“My mom is seriously thinking of homeschooling this fall,” a friend recently told me. This was a surprise, for although the family had previously homeschooled, they had chosen traditional schooling for their children in recent years.
Curious, I asked my friend if her mother found traditional homeschooling different from the distance education that most families experienced in the spring of 2020. “Totally!” she replied. Her mother had concluded that juggling expectations from multiple teachers is much harder than navigating the homeschooling scene as the teacher. Faced with this knowledge, and wary of the potential disruptions of classroom-based learning, the mother decided to do the teaching herself once again.
Judging from recent headlines, this mother is one of many choosing to educate at home. This may be a bit surprising, especially since many parents were so stressed out by the home learning system forced upon them by COVID. Many may indeed continue to struggle as they attempt to juggle work, life, and now teaching.
Could it be that parents are willing to endure this stress because they are seeing that the benefits of this new model may outweigh that stress? Quite possibly. Dr. Peter Gray breaks down some of these benefits in a recent article from Psychology Today.
Gray bases his article on a survey from the organization “Let Grow,” which questioned parents and children on their experiences during the lockdown. I came away with the following takeaways from his synopsis of the survey, which sheds an encouraging light on how our children are really handling the upheavals in society:
1. Relaxed Children
Almost 50 percent of children surveyed reported being “more calm” now than they were while in school, while only 25 percent felt the opposite.
2. Creative Children
As Gray notes, “Prior to the pandemic, with so much busyness imposed by school, homework, and adult-run after-school activities, children had little opportunity to be bored.” Yet when these things got cancelled and boredom set in, kids naturally found ways to fill their time. The survey shows that many children started new hobbies, enjoyed the outdoors, pursued physical activities, and even tackled the big c-word: chores.
3. Efficient Children
Although many children found distance schooling to be a challenge, they also discovered that they were able to get their work done much more quickly. The median time spent on schoolwork, Gray reports, “was just 3 hours,” a fact some children attributed to home having “fewer distractions and less time wasted” than the classroom.
With these takeaways in mind, I can’t help but think that this is exactly what we want to see our children become: well-adjusted, happy, independent, and helpful individuals who take responsibility. Those who learn these lessons as children will be ready to hit adulthood running.
Which leads me to a second thought. We’ve been bemoaning for some years now the fact that the young people who have marched through the halls of our K-12 system can’t adult and can’t function without praise or participation trophies. At the same time they can recite the proper gendered pronouns and social justice theories better than they can recite multiplication tables and historical facts. Now comes an event in which young people are suddenly forced out of the K-12 environment in which they have been cultivated for many years, and suddenly it seems they are waking up and becoming normal, well-functioning children again. What gives?
There’s a lot of discussion these days over whether schools should reopen, and now it’s looking like many will stay closed for a while, falling back on remote or hybrid learning plans. Given the results of the above survey, perhaps that’s a good thing. Maybe parents will realize that they like the individual their child is becoming when cut loose from the educational institution. Maybe parents will even realize that their children can get a better, more efficient, and more effective education at home.
Whatever the case, parents need to look at the options in front of them and then decide which will give their children the best education. In doing so, perhaps John Taylor Gatto’s thoughts on what makes a good education will be helpful. In Dumbing Us Down he explains:
Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important: how to live and how to die.
As we make these last-minute decisions about school for the year, we should keep Gatto’s statement in mind and ask ourselves: Which schooling option is most likely to do this for my children?
Annie Holmquist is the editor of Intellectual Takeout. When not writing or editing, she enjoys reading, gardening, and time with family and friends.