In the last few months I’ve been trying to read 3-5 books every month- it is a difficult undertaking in case you’re interested. I have to work for it each time I open a book to actively read and that’s if I’m able to carve out the unfettered time to do so!
At the same time I’m trying to keep up with the current news on the advancement of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and I’m feeling awash in déjà vu as I process the fact that it’s coming faster than we can comprehend.
In the early aughts, I recall writing an essay about nanotechnology and how its prevalence in our society was not registered as it was so small. Today nanotechnology is all around us (and dare I say “in” us) and most of us hardly ever think about it.
With AI, the learning curve is so quick for the systems that are cranking away like ChatGPT that we are not understanding how it is already infiltrating our human experience. As a teacher and writer, I’ve not delved into this world for my daily applications but have had conversations with friends and colleagues who have and it’s truly a whole new world experience our society is entering.
Please start learning again and try it every single day with your mind no matter how busy your life is today. In my humble human opinion, the best way to adapt to this fast-developing world around us is to never stop learning through reading, experimenting and interacting with each other and our physical world around us.
P.S. Some book reviews coming soon from my February and March reading lists…
As the article notes, Sheridan county superintendent Chase Christensen “said he’s new to the job, but so far has been ‘amazed’ with the entire elementary school staff, their willingness to try new strategies and push the whole school forward.” Immediately we can note that in this little corner of America, there is support for the teaching staff to be creative in how they approach the needs of their students, yielding wonderful results in their reading and math proficiency.
“Christensen also credited the small community and small class sizes in the district, which was an advantage reported by many of the top-scoring districts…Also, many parents are for the kids.”
“It’s clear that education is valued and supported,” he said. “We’ve got great parents, and teachers who want to be here.”
This particular area in Wyoming where their students showed steady growth in their technology access and increased scores, the argument that America’s students are destined for disaster because of the 2020 pandemic can fall short.
Also lacking from the AP post-Covid report card are measurements of charter, private, online, hybrid and exclusively home-schooled education programs. It’s impossible, therefore, to have a comprehensive picture of how American students have fared. The unfortunate fact is that this release of scores is not that much different from the results of similar assessments of public-school students prior to 2020. The effectiveness of our nation’s education systems in general have been in question for decades.
Op-Eds Opine the Decline of Education
Within days of each other, respective writers from The Washington Post, Eugene Robinson and Catherine Rampell would write about the ominous test scores released earlier this fall.
First came Rampell’s article on November 4, “Boosting the Middle Class By Degrees”: her approach comes at it from the lack of enrollments in higher education, juxtaposing it with statements like “What’s happening? Usually when the economy is bad, higher education does well, and vice versa.” She is making the argument that she’s confused why there is a marked drop in enrollments for colleges and universities.
She continues “when job opportunities are scarce, people seek shelter in the higher education, where they can upgrade their skills and make themselves more marketable. In the pandemic recession, though, people avoided college even though unemployment was sky-high…possibly because the traditional college experience became less attractive while classes were conducted remotely.”She was explaining that the threat of an only online class experience for higher education was an aversion to prospective students. I agree with her premise but still believe there is a place for hybrid learning that would include both online and in-person classroom experience.
The very next day following Catherine Rampell’s publication, Robinson’s released on November 5, 2022 entitled “Plummeting Tests Scores Not a Red vs. Blue Issue” and starts with a confusing monologue statement: “It turns out that all the bitter back-and-forth between red and blue states about how quickly to reopen schools during the COVID-19 pandemic was nothing but political theater, as far as test scores are concerned.”
I read his op-ed several times and my initial thought is that he was trying to argue that because the low testing scores were pervasive, that’s why he says that it didn’t matter whether or not schools were re-opened sooner than others. However, I also recognize that there is a fallacy in his supposition because the data available is not enough to rule out that those students who were in school earlier or attended to by their caregivers non-withstanding if their schools were “open”.
Robinson continues with his ire, “Enough, already, with the performative outrage about imaginary critical race theory, a handful of transgender students who want to play sports and what pronouns teacher can and cannot use.” Again, here I find his anger misdirected.
As an educator and friend to many others active in school systems across our nation, I’ve witnessed unfortunate things in our American education system that have accumulated to bear the fruit of waning literacy and work ethic in our students. Also, teacher burnout was a thing before the Covid-19 pandemic made it a constant headline. The over-emphasis on standardized testing continued to fatigue veteran and new teachers alike from the turn of the 21st century onward.
Personally I’ve worked in various aspects of our nation’s education system: collegiate work as an “America Reads” tutor during President Clinton’s administration, a teaching position at Bannockburn School in Illinois’ public school system, a legislative aide to a U.S. congressman during the “No Child Left Behind” George W. Bush administration years, a graduate student for Education and Business Administration and today as a hybrid homeschooling parent of three children for nearly 15 years as well as an online academy educator.
However, I don’t think of myself as a so-called expert on education because as I’ve been teaching my own children for years: I believe that children and adults alike are in “school” together every day. A person begins their learning journey from the moment they are alive and while the details of when that moment actually occurs might be a political subject up for debate—we can all agree that a newborn infant is learning the moment they are born.
