Crisis Schooling

This one is for all of the other parents out there: Inhale deeply as you count up to three. Hold it in for a beat. Then exhale fully as you count down from three. Repeat as needed.

I thought childbirth would be the experience where I needed this kind of yogic breathing the most. But it may be surpassed by week five of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ask me again how I’m doing in week ten. Our school just made official that students will not be returning to campus this academic year. Nevertheless, we will continue with remote learning through May 20. Back in March things started out with optimism and excitement; the kids were looking forward to more flexibility in their schedules, to learning in new ways, to using my computer, and to getting to sleep in! We still enjoy sleeping in a little, but the novelty of remote learning has worn off and we are all feeling pretty worn down by it. Some days it is a really struggle to complete one school project, let alone everything that is assigned. Other days, the kids are interested and even want to do the extended math work. The yogic breathing is helpful when I don’t fully know which day I’m about to embark on.

Early on in this experience, I caught myself thinking and saying multiple times, “I’m not cut out to be a home school teacher.” But, really, I am not home schooling. I am crisis schooling. This rephrasing has really helped our family adjust expectations and align our priorities. This week it was clear to me that the kids really do feel the crisis nature of the event we are all living through and creating. I listened in on part of my third grader’s video class meeting with the school counselor. The counselor asked each child to begin with one word to describe how they are feeling with everything that is going on right now, then she followed up with each child. Some children were “good” and liked online school, another thought it was fun to be able to stay home and play with toys and their puppy. One little optimist was “hopeful” that the virus would go away. But the majority of the students were feeling a lot of the same things we adults are: “shocked” that everything changed so fast, “nervous” that someone they know will get it, “bored” without their normal routine and activities, “overwhelmed” at trying to do all of their schoolwork on their own at home, “frustrated,” “sad,” “scared.” Oof. This was a sad conversation to overhear. But I was also so amazed and thankful that my kids’ academic community is one where they are so comfortable being vulnerable and sharing their emotions with each other. The school’s mission is to educate “the whole child” and its philosophy is that creativity and problem solving begin with empathy. I really saw how that plays out in one concentrated conversation this week.

From the crisis schooling perspective, to the extent that virtual learning provides some normalcy and academic momentum for our children, then I’m all for it. But the moment it becomes more of a burden than a benefit, it’s time to stop. Are we frustrated, fighting, feeling overwhelmed? Then we are done with virtual school for the morning, or for the day. What matters for crisis school is not completing every worksheet or even meeting spring benchmarks. Crisis school is all about stability, security, and care.

So get creative, sure. But this isn’t the time to put pressure on ourselves to make breakthroughs in education.

Are the kids bored? GOOD. Let them be bored. Let their minds wander. Let this start conversations. Let them choose new activities and entertain themselves.

Feel like there is too much TV and too many video games? LET IT GO. (This one is hard for me as I am typically pretty restrictive about screen time on school days.) In our house we’ve been talking about how amazing and wonderful it is that the world is full of artists.

Worried about them having an extended “summer slide” this year. ME TOO. OH WELL. At least they’ll be better at laundry, yard work, basic cooking (and video games).

Are you feeling overwhelmed and unsure as a parent? OF COURSE YOU ARE. I think its okay, probably good, to talk about these feelings with our kids in age appropriate ways. We are all figuring out how to navigate conditions of uncertainty. I think being honest with our kids about our own feelings is consistent with making sure that they feel seen, supported, and loved.

 

Here’s a good article from a couple of UGA professors on “teaching and learning to be in Covid-19.”

If any parents want to share what crisis school looks like for their family, leave a comment below. Hang in there!

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