GIVE ME A HOME WHERE ABCs ROAM
With classrooms shuttered across the state, homeschooling is having a moment.
After all, if every kid is being schooled at home, then every kid is being homeschooled, right?
Whoa! Time to pump the brakes. There’s a difference between homeschooling children and schooling homebound children – which is the challenge facing nearly everyone in the education world as a result of the coronavirus.
Here at Seabury we remain actively engaged with our students through distance learning. Yes, it takes place at home, but beyond that, distance learning and homeschooling are not just different names for the same thing.
While parents play a vital role in supporting their kids during distance learning, our students are still Seabury students. And their teachers are still Seabury teachers. And the curriculum we offer – with adjustments for going virtual – is still the Seabury curriculum.
Distance learning also is not the same as online learning – at least not in the pure sense. Distance learning – especially our approach – is a more complete educational program that is built on relationships between teachers and students as well as among students.
We don’t cover content with one-size-fits-all packets or learning modules. Our teachers design learning experiences for the particular interests, needs and abilities of specific groups of students at specific times. And they pay attention to the whole child.
Teachers determine who needs extra help, provide additional challenges for students who want more and make adjustments for specific learning needs or family circumstances. Head of School Sandi Wollum covers all of this and more in a recent post on her own blog, Wise Words.
Like most everybody, first-grade teacher Sheri Towne is experiencing distance learning for the first time this year, but she’s no stranger to homeschooling. She and her husband, Bob, taught their four children at home from kindergarten until middle school.
“We lived in Auburn and called our school West Hill Auburn Academy for the Gifted and Talented,” Sheri says. “We didn’t care for what the public schools offered, we couldn’t afford private school and we liked the relative freedom of homeschooling.”
That freedom comes with a price, though. “As a homeschool parent, the full burden of educating your children falls on your shoulders – the curriculum, the pace of learning, motivation, socialization, evaluation” Sheri said. “On the other hand, with distance learning, the teacher is in charge of most aspects and is a resource for parents in others.”
Feeling like a lone ranger can be one of the toughest things about homeschooling, but one option is to join a co-op where families share some of the instruction or hire a teacher for a specific subject, Sheri said.
Either way, homeschooling is a huge commitment of time and energy – especially compared to regular classroom instruction. “Lots will be sacrificed,” Sheri says. “You have to have a very strong desire to do what you need to do and push through the tough times.”
Although there were “plenty of not-so-good-days,” homeschooling was a homerun for Sheri and her kids. “They’re all grown up now and are successful, wonderful people,” she says.
If you’re wondering whether Sheri was already a teacher before homeschooling her kids, the answer is yes. If you’re wondering if that was a huge advantage, the answers is not really.
“It is almost harder because you think you know what you’re doing, but homeschooling is so different -- not in rows, not as scheduled, not the same big collaborative projects, no breaks for the teacher. My teaching style now is actually a blend of the two,” she says.
Although she couldn’t have known at the time, homeschooling was great preparation for distance learning because it helps Sheri understand things from a parent’s perspective and approach the challenges accordingly. The experience taught her:
· What it looks like to sit around the kitchen table and do school work together.
· The need to establish a rhythm that balances work/play/down time/social life – which doesn’t look the same as an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. school day.
· The value of family choices and the need to give grace when fatigue sets in.
“Sometimes slowing down a little can do wonders for a family,” Sheri says.