Just as a garden needs good soil/nutrients, sunlight and water to yield crops via photosynthesis, a student needs support through educators, family and surroundings to better equip them in their natural learning processes. Simply put, teacher + student + family = student’s success in education. In order for our American education system to evolve and thrive to keep up with the needs of our next generation, we must be willing to adapt to new ways of teaching and engagement with our students. Handing our kids technological gadgets as a social pacifier before they can speak words is an example of one of our recent mistakes as we learn new things alongside having to raise the next generation.
The collective idea being shared in recent months that our nation’s students are helpless to learn and achieve better reading and math scores without a well-funded federal education system in place troubles me greatly. It seems the speed of our advanced connectivity in cyberspace over recent decades hasn’t translated into our ability to evolve in our understanding of what our children truly need to learn and grow.
Incidentally, I propose that it could be that our adult addictions to and distractions with our electronic devices like smartphones loaded with countless apps like Twitter and TikTok have contributed to an environment of apathy and neglect that has influenced the decline in our nation’s literacy scores. It doesn’t matter if a student is able to attend an intensive private school that costs thousands of dollars a year, if that student doesn’t have engaging educators and a home situation that includes parents or caregivers who are interactive in their learning program both inside and outside the classroom then the student is more prone to fail.
In the political arena of education politics, I recognize that my home state of Florida has been the epicenter of social media outbursts with the recent marketing of polarizing terms like “Don’t Say Gay” affecting our state’s education system per our Governor Ron DeSantis. This goes back to The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson having such an issue with the political debates, in particular as it references our state.
In short, please allow me to attempt to diffuse this offensive verbiage immediately: Your kids can learn about gays or whatever else in Florida if you feel this is such a concern. Truly, please ask yourselves when was the last time your student checked out several books from their library and felt they couldn’t consume information as they feel compelled?
The embarrassing reply to most parents that comes to mind is that your student has NOT been checking out library books on a regular basis. In fact, many are hard-pressed to say if they actually read physical books. I’m not trying to judge anyone but I am trying to redirect misallocated ire by well-intentioned individuals—especially actual parents to school-aged children.
While these Covid and culture wars have been raging in our nation, there have been countless teachers, parents and others who have stayed focused on the actual needs of their students. They’ve continued to work at equipping them with the basic tools for learning like literacy and understanding of how to tackle problems like mathematics and scientific discovery.
My hope and prayer as this year comes to a close is that we’ll be more positive in the realm of education despite data or dark times. That parents recognize that they are their children’s first and most important teacher and that whatever path they take for their education, what matters is their love and presence in their lives.
As an aside, please recall that many of us grew up looking at models of dinosaurs who were scaly and gray and now if you walk into an exhibit like ours at the Cox Science Museum and Aquarium in West Palm Beach, Florida. There are dinosaurs with colorful feathers—a true testament that learning continues for all of us, adults and adolescents alike!
Tomorrow our county, considered the 10th largest school district in the nation, will embark on its Covid-19 pandemic inspired educational journey for many parents/caregivers and children as they log into their e-learning platforms. There are some who have prepared to take their students into the select private schools that are offering in-person instruction with smaller classes and new physical distancing measures. My hope and prayer for all my fellow parents is that the teamwork between you, teachers, and your children be strong and inspired by the hope of a new school year with so many new things to be learned for everyone.
My personal Bean homeschooling plan is to start my students fully in the first week of September as I have in the past. For the last couple of weeks and going forward, my mornings are busily spent with the children doing small lessons, reviews, and cleaning out our educational areas. My bed has been the staging ground daily for organizing countless piles of papers and projects. If you find that your home is a mess in preparation for your children’s first day of school at home, it will get better and yes it’s normal. If, however, your home is completely spotless then I sincerely applaud you and would love some tips on how to do better in this area.
My second podcast for CEO of the Home was recorded and released in late July and then I took off on a sabbatical by myself—it entailed me driving from Florida to Wyoming and back. In my haste to pack up and leave the household in good hands, I forgot to post it online for anyone interested. Simply put, it’s a small primer on how to approach a “multi-schooling” methodology should it be an option:
My sabbatical was 2 weeks in duration and afforded me the chance to let my mind rest from the constant barrage of COVID-19 news coverage, contentious social media platforms, and our local frenetic pace of life here in south Florida. I deleted all my social media apps and news alerts on my iPhone so that I wasn’t tempted to scroll through during the quiet moments that this trip gave me.
Also, I needed to rekindle my own love of learning. Wandering about in Wyoming gave me the opportunity to seek out new adventures like driving to a privately owned quarry outside Kemmerer and chiseling ancient rock for fish fossils. Picking up my paintbrushes to paint while sitting at scenic points in Yellowstone National Park gave me a renewed inspiration for playing with colors on paper. I’ve ridden horses but only through flat forests and swamps, mountain trail riding was a brand new experience for this flatlander.
Along with the silent hours I spent alone, I was able to think about what new things to weave into my children’s educational experiences moving forward. I had the blessing of commiserating with other parents who were traveling in Wyoming—it turns out that challenges my fellow Floridian parents have with this pandemic education prism are the same for other parents nationwide.
Tonight I also recorded my third podcast and I touch upon why I took this long break. What I didn’t address in it is that although I took this trip during a pandemic, I had weighed the risk and knew that my mental health was of utmost importance as I’m getting ready for another school year.
