Wisdom from the Homeschool Trenches
Letter to the Editor
Illumina's COVID-19 learning environment includes desk shields, peruse surface cleaning, daily fogging treatments, and regular hand-washing and mask wearing. ©Illumina Learning Center, Inc.
I am not a COVID-19 expert, but I’ve been an educator for the past 20 years. I taught my children during their elementary years and have worked as a public school principal. Yet, neither my team or I ever expected to sign-up as essential homeschool pandemic workers.
As a hybrid learning center and homeschool support provider, we meet the needs of parents who are desperately looking for alternative schooling for their child. Parents are deeply worried about learning outcomes and with good reason.
One client recently shared an eye-opening interview about a Colorado Spring’s teacher. If you haven't watched it, please do. The teacher describes how her school is preparing for the new required mandates. Incoming 5th grade students will be expected to sit three feet apart at their desks for the entire school day, only allowed to stand for bathroom breaks. Distribution of learning material and tools of work such as paper, will not be permitted. Lunch will be contained to the students’ desk space. I was overcome by a sense of sadness and empathy for teachers and their students.
There are many talented and dedicated teachers who are eager to get back to their classrooms, but not at the expense of their health or their families’ well-being. They should not have to make that choice. Many states are forcing their schools districts to open, disregarding the damaging health effects these openings may have on their stakeholders, including family members who receive second-hand exposure from their children.
We forget that these children have been cooped in their homes for months. Some are keenly aware of the risk to themselves, but more importantly, to the elders in their families. They worry in silence and tune-out. Their cell phone and video games become necessities of life. Still, the elephant is very much in the room of their minds. Our youth in particular is showing visible signs of depression.
Are we asking our kids how they feel about COVID-19? How can we help them cope with the reality of its permanence— COVID-19 is here to stay. Is hunkering down at home for online learning worse than sitting at a desk for a full school day wearing a mask?
All these thoughts have crossed my mind. I feel grateful for the students we serve at the learning center who do not have to deal with these issues, but the sense of gratitude feels misplaced. I want all children to have the opportunity our students have. They deserve that, just as much as our teachers deserve to be safe at home with their families, and parents deserve the freedom to return to their jobs.
No, it is not fair for anyone, but maybe at this point we have to realize that none of the alternatives are ideal. Blame does not help our children or their teachers. Be open. Be flexible. Re-evaluate your school options, talk to other parents, and voice your concerns. Tune-in.
Maybe online learning from home albeit all its challenges is not as bad as we think given our options. “At least the kids can move,” pointed Katie O'Connor. Perhaps it is time to rally for the teachers and value their safety as well as the safety of our children, just as as we passionately rally for other causes. A call to your schools’ superintendent or governor may be a good place to start.
Thank you, Katie O'Connor for opening the door.
Illumina Learning Center, Inc. offers comprehensive K-12 tutoring and homeschool instructional coaching and support. Students work in small mixed-aged groups in a structured home-like environment. Illumina Learning Center, Inc. is a Gardiner Scholarship provider. illuminalearningcenter.com