COVID-19 Diaries: Schooling Unschooling

girls on desk looking at notebook
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It is a day into week three of the five of us at home. This week also marks the start of formal online school for all three children. While I struggled the past two weeks, the knowledge that all of it was optional let me operate a little guilt-free.

This week they started easy. About an hour’s worth of Math split between different apps, videos, and a tiny project. A half-hour of reading and half an hour of writing each. This was for the fifth graders. The kindergartener actually had it a bit more structured. Her week was planned out. She studied spheres yesterday, cubes today. She did some sight words, saw a couple of videos and she was done.

On paper, it seems straightforward but it is anything but. All yesterday, we battled technology. The platform that the school uses crashed multiple times. Between work calls, meal prep and the pressure of getting things done, I was bone-tired before bedtime. Today, I let it slide. I left the kids to their own devices. They tell me they are done. I am loathe to check.

It set me thinking.

Nothing about the situation we are in is normal. Pandemics are lifetime events. This level of the global response, shutting down of schools and markets is unheard of. Our minds and bodies are stressed whether we realize it or not. The adrenaline surge has kept us going over the past two weeks. Soon, we will crash. When we do, it will not be pretty.

The children are holding it in, pretending this is an extended vacation. They play with blocks. They watch TV. They talk to cousins. They scooter or bike outside for short periods of time when it is not raining. This forced quarantine is making for some great memories but it also is testing the limits of what is possible in terms of productivity as humans.

When schools transition to online learning, the teachers have a steep learning curve to navigate. Students have a steep curve to cross as well. As parents, we pull double duty trying to offer the best versions of us at work, home and as substitute teachers. With neurotypical kids, this transition is hard. When you factor in disabilities, that curve becomes near impossible to traverse.

Each morning I wake with a fervent wish. I send it out into the universe hoping somewhere there is a decision making God listening. Just cancel the academic year already. Let the children enjoy an extended summer vacation. Let them be bored. Let them learn from being bored. Let them stay away from devices and videos and graded assignments.

Task them instead with making pandemic journals, recording life as it is now in the middle of a pandemic. Let them pose with those goddamned toilet paper rolls and Clorox wipes. Let them learn to cook, set their bed, do their laundry. Let them learn to live. Let them make memories that will one day be oral history to their children and grandchildren.

Let the unschooling begin.

12 thoughts on “COVID-19 Diaries: Schooling Unschooling

    1. I just feel my children will learn a lot more just being and learning to stay still than staring at a screen until they zone out.

      1. Yes,my main thing is to stay connected to my class and offer the parents a chance to learn with them in the way they naturally do, by being curious about the world, experiencing first hand, seeking answers and mako their own conclusions

      2. I’d love for a daily check in. Could be uploaded videos or short notes scanned and uploaded. Activity assigned should be closely aligned to play/do independently.

      3. yes, keep it simple and a natural part of life. kids and families are stretched to the limits now, and need the freedom to learn in place.

  1. I love, love, 💕 💖 ❤️ what you just said Laksh! I feel the same way. I was so fed up with the catch up of it all, that I took 1/2 day off from work today, and I bundled my little one out to a grassy meadow and we sat and read a book watching butterflies flit. I am sure that of the things he remembers about this later in life, this will be one of them.

  2. I don’t get it either. What’s one semester off in the span of a lifetime? Why can’t we give our children a break even in dire times?
    We are truly hamsters in our wheels.

  3. My kid is still in preschool (age 3 in the UK) so I’m not doing any structured learning. And I feel completely fine. There’s a reason they are at nursery/preschool… I work full time. I’m not a teacher. It’s okay. They’ll learn plenty just by being a bit bored. And it’s a gift for them to spend time with their parents… at least that’s how I feel as a working mum. If I wasn’t so concerned about friends and family, I would be totally enjoying it. Time for a change of pace and appreciation.

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