With that, I share my latest episode of CEO of the Home, Sabbatical and the New School Year:
Here in Palm Beach County, Florida, the last couple of weeks have been an unfortunate whirlwind of hot and humid weather coupled with dizzying numbers being reported with positive COVID-19 cases in our state.
Historically late July is the time when many of us Floridians have fled for vacation in cooler and drier weather elsewhere and are soon preparing to come back for the back-to-school rush of activity that follows in August.
Instead, I’ve fielded many texts and calls this month as our local public school districts have been unable to find a peaceful resolution on how they will conduct the education of over 170,000 children in our county for the 2020-2021 school year.
Every state in our nation is grappling with this question: Do our students come back to school in the fall?
Despite the answer, their education continues even at this moment as we’re in the throes of a national debate on the matter of whether it’s safer to conduct classes in-school, hybrid, virtual, online, and so forth. We’re all learning every single day, our youth are doing so at an accelerated pace.
The trend I’ve noticed in my own social circles is that many parents and caregivers are taking matters into their own hands by making decisions to transition to virtual learning, homeschooling, transferring to private schools, creating learning co-ops, and other creative solutions to mitigate the collective chaos surrounding our American education system.
As a multi schooling mother of three children for over a decade, I’ve been happy to share my resources and whatever advice I can lend to others as they navigate what their children’s education plan should be for our upcoming school year. I’m also thankful to be part of organizations like the Junior League of the Palm Beaches as our women members focus on helping our community, especially those with the lack of financial resources to be able to help students grow.
Today I launched my first podcast, CEO of the Home, after years of thinking about it. Why now? Frankly, why not. Although writing out my CEO of the Home blog has been my way of sharing with others what adventures I’ve experienced or lessons I’ve learned, this frenetic paced world needs talk too. So before you hear me talk, perhaps I should give you some background on what I’ve done.
In my undergraduate years at University of Florida, my first academic love was Telecommunications and I enjoyed working radio hours as a production assistant and weekend disc jockey. I graduated with a B.A. in English and some education classes under my belt instead and worked in schools. After the attacks of 9/11, I began another career serving in Washington, D.C. as a congressional aide to a Florida congressman covering education policy and then a political appointee for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Jr. during President George W. Bush’s administration. I began pursuing a Masters degree in Education that was cut short when the U.S. economy took a severe downturn and with a newborn son in tow, my husband and I left D.C. to stay with family in Florida in 2009.
I worry, as does any loving parent, whether I am doing enough for my children or am I screwing them up. My intent with this podcast is not to tell anyone how to manage their life, rather I want to offer hope, options and encouragement to make the choices that are best for them and their families.
As many American citizens have been purging their dresser drawers and closets in these past several weeks, a de-cluttering process has begun in America’s education system as stay-at-home orders have included the widespread closures of private and public schools alike.
There is a silver lining, however, even with the reports that “distance learning” doesn’t work or that students and their parents are suffering in the absence of “brick-and-mortar” institutions.
What if this COVID-19 pandemic pause has helped de-clutter in a matter of weeks what has taken decades for educators and administrators alike to bring to our attention as parents and caregivers of our American students?
To encourage more discussion on this topic of the decluttering of our American education model, I’m drawing on my own experience as an educator and federal government worker along with some of my colleagues who are currently active in schools across the country.
For the sake of this argument, I want to distinguish upfront that I’m not referring to the unfortunate segment of students who attend our American public schools and come from homes who are unable to feed, clothe, and equip their dependent children properly. Although it is a legitimate concern, it requires its own space and careful analysis to help formulate solutions going forward from this coronavirus crisis of 2020. In fact, the one benefit from the exposure of this societal ill is that many more citizens are aware of how fragile the economic balance is for many students and their families — hopefully that conversation will continue as to how to address those issues including have to hand out meals to students because school is not in session.
In the weeks since our nation woke up to the COVID-19 pandemic, countless parents and caregivers have found themselves floundering to figure out how to balance the needs of their children suddenly at home all day. What happened to everyone’s schedule that centered around their students’ school hours? It was gone indefinitely and with it came a vacuum that appeared to threaten students’ ability to continue to learn and thrive in their respective grades.
The good news has been that veteran teachers and homeschool parents extended their expertise to friends and local communities via social media and news outlets to help out immediately during late March and early April. Thankfully other public centers of learning like science museums, educational websites, and celebrities such as children’s author Mo Willems offered virtual classes and online educational sessions free of charge to homebound students. Even at this writing, virtual story times are being offered by local libraries or by beloved public figures such as former First Lady Michele Obama. These lifelines help flustered parents who have had to balance work at home and are to log their children into these free programs available while waiting for their respective schools to initiate distance and online curriculums in a matter of days. The “virtual village” stepped up to help raise our children during an unprecedented pandemic on America’s soil.
Then came the next phase of the stay-at-the-home educational process with the schools catching up and launching their virtual learning processes. The methodology varied from state to state, district and towns with one uniting factor that students would continue the course of their students at home without the familiar surroundings of their classrooms and teachers. While this virus has the medical frontlines occupied, America’s households became ground zero for our children’s education.
