It’s time to go back to the basics.
I work as a Center Director for a Head Start site in Upstate NY. Prior to this I worked as a Family Advocate, A preschool teacher, and a Behavior Technician for children with Autism. I have been working with children for many years, and have two of my own (a 3 year old son and 8 year old daughter). I had always thought about homeschooling my children, but never imagined it would happen like this.
I didn’t understand the severity of the Coronavirus and then we got the news about schools closing. I had done my best to keep my cool up until this point. But this is when I lost it. I wasn’t afraid of a virus; my heart ached for all the children who were losing their safe haven. The Sunday before the first Monday of not having school, I cried in the prayer room at my church and my friend prayed for me. She prayed that God would give me an idea of something I could do to help. I knew I didn’t have the resources to do all that I wished I could, but in an instant God brought the idea to mind. A virtual classroom.
I didn’t know if the schools had a plan, but I didn’t want to let one day go by so I started my virtual classroom immediately and was blown away by the response. Children from all over the country, and even other countries, showed up. My hope was to provide a space where children could feel like they belonged, after having their world’s rocked in this way. Everyday, they show up and they make my day. And here is what I have learned about homeschooling them and my own children during quarantine:
It does not matter what they learn. It doesn’t matter if they understand the new material. It doesn’t matter if they finished their online assignments. It does not matter if they get the answers right. What matters is that they feel loved and safe. This is hard for all of us parents, even if you’ve been homeschooling for years. These circumstances are different, very different. As much as we try to explain it, they may not fully understand it.
I have to work on myself everyday to understand where they are and how they feel and to give them sooooo much GRACE. I fail on a daily basis, but I keep trying. This is a tough time, and we (parents) often joke about this excess amount of time spent with our children. But the truth is, sometimes it isn’t funny at all. Sometimes it’s hard, disappointing, infuriating, and disheartening. We feel like terrible parents, and even worse homeschool teachers. But we have an opportunity here, to make memories. To make mistakes and learn from each other. To show our children what it means when people say, “WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER.”
I hope that for the short amount of time these children spend in my virtual classroom everyday, they feel a tiny sense of normalcy. I hope that they feel seen and heard, loved and safe. For them and my own children, I hope that when this experience is over, they are not traumatized. I hope that they feel a sense that everyone in their lives did all that they could to give them stability through the chaos.
We must go back to the basics. We must revisit those fundamental social-emotional skills. How are they feeling? How are they coping? What do they need? Do they feel safe? ARE THEY OKAY? Academics are important and I’m not suggesting that they should just do whatever they want, but helping our children navigate these uncertain times (mentally, emotionally, spiritually) in a way that grounds them in faith, love, and hope…that is what truly matters. And remember, mom, dad, grandparent, aunt, uncle, guardian…we are in this together.
Stay safe, stay blessed, and please (if you can) stay home.