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Essentially everyone on earth knows the world is caught in the grips of a global virus-based pandemic. The disease knows no boundaries and favors no politics.  Everyone is eligible to be a carrier of the disease. Most businesses and essentially all U.S. schools and many other schools internationally have been closed down in an attempt to isolate the virus.  As many parents as are able, are now working from home until the world gets back to some kind of “normal.”   And, as an added bonus, their children are now at home for the remainder of the school year.

As a result, parents who might never have dreamed of homeschooling their kids are now doing double duty as fulltime work-at-home employees and as teachers trying to guide their kids through the rigors of their new “school at home” reality.  Even if your family is a one-child, three-person unit, you’re now faced with the question of how you’re going to manage to work fulltime at home PLUS guide your child through the rest of the school year without driving the entire family up the wall.  If you’re a multi-child family, you’re facing even a bigger dilemma.

ABOVE ALL – DON’T PANIC!

Education blogger, Josh Steimle, says that “If you’ve been pushed into homeschooling, either by a pandemic or other circumstances, or simply because you think it’s the right choice for your child, you may be freaking out.”  (https://www.joshsteimle.com/education/how-homeschool-global-pandemic.html). Josh points out that most parents “will find something in between the two extremes” of “school at home” (working like a traditional classroom setting) or “radical unschooling” (more-or-less letting your kids make their own decisions about what they want to do). He recommends that parents find “a balance between child-led, self-directed learning and parent-led, parent-directed learning.”

A mom caught between working full time from home and adding on the responsibility of school teacher to her already-tight schedule, wrote for Cleveland.com News:  “At first I was excited for everyone to get a little taste of homeschooling.  I am now realizing that this is not going to be homeschooling, but school at home while trying to work 40+ hours a week.”  (https://www.cleveland.com/news/2020/03/how-do-i-keep-my-kids-occupied-while-i-work-from-home-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic.html)

HELPFUL SUGGESTIONS FROM OTHER PARENTS 

The Internet is full of suggestions from new as well as seasoned homeschooling parents. Just type in the keywords “hints for homeschooling in a pandemic” and you’ll get hundreds of hits with tons of helpful information.

One Montessori teacher suggested that parents need to put their kids on a school schedule.  “It can’t,” he wrote, “just be like a winter break where the kids are in their jammies all day.”

A blog site called “The Space Between” has what was called a “fantastic suggestion” in its “Working Parents School Closure Survival Guide: “work before your kids get up or go to bed.” (http://thespacebtwn.com/2020/03/15/the-working-parents-school-closure-survival-guide/).  Yes.  Brilliant plan.  Unless your have a job requiring you to interact with absolutely anyone else – you know, conference calls, deadlines, other people on your team?

The really hard part of this new school-at-home scenario is that now parents have to balance the demands of working from home to help “flatten the curve” of the virus, AND they have to take care of their kids all day.  My daughter said it all one morning last week when I stopped by to pick up some groceries.  It was 10AM and quiet as a home-schooled mouse at her usually chaotic four-child household.  “Where are the kids…. Are they studying?” I asked naively.  “You’re kidding, right?” she replied. “ I’ve got everything I can do to keep up with my job from home. The minute those kids wake up, I make them get straight to their studies. They don’t wake up until noon, and right about now, I’d let them sleep until 5:00 PM.”

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF K-12 EDUCATION LOOK LIKE NOW?

The World Economic Forum ( https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/3-ways-coronavirus-is-reshaping-education-and-what-changes-might-be-here-to-stay) reports that “As of March 13, the Office for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimated that over 421 million children are affected due to school closures that have been announced or implemented in 39 countries.  In addition, another 22 countries have announced partial, ‘localized’ closures.”

School closure decisions have moved all of these kids into what they’re told is a “temporary home-schooling” situation.  Every one of these changes has inconvenienced parents, but the odds are high that the same changes will also cause a high level of innovation to occur in the K-12 education world.  Innovation and digitization will likely move to the forefront position in terms of how public schools will function once the virus is no longer a worldwide issue and kids are back on a regular school schedule.

Educational change has moved at an extremely slow pace over the past 50 years.  COVID-19 has caused schools and teachers to come up with some radically innovative alternatives to classroom teaching in a very short time.  Many of those new ideas and innovations are likely to stick around and materially change what K-12 education looks like. Examples around the world include accessing learning materials through live television broadcasts; augmenting online learning material with face-to-face video instruction; and physical education classes where students video their athletic training experience to teachers for review and “grading.”

CLOSING THOUGHTS

In addition to creating innovative change in the traditional classroom, new learning partnerships and co-ops have been popping up in the past few weeks. These groups are working together to provide educational assets (videos, assessment tools, free counseling services) and to use digital platforms to resolve existing educational crises. Many of these efforts intend to keep working after the COVID-19 virus has been contained or vanished.

Overall, alternative education models that have popped up are limited in their long-term applicability – at least without additional funding to help them move forward.  But the fact remains that the pandemic is likely creating a path towards a broad scale retrofit of outdated educational tools, procedures and goals.