Reneé Flowers, a veteran teacher at Tullahoma High School in Tennessee writes, “While this situation is crazy — I also love it for multiple reasons: 1) the parents are involved at a level that they may not have been before and they get to see exactly what their children know and don’t know, 2) the communication between home has become more important than ever, and 3) these circumstances illuminate the need for data-driven decisions for students on an individual level.” Additionally, federal programs like “No Child Left Behind” and “Common Core” were trying over the course of decades to address issues that in a matter of weeks have come to the forefront of many American homes in a way that parents and educators alike couldn’t have conceived.
For other education workers, they have realized that being removed from the busy school environment has helped free up their time to focus on their students, whether they’re teaching curriculum or serving mental-health needs. Some faculty members may also be finding that they can better balance their own household’s needs. All the while also attending to their students in their respective locations using technology platforms such as Zoom or Google hangouts and such. Leslie Sporré, a guidance counselor who works in the Connecticut school system, shares that she is finding that this stay-at-home time is helping her know her own children better: “My first grader can work for 45 minutes and, in teaching him at home, I can give him frequent movement breaks and outdoor time so he is the most efficient and actually excited to learn. With all of the family time and physical activity and breaks built in, he is thriving!”
Again, it is worth mentioning once more that we should take a collective look at the gaping holes that we also see in our educational system when it comes to the ability of some students to thrive while others barely survive. A colleague of mine teaches in the St. Lucie county district in Florida and is reporting that out of her 20 students, only 12 are actually logging on for her online class session every day. “My students are so little that they rely on help and guidance from an adult to be able to participate in online school…when I finally get the parents on the phone, they tell me all their drama, toxic chaos and excuses why they can’t help their own child.” For this teacher, this moment in our American educational history has exposed the direct connection that can exist between home life situations and educational success. Children may be sharing even more of what their fractured homes are like when able to finally speak with their teachers whom they miss very much during this time of separation due to the novel coronavirus.
My hope is that this COVID-19 Pandemic Pause of 2020 will help generate some data and academic results to help both educators and the families of our American students find out how we can better serve them in our public and private educational processes. I’m sure most Americans can agree that this crisis has helped generate an untold amount of gratitude toward all educators of students that have had their school experience up-ended temporarily.
Final Note: Congratulations to the class of 2020, you are graduating during an incredible time and whether you can see it now or not, you will be stronger for it in years to come.
Welcome to Friday of the first week of homeschool, online, virtual, or whatever new form of school you and your children just completed. This short blog piece is intended to congratulate and encourage you on your new journey as our American nation pulls together to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on those vulnerable in our population.
And, truly, I mean it when I say you’re amazing as this first week of alternative site schooling ends. We now have the rest of the school year to get through this “new normal”.
From a Homeschooling Veteran’s Perspective
When all this unprecedented school closures started occurring in my corner of the world here in south Florida, I felt the anxiety of all my friends and fellow parents/caregivers here and wanted to help with any weblinks or advice I could lend. Last week is now a fuzzy memory of what our normal lives were as this week is like we’ve all stepped through Alice’s Looking Glass to a new dimension with the same characters but the landscape feels so different and otherworldly.
As this first week unfolded, I was impressed by the creativity of various parents/caregivers with setting up their school spaces versus their work-from-home spaces. Some were able to carve out spaces from their living room or kitchen areas. Others adopted the notion that where each student was comfortable worked well even if it meant sitting on their bed or in a cozy reading nook.
Also, I would like to thank many other moms who inspired my own program by sharing ideas of how to help others like having students write notes to those who are stuck in nursing homes without visitors or encouraging cards for the medics who are on the front lines of dealing with those suffering from the severe effects of COVID-19.
Even though I’m a mother who’s been doing the home- and multi-schooling thing for several years, I can get into habitual ruts and found this past week to be invigorating when reading about other households and how they approached this new world of blending school and work into the domestic home front. The comic relief shared between family and friends has also been a priceless and necessary help for our collective mental health.
Yes, Learning Can Be Messy
At risk of offering more unsolicited advice, I feel the need to tell parents and caregivers to not be too hard on yourself when you look around at the “school” area in your home and realize it’s devolved into a messy affair. This may be mostly true for those who have elementary school and younger children in their midst. However, it can also occur for those who are older and perhaps are having the opportunity to create and experiment in ways they were unable to in the conventional school setting.
Again, you’re doing great and perhaps having a mess is a nice visual to help us all honor our school janitorial staffs even more. Another inspiration for me this week was how many parents/caregivers started giving their children “life lessons” right away in how to help clean up in the home itself. I will start applying some of those ideas in my own school area as I’m certainly not a good janitor.
As for the inevitable bickering that can occur between siblings, I’ve applied the same mantra to my own as maybe many of you have this week. I remind my students that whether it’s their brother or sister is irrelevant, the conflicts they practice with them will come back again with their friends, future romantic relationships, work mates, and so on. It helps to diffuse the current frivolity by presenting a vision of what the future holds for them one day. Conflict resolution is a constant life skill that we can help our students recognize today.
You Must Do What Works for Your Household
What’s truly new about this experience for many is that your children are now at home and not in the fold of the school building. They’re now in your building. The stress for everyone is at a level I’m not sure we can measure at this point. Many others like myself would like to take this moment to say that you must do what works for your household.
