. My mom struggled to find resources for homeschooling in a time before high-speed internet, so she made up the curriculum as she went along. She found a big ol’ book of Presidents at a garage sale and was like, BAM, education. When I reentered public school, it became clear I knew a lot about Rutherford B. Hayes and maybe not a lot about long division. I had some catching up to do in the math department, but (and this, mamas, is why you shouldn’t panic) … I caught up. I can do long division (probably. To be honest, I have not tried in a hot minute). I graduated high school. I went to college. My six-month vacation from the public school system didn’t derail my future. And, yes, maybe you have a high school senior or a college student being challenged to finish their coursework from home. But this still isn’t the last time they’ll learn. You never stop learning, whether school is in session or you’re long graduated. Heck, just last week I just learned how we see colors from my toddler’s board book. (Is this a thing that other people knew? Hmm…maybe I missed that unit while I was in homeschool.)
Corona school lesson #5:
This isn’t the end.
So try your multicolored schedule. Plan your well-lit school nook. Maybe it will go all according to plan. But if you start to see your perfectly organized homeschool start to spiral out of control, don’t panic. You’ve got this. Your kids have got this. And your kids still have you. Just set that schedule on fire, mama, and dance with your kids in the ashes.