• Kimberlyn Owens-Hughes

3 reasons we're homeschooling this year

It's February 27th, and schools around here start in two days. I should know this, and yet have forgotten. Again.

A couple of minutes scrolling on Facebook, and the reminder is back. Parents complaining about sending their kids back to school. Other parents complaining about the first group, desperate to drop their kids off at school and get back to their normal lives.

And yet beyond all the complaining, I see parents (and teachers) in fear. Fear of disease. Fear of lack of control. Fear of the unknown.

One particular post catches my eye. Mostly from the ALL CAPS and angry emojis. There is talk of "you take your kids to the beach, and yet you're afraid to send them to school," and "who cares if kids have to keep their masks on and self-distance, your kids need to learn to sit down and shut up."

I'm triggered. I start concocting a sharp, yet thoroughly intelligence-based argument to lash out against all the anger in her post. But then I catch myself. I take a deep breath, close my laptop, and step back. I remind myself that this is precisely why I made the decision to homeschool (and make a note to self to stay off FB for the rest of the week).

So why are we homeschooling this year?

1) To avoid uncertainty

If 2020 taught us anything, it's that even the most adventurous and spontaneous of us need a decent dose of certainty in our lives to thrive. A lack of knowing makes decision-making even harder. And decision fatigue, in my experience, leads to anxiety and depression. I've been down that road before and not interested in heading that direction again.

I need certainty in my life this 2021, and if vaccine schedules and virus mutations aren't going to give it to men, then I'll just have to create it myself.

If schools were offering scenarios A, B and C, I opted for a solid D (as in Do it my own way, or Don't Depend on others. I guess that's a double D? And I digress...). So I decided that we would homeschool.

No last minute stress of waiting for someone else to tell me if school was going to be in-person or virtual. No worrying that a single case of Covid at school would send us back to square one. No, we would not be swayed by uncertainty. And we would remain untouched by the anxiety, stress, and fear of the back-to-school frenzy.

2) The importance of connection and touch

I'm not deaf to the criticism of homeschooling and the alleged lack of socialization. And yet, in post-pandemic times of social distancing, it would appear that schools have thoroughly shelved the important social factor.

Kids are being asked to stay a "healthy" distance from other kids and their teachers. Activities that pose a high risk of contact or touch are being traded for seated, at-desk assignments. Collaborative tables swapped out for individual desks. Recess forgone completely.

And while schools and society want to avoid touch at all costs, neuroscientists will tell you that touch is directly linked to brain development.

On the one hand, children need to feel a sense of comfort and closeness to those around them to be more perceptive to learning. And on the other, particularly for younger kids, but also applicable at later ages, hands-on activities are essential to the learning process.

By telling kids to keep their hands to themselves, preference is clearly being given to strictly academic activities. And fundamental elements of the learning process are being almost entirely removed: emotions, play, connection, and hands-on activities like experiments and manual arts.

That's not the kind of learning environment I want for my daughter. And if I can offer a connection-rich, hands-on learning experience at home for her, then I will do everything in my power to make it work.

3) To make learning fun again

You guys, last year's virtual learning experiment Sucked, with a capital S. My daughter (7) went from loving everything school-related (yep, even homework) to despising it. And honestly, I don't blame her.

Science classes went from slime experiments and growing bean plants, to lectures about the parts of the plant. The school experience for her fell from fun and games to PPTs and worksheets. She missed the fun part, and she missed her friends.

And with 2021 looking pretty shabby in the fun department, one of my goals for homeschooling is to make learning enjoyable again for her, with games, field trips, dance parties, backyard sports, and movie nights.

Kids are natural learners, and the more fun they're having, the more open they are to development and growth.

While I'm certainly not the only parent deciding to keep they're kids home this year, some people might be surprised to hear that fear of contagion is not one of our reasons. But I refuse to let fear have a say in my decisions.

I prefer to focus on things within my control: creating certainty out of chaos, focusing on connection over disconnect, and choosing fun over boring.

So is homeschooling going to be our path from here on out? No idea. But worrying about what other years will bring is not high up on my list of priorities right now. For I now, I'd prefer to give myself wholeheartedly to my daughter, to the present, and to this new learning journey we're embarking upon.

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