If that means Spring Break starts this week, then so be it. If that means your school meets on the living room couch, so be it. If that means you let all your elementary school-aged kids out into the backyard for a few hours a day instead of sitting at a desk, by all means so be it. If that means no screens, great but if it means screens everywhere then so it shall be.
If there is anything I can share in terms of advice from my perspective as a homeschooling mother, it’s that having students at home means being flexible and ready to change the lesson plan and schedule as quickly as our kids have their growth spurts and mood swings. We are receivers in a way and can only respond to help nurture and calm at times. The school curriculum can wait if a snuggle or a rest period is in order.
In short, you make the call on what works for your household and the students therein and no one is grading you but you. Please give yourself grace. Remember that not only does it feel like your home is in a state of chaos, outside at the regular grocery store we see a surreal sight daily:
We’re All in This Together
School districts and the various private schools have spent this week scrambling together their efforts to rewrite and create a new path forward for how they will decimate your students’ curriculum for the rest of this 2019-2020 school year. We’ve all had to exercise patience under the most stressful of circumstances that our population has known, save that of the WWII generation.
In the meantime, it has been heartwarming to witness how parents and caregivers have pulled together to share ideas, information, and simply recognize what an incredible job school teachers and faculty have every day under normal circumstances. I appreciate the sharing of ideas through social media of how to help others, online school and learning ideas, and groups with chats online to help parents and teachers alike. Thank you all for what you’re doing to help not just those new to the homeschooling/virtual schooling arena, but also assisting us homeschool veterans.
In these abnormal circumstances, may we continue to remember that we’re all in this together.
It’s also more important than ever to share with each other if anyone is struggling and needs financial assistance, help with new ideas for homebound activities, and just commiserating with sharing photos of our respective cups of tea or glasses of wine to celebrate the end of each week:
I cannot applaud everyone enough as you navigate what works for you and your household as you figure out what facilitates your children’s learning at home—especially for those of you who must also delicately balance having to work from home, still leave home for work, or in some cases having just lost your paying job.
As the World Health Organization deliberated earlier this week on whether to upgrade COVID-19 from an epidemic to pandemic, I sensed another collective wave of anxiety rising in parents and caregivers throughout the United States: What if I have to quarantine myself and my children? What if my job forces me to stay home at the same time my children’s school (or glorified daycare) shuts down and moves to an online format? What if I must be a “stay-at-home” with no end in sight?
Hope and Experience Reigns
Having personally logged more than a decade’s worth of “homemaker” status experience complete with a full range of infant/pediatric care for three children and geriatric home care for octogenarians/nonagenarians, I feel this is a good time for me to share with the online community some quick tips of how to survive and thrive in a possible quarantine situation with little or big ones at home. My tone is intended to offer hope and inspiration for ideas should you find yourself stuck at home with children.
Being a teacher-caregiver with three home/multi-schooled children, I’d also like to add some levity to the topic by dispensing my humble tidbits with an acronym description for COVID-19 using CORONA as the base word. At the end of each vignette I’ll try to provide some weblinks when able to help you research your own home plan of action. Thankfully Google and other search engines like talking with your family and friends still exist to help you brainstorm your respective paths.
C is for Correspondence Courses, Creativity, and Calming Continuity
The good news is that in 2020 most Americans have access to a wealth of resources both online and in print at home when it comes to helping educate students of all ages. If your children are enrolled in a traditional “brick and mortar” school, chances are your school district or the institution will also provide links and virtual options should you be in a self- or mandated quarantine scenario.
Take this opportunity to declutter and disinfect your home dwelling, in the process carving out an area for your students to conduct their studies. Comfortable and clear options for seating help your children find a cozy place to read, write, and create new ideas in your home abode. If you own books, consider congregating them in one room or area. One of my favorite places as a child was that space made in the children’s area of the public library that silently invited children to come and have a seat and open up the physical possibilities in a book, magazine, or today a “tippity-tapping” or swiping of the screen.
O is for Opportunity, Order, and Operations Management
While staying at home is not for the feeble of spirit or faint of organized, there isn’t any true template of what the order of things should look like in your space. If recent political news is of any sobering indication, it’s that we Americans say we want change and yet are slow to accept changes in how we accept stereotypical roles. We say we want more racial, gender, and age diversity in positions of government power and yet the U.S. Presidential field is now down to the likes of Senator Bernie Sanders and former V.P. Joe Biden to face President Trump in the fall elections. This slowness to adapt change is especially true when running a household with children.
Somewhere along the line in our social evolution following the Industrial Age, the onus fell on the woman of the household to be responsible for the cooking, cleaning, and all other chores regulated to the “homemaker”. When facilitating the education of your children at home, your workload more than triples because it is a full-time job alone to help students with their school studies—let alone teach them yourself.
If delegation is king in the outside working world, then it is most imperative at home. I recommend devising a list on a visible chart for the household to see helping divest the household chores that needed to keep everyone clean, healthy, well-fed, and in turn happy. If you have been managing the home without much help from your dependents, consider the opportunity to alleviate those daily stresses and help foster more responsibility in your children.
