Tonya Mead, PhD, MBA, M.Ed, School Psychologist, CHFI, CFE
Many seem to think that homeschooling in modern times stared in the 1970s. This was a time when school busing was utilized to desegregate public schools. At this critical juncture, the educational theorist, John Holt arrived to posit that continuous emphasis on rote memorization served to stifle learning in a formal classroom setting. Holt felt that students were no longer active learners engaged in the acquisition of knowledge; rather employees in compliance with their teacher/supervisors.
Elements of School Reform
Fast forward almost a half century later, the public school system seems to have made a complete 360 degree circle. But before we talk about where we’ve landed, let’s take a look the elements of the school reform movement that propelled us here. Efforts to reform education advanced these notations whereby parents, policy makers, educators and administrators were encouraged to:
- focus on student achievement more so than instructional delivery,
- increase competition between traditional public schools and their counterparts, the public charter schools, and
- drive costs down by re-configuring the teaching university, professional certification, and to classroom educator pathways.
Homeschooling and the Coronavirus
As a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic, lockdown, stay-at-home orders and mandatory public school closures we find ourselves taking a 360 degree turn from what some may have considered advances. However, as we look critically we see that the luster has lost its shine. A precursor to the current homeschooling predicament was that parents were already starting to embark on a new movement to ‘opt out’ of standardized testing. Testing that fed the frenzy to focus more on outputs (student achievement) than outputs. The pandemic has revolutionized the retrenchment from public education whereby students are corralled into a classroom of 20 to 35 peers for 45 to 90 minutes at a time to listen to a trained or teacher-intern focus on student achievement to intimately private. Which is, in my view, several steps removed from the public charter, quasi public private arrangement. Now, parents teach their own children, in their own homes, one on one, in subjects of their choosing which may or may not follow their state’s curriculum for learning.
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Classical Education and Homeschooling
It may seem like a free fall. But getting to the premise of this article, this could be furthest from the truth. In fact, from ancient times until the 1800s, kings, nobility, the wealthy and elite classically educated their heirs. The classical education system of the time was to appoint a wise, highly educated person of profound wisdom to serve as the personal tutor of one’s heirs. This incredible wisdom tradition incredible wisdom tradition dates back to thousands of years B.C. to origin of human consciousness and spans across all cultures and religions. Originally sacred knowledge was passed down to each successive generation by families and tribes to their young through oral traditions. As man began to develop scripts, utensils for writing, recording and expand upon the ways of sharing collective knowledge; the standards by which an individual was measured for possession of exceptional wisdom, knowledge, integrity and good judgement was substantially lowered. Hence, the public education system we have today.
The Unexpected Good tidings of the Coronavirus and the Return to Home schooling
It has been discussed on this website, the stress of lockdown (see here), stay home, and widespread quarantine orders of local and state governments exacted upon family and children. Often financial strain and psychological tension may lead to child and domestic abuse in extreme cases, however, these conditions most certainly lower the prospects that any learning is taking place. In spite of these conditions, resourceful families that find a way to muddle through this crisis can realize that there is much to be gained.
For instance, The Rand Organization found approximately, “one in four American households has at least one child age 14 years or younger at home. Many of these 32.5 million households have “in-home care” options: an older sibling, a non-working spouse, or a co-resident non-working adult relative like a grandparent.” They argued that these in-house familial resources could be tapped to ease the burden of home-schooling, household chores, and serve as a source for recreation.
Negative Impact of Coronavirus and School Closures on the Poor may be Insurmountable
Rand does pinpoint, as have I, that the most vulnerable families are single parents. They state, ” 5.9 percent of households in the United States are single-parent households with young children, and about half of those single-parent households have no in-home care.” In light of this dire situation, here are a number of resources available to level the home-school learning playing field.
Home schooling Resources for the Impoverished
Public library. Nope won’t work, local governments enforcing limited access to public facilities during lockdowns.
- Mobile Wifi, E-Books and Story Time. To continue to provide services to the most needy, many public libraries are using technological innovation to offer WiFi services in school and grocery store parking lots according to Fast Company.
- Choromebooks, iPads and other Digital Devices. As school systems resorted to online and remote learning, it became apparent by some school systems that historical inequities and poverty proved barriers to learning. As such, Ed Week reported that some k-12 education programs distributed much needed technological devices directly to their home-based students.
- Companies offer Supports. Companies such as Google, Education Lifeskills, Discovery Education, posted more than 300 free teaching and learning as well as social emotional resources online or offered free registration to access the benefits of their learning programs as reported by District Administration.
- Internet Connectivity. Sometimes its not the availability of technology that is the sore point as schools and parents seek to support home school learning; its the poor access to internet connections. Some companies (like Comcast for instance) have offered free or discounted services. To help low income families and student living in rural areas, High Speed Internet Company as published on its website a list of companies offering services by which families can then compare.
To conclude, in modern times one does not have to be a member of the ruling or nobility classes to obtain a high quality one-on-one home-based education. Perhaps with a little determination and ingenuity, when this is all over many parents may feel more empowered to increase their direct involvement in the learning programs of their children. And recognize that teaching and learning isn’t has overwhelmingly daunting as it appears to be. If this attitude is not adopted, at a very minimum this exercise will help us to better appreciate the learning process so that when we engage with our child’s teacher, we will have more than a passing understanding of the activities involved and the time required to be effective.
If you are interested in learning finding more educational, social emotional and behavioral resources to support your homeschooling endeavors during quarantine, lockdown and stay at home orders, please visit my Amazon store. All of the products listed have been expertly curated by a School Psychologist. Thanks for your time and attention!