In my home, the older children have certain nights they are assigned planning the dinner menu and must fold their own laundry (at age 10 you get your own hamper and clean your clothes too!). Lunchtime is their own responsibility, however, I do provide choices that within their respective age-appropriate ability. For instance, an 8-year-old can reach the sliced bread to apply both peanut butter and jelly for their sandwich.
There are numerous resources online for tips or printables for devising a list of responsibilities for your household. Consider reading books to the younger ones that cover taking care of the home or cooking. For the older kids, be honest and discuss what your concerns/needs are and what are they able to consider doing to be a beneficial working part of the household. Again, consider finding a template list that works for you as guidance, one of my favorites: https://livingmontessorinow.com/montessori-monday-age-appropriate-chores-for-children-free-printables/
R is for Rest, Reset, and Review What’s Really Important
The old writings in various cultures and in my personal reading of Christian scriptures often repeat the adage that when faced with an unexpected circumstance in life that could be deemed unfortunate, there is good that can come out of it eventually if not immediately.
So, you’re suddenly stuck at home with children and your job whether it was inside or outside of the home. This combination can be depression-inducing or at the very least aggravating. Also consider that your children are having a difficult time with this unforeseen set of events. More often than not, your children will absorb and in turn react to however you’re feeling and acting in this situation. Your default reaction may be either free-fall into this experience without much organization or swing to the other extreme of trying to exact complete control over every minute of the day with your children—both of these extremes can produce unsavory results.
I mention “rest” and “reset” in this section because for many of you, this may be how you try to approach the school break times in your children’s year. If the summer is their big vacation time, the first few weeks are a decompression time for your students before settling into a new routine. If this concept is foreign to you, again, there is no true template for you and your children but consider this to be a time to review what’s truly important.
Not unlike adults, children and teenagers need routine to help them grow and flourish. They also need rest and reflection within that daily construct. Being at home for extended hours every day may be something your entire household is not used to with jobs, school, extra-curriculars and the like. Remember that the opportunities to learn are not regulated to your students, you have a chance to learn alongside them and realize what amazing souls reside in your children when not stressed about running from schools to practices in traffic every day.
O is for the Outdoors
The fact that I may have to consider lecturing anyone on the importance of the outdoors for both children and adults is disturbing. Yet many Americans have simply lost touch (physically especially) with the outdoors and what raw nature can teach us. No amount of screen time with educational applications can replace what the interaction of the human and Earth can yield in terms of creativity, philosophical reflection, botanical and zoological education, and an overall appreciation for the organic mechanizations that make our daily life on this planet possible.
As mentioned before, there are countless digital and print ideas for how to approach “field trips” outside with your children. You may be able to simple open your back or front door to investigate. For avid readers, consider downloading or checking out from your local library the following book: “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv.
Our household is blessed with a backyard that’s allowed me the freedom to create planters with herbs, fruits, and vegetables with my children. I’ve also allowed them a space in the yard to literally dig into the dirt and create and recreate their own worlds, complete with a hose running water through it.
Although this may overwhelm anyone with germaphobe tendencies, there is a lot of scientific research still coming in that points to the benefits of us interacting with nature, i.e. playing in the mud. What good is teaching our children about the environment in schools if they don’t have the opportunity to physically walk, run, and play in it? You never know, the extra time taken to go outside with your child this week may help inspire them to find a calling in a profession that would help the environment in the future.
N is for Nesting, Neighbors, Not Saying “No” So Much, and News
We usually think of “nesting” as a term reserved for the woman swelling with expectancy of her child’s birth. In the case of a quarantine situation, it may be the first time you’ve had an extended period to sit in one place and really assess what does your home look like? I personally went through a phase years ago where I researched “feng shui” for ideas on how to work with what I had in our home: https://www.thespruce.com/easy-steps-to-feng-shui-living-room-1274493
Neighbors: remember them? Maybe you have great relationships with the people immediately to your right and left—or maybe not. This may also be a season of learning who and what are in your local community and how you may be of help to each other during a possible COVID-19 outbreak in your area.
When dealing with circumstances beyond our control, we often resort to trying to control what we can. If you’re a parent you also know that being at home with your children often involves many questions an hour and therefore innumerable ways to say “no”. The trap for us becomes evident when we’re trying to exert more control in our home life and start replying in the negative more often than actually necessary. Again, if you need more ideas as to how to respond more positively, there are many articles and blog entries online covering the subject or ask your local tribe of family and friends what their strategies are in communications with their children.
News may be a tap or a click away for most Americans, but when you’re stuck in the house this medium can get old very quickly. It so happens that many publications still provide subscription materials at home these days. In my home we have a 94-year-old and children under the age of 10 who especially benefit from the print medium. Perhaps call your local paper or check in with your favorite magazine sources to see if you can enact a short-term subscription to have the publication(s) delivered to your door.
A is for Art Therapy, Appreciation, Adventure, and Amazon
If you are a parent or caregiver of little ones then you know their affinity for drawing and coloring. As an educator, I’ve noticed that the older children get it seems the less likely they are to participate in the visual arts unless they’re taught. While I understand this may be subject matter out of your league, try to open your mind to the possibility that participating alongside your student in an artistic endeavor may benefit you too.
A time of quarantine at home with children may seem as inviting as hunkering down in a hurricane with them (I’ve been there too), but I focus on looking at the bright side for both parties to better appreciate each other. This may be the first time you really get to pause and read through what coursework your children are doing at school and understand why they may be so detached and cranky at the end of a stressful school day. In turn, your children may learn more about what you actually do at work during the day and how those responsibilities can drain you to the point of having a short-fuse temper if they make a mess on the floor when they’re home with you after school.
At risk of being redundant, adventure lies in the unexpected and a quarantine may afford the only “pause” time in your relationship with your children to seek out a new way of looking at things together. If nothing else, this time together helps demonstrate to our children that life is filled with unplanned occasions where we simply need to press forward and make a positive outcome of it.
Amazon: need I say more? At this time, we have the opportunity to have things delivered to our door via humans. If they get short-staffed due to COVID-19, then the drone technology will likely get some quick updates.
While we can all debate ad nauseum about novel this virus concern is, we are finding that government authorities around the world are taking unique measures that we’ve not seen since the likes of America’s travel security aftermath in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. As a home caregiver and educator, I’d like to impart the idea that staying at home with your children may be a life-changing opportunity offered during this temporary season. Although you wouldn’t have planned it this way, it may be priceless in its yields for both of your futures as parent and child.
About the Author: Current caregiver and education administrator at home and MBA candidate at University of Florida’s Warrington School of Business, her past life prior to children included work as a political appointee worker for President G.W. Bush at the U.S. Treasury Department, Legislative Aide for former Congressman Mark A. Foley, and reading teacher at Bannockburn Elementary in Illinois.
There is no question that most American parents who have children of “school-age” are very concerned about what sort of education they receive. In past essays and conversations I’ve often mentioned that every child on Earth is “home-schooled” in the sense that all their primary sensory experiences be they emotional, physical or intellectual are learned in their home environment–the faculty primarily consisting of immediate caregivers like parents and colleagues like siblings.
HEADLINES READ: “ANOTHER SCHOOL SHOOTING”–WHAT’S GOING ON?
The knee-jerk reaction to the current epidemic-like rash of violence in schools in that past couple of decades has been to blame the availability of weapons like guns, addictions to drug substances, excessive use of internet social media for awkward adolescents making bullying all the more callous, et cetera. In my humble opinion, I believe the issue may be as complex as the one unfolding in the environmental/agricultural circles regarding CCD and the fate of the honeybees.
For instance, did anyone happen to catch the little bit of research data released to the Associated Press (compiled and explained by Philip Elliot) that printed in papers like my local Palm Beach Post today? You can look it up yourself by “15% of U.S. youth idle, report says” and at a link like this http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/youth-unemployment_n_4134358.html
All of these factors and more that I’m leaving unlisted can overwhelm us to the extent that we don’t know what to do first: complain to our government and educational institutions or just yank our kids out of school and move to a semi-utopian place like Costa Rica.
BASICS FIRST AND FOREMOST
I was in the throes of the “baby blues” during the early months of my firstborn in 2008 when I came across a book or article (real fuzzy memory of that time for obvious reasons) that noted what all first-time parents/caregivers need to keep in mind as the single most important thing you can do for your newborn: LOVE THEM. It turns out that starting with this basic but profound intention will in turn help everything else fall into place when taking care of your offspring.
Loving your child(ren) will help you get attuned to their needs–especially as they grow and approach the ages that our society and American government deem as the appropriate age to start an academic education. The blessing of the year 2013 and beyond is that we live in a time of continuous progress in information technology that has drastically altered our home lives, professional careers and the overall commerce of the world in general–the effect that it has on what we consider education is so revolutionary that many of us haven’t grasped or accepted the fact that we all need a re-education of what “education” truly means.
In short, if you are a parent/caregiver today of persons of minor ages, you have a vast array of options as to how you conduct/delegate your child’s education to help them grow into individuals who will be able to think for themselves and give back to not only their family units and local communities but hopefully the world population as well. Yes, I understand that for many options may be limited because of social and economic status–however, in America, it really isn’t an excuse when it comes to pursuing what is best for your child if you are involved one way (like homeschool choice, virtual schooling) or another (public schooling, magnet program seeking, charter school grants, etc).
RANDOM READING AND HOPES
I truly mean to encourage others that education for our children really shouldn’t be such a stressful topic. They need love and honesty from us: when my 5 year old asks me countless questions and there’s inevitably one I can’t answer then I admit that’s the case and take him along to find out the answer (hint: “google” or “Siri” needn’t always be the one to go to, it’s good to take them to find the answer in other ways too).
Best wishes to all and I hope you can feel empowered by all the information available to you and your families as you navigate what’s the best path for your children’s education–also that you can find peace as that path can and may change more than you’d like to experience. But then again, as our children learn we can learn more as well and that’s the best way to stay truly human and living in the now.
P.S. for those interested in some alternative views on education beyond the confines of Common Core or whatever the latest standard is and will be for public education curriculums:
Parents or caregivers in 2013 are facing very different straits than 50 years ago when it comes to deciding where and how their children will be educated during their formative years as set by our local and federal laws. As a parent, I’ve been hypersensitive to any news regarding the state of education in our country whether it be standardized tests, curbing of budgets, teachers’ fatigue or fights and the list is endless. We’d all be lying to ourselves if we didn’t also admit that our emotions are assaulted when observing horrific criminal acts occurring on school grounds—school campuses where it is understood as an unspoken sacred place that we entrust our students will thrive and learn without suffering the pains of a scary world just yet.
Why has it all shifted? Most adults recall our early days as students in school as either taking a bus or having our parents/carpool drop off us at a building(s) where we congregated daily Monday through Friday from the morning until a few hours after lunch time—simple, repetitive, no awareness of alternatives. Of course, there was the occasional homeschooler (read “weird outsider”) that we would encounter but as young children it was easy to fear or make fun of that which we didn’t know.
These days the common buzzwords for educating our children include public, private, magnet, charter, home-schooling, virtual schooling and more. There is a contentious divide between the public school system and everyone else. Of the many heated debates in my home state, for example, the Florida legislature considered a bill (HB 867) known as the “Parent trigger” that would allow parents to collectively pull the trigger on a failing school—see The Palm Beach Post column printed on March 29, 2013 by Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of www.FundEducationNow.org: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/commentary-florida-public-school-parents-dont-want/nW6zY/
I’m beginning to finally process all of the information I’ve been ingesting over the past decade on the topic and have hit a peaceful conclusion to be continued on a daily basis as my children grow. What do we think our children should learn? I believe that apart from knowing how to engage in language and other common core standards (see: www.corestandards.org ) that my children should love to learn. I believe it’s not so important to make sure they attain greatness in one school or another as much as they should enjoy the journey of growing up surrounded by family, friends and community—I wish to help protect my children from the wrath of apathy rampant in many students today.
Although “Space of Mind” is a very unique idea that may be catching nationwide slowly, it signals along with many other developments such as charter schools popping up everywhere that our country is definitely in the midst of an Education Revolution. There are probably many folks who are unsettled by this reality of the “traditional” education paradigm shifting in different directions, however, may I offer a few suggestions as we ride through this together with the next generation we’re helping to raise?
Try to remember what this is all about: we hope for our future through our children’s progress as we understand that they will carry on after we leave. With that basic philosophy in our hearts, we can as parents/caregivers exercise our prerogative to decide among the countless possibilities as to what’s the best route to take for our children’s education.
We must also keep in mind that whatever path is chosen must be considered a fluid one as a reflection of what life is really like for everyone. What works for our 2nd grader attending the local public elementary school down the street may not work for them when they are in 7th grade and would perhaps benefit from virtual schooling with coaching by family and loved ones. The only guarantee we can assure our young students of is that we love and care for them—we must also accept that we will likely also learn along the way with them, a blessing for adults who have been jaded by life’s difficulties.
Plenty of Resources
Thankfully in the age of internet and iPhones we have many sources of information to access for researching education choices for our students. Accessing your local school board office is a great start to at least assess what is available in your area. For example, we have Ms. Beth Gillespie who works for the school district overseeing the home education office for south Florida’s Palm Beach County—a county where more than 5,000 students were home-schooled this past school year.
Whatever you’ve chosen or will choose for your children, you’ll always be their first and most important teacher(s). May we learn to grow with our little ones as they aspire to be like us—we hope they’ll be greater than us in capacity to love and learn for themselves and each other.
Note: It cannot be said enough, may all our hearts and spirits continue to send love and pray for those affected by today’s shooting at the Connecticut elementary school.
For most parents, today’s news will hit us as 9/11 did in that we will remember where we were, whom we were with and how quickly we wanted to get back to our children if they weren’t already physically with us.
In the quick moments I was able to share with other parents today I heard and read about a couple of things that concern me because it’s too reminiscent of that knee-jerk reaction we humans have when confronted with appalling behavior by another human(s).
Gun ban or gun control will be the word buzzing in the aftermath of today’s tragedy in Connecticut–perhaps even more so than when recent senseless shootings have occurred in our nation like Columbine, Beltway sniper shooters, the Arizona congresswoman and the Kansas City Chief football player. Unfortunately there is no true control over the sickness or outright evil that may transpire in one’s mind to execute such horrific outcomes in taking other lives. Banning guns completely to the public in our nation may help cut down gunshot crimes and yet would also mean that the possibility would rise we’d be seeing crime scenes so awful that would make Edgar Allen Poe blush.
Homeschooling: Although I am personally in favor of homeschooling, it’s not because of random, unthinkable moments like today and Columbine. It’s understandable that many parents and caregivers these days are a nervous wreck when dropping off the children at a school that may have them be exposed to drugs, sex, violence, verbal abuse by bullies or some kid who was disgruntled and sick arriving to massacre. These days there are so many choices for a child’s education that we cannot blindly choose homeschooling or any other option out of fear that our children will be vulnerable–again, we cannot control this random variable manifest by illness or pure evil.
There certainly needs to be a lengthy conversation on whether we need to consider various new regulations on issuing gun licenses and purchases but let’s not “invade Iraq” by trying to take away the right to bear arms.
The issue of safety at the educational institution is in a constant state of revision and it will continue to take the faculty, students and families of those students to find what is the right path at this time.
May we find a way to get through this for those close to the pain and those who hurt for them.