(To Go) To School or Not (To Go)…??

With all schools, in the United States, starting within the next month or so (if they haven’t already begun), families still having opposing opinions on whether or not they want their children to attend in-person school. We have heard from those who are completely against their children participating in any activities that involve being in the presence of people that do not live with them. We have seen parents/guardians creating or inquiring about learning pods because they want their children to “socialize” but they do not like the idea of a large class setting. We have read comments from parents/guardians that are essential employees and need in-person schooling because, otherwise, they have no idea what they will do with their children (or their job). There are families, for other varying reasons, who are adamant that they want their children to attend school in-person when the school year begins. And, of course, there are the teachers who do not seem to have a “say” in choosing what they feel is best for the protection of their health/safety and that of their family.

Although the school districts surrounding us are starting the 2020-2021 school year completely virtually, there are many districts in other parts of the country that are either conducting a mix of in-person and virtual schooling, doing “business as usual” (i.e., completely in-person), or offering families the option to choose which method they prefer. As a parent or guardian, it is typically your choice to do what you feel is in the best interest of your child, but what happens when your choice doesn’t align with the option(s) available?

Administrators spent the late spring and summer months trying to decide what is best for teachers and/or students. The U.S. president and many parents/politicians/administrators want children back in school immediately. While many others still do not feel as though it is safe. Ultimately, none of us know the short- or long-term effects of opening schools but we do know that this global pandemic is not yet gone.

To go to school or not to go? That’s a simple question that’s probably been asked more times this year than ever! As homeschoolers, our opinion is a strong “Nah” (but that’s not just because of this global pandemic). We know that everyone is concerned about socialization and wants their children to return to “normal”. We feel the effects too. We won’t be meeting up with friends, visiting our beloved museums and libraries, randomly sitting in tea shops, traveling to places that spark an interest, window-shopping, or attending in-person coop classes. But, we also realize that the response to that question isn’t as simple for essential workers or people whose jobs are requiring them to physically return to work. This whole situation is sad/crazy/unknown/scary!!!

For the schools that have decided to open, especially for those that did not offer the option for students to participate virtually, I hope that their decision does not become a textbook example of “What Not To Do During a Global Pandemic” or that they are not the reason that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO) are forced to reverse their guidance on the impact, of COVID-19, on children. Let’s all pray, hope for the best, and/or follow safety guidelines and check back in a couple of months.

What decision(s) has your country/state/school district made? What does your family plan to do? What are your opinions of this whole pandemic situation? Please share your comments & opinions with us.

Homeschooling…Unschooling…Pandemic Schooling. What’s The Difference?

When the whole world shut down last spring and every family with kids was forced to school at home, you may have been bombarded with the terms homeschooling, unschooling, and/or pandemic schooling and wondered, “Is there a difference?”. To many, these terms might have the same (or a similar) meaning and, to a certain degree, they are [kinda] similar. Although these terms seem similar, there are several differences in these methods of learning.

Of these three terms, the one with the most name recognition is probably ‘Homeschooling’. Whether you directly or indirectly know a homeschooling family or just know of the concept, most people have some knowledge of homeschooling. According to Merriam Webster, homeschooling is the act of teaching school subjects to one’s children at home. In other words, homeschooling families have made the decision to forego “traditional” school and educate their children at home. Families decide to homeschool for a myriad of reasons, including: escaping bad experiences with traditional school; to continue the homeschooling tradition in which they were raised; a lack of trust in the education system; because their child has an illness or is a professional athlete or actor; or for many other reasons. The overarching term, homeschooling, can include choosing one of the “popular” homeschool curriculums, utilizing a homeschool program that is offered as an alternative to your local “brick and mortar” public school system (e.g., Connections Academy), educating your child(ren) at home while using your own compilation of curriculums, or educating your child(ren) with no set curriculum (see unschooling below).

Unschooling, or self-directed education, involves teaching children based on their interests rather than using a set curriculum. Although this is the method of homeschooling that we utilize (and the method that most adults use when learning a new skill or hobby), we feel it is a lesser-known or appreciated method of educating children. Since unschooling can take many forms, it is challenging to give an exact definition or to describe exactly what unschooling looks like but we will share some messages from a few people who have been helpful in our journey:

  • According to Akilah Richards of Fare of the Free People, “…unschooling is a tool for decolonizing education and liberating ourselves from oppressive, exclusive systems.”
    • According to Pam Larrichia of Living Joyfully, ” With unschooling, learning is not focused on the skills as it is in school (learning to read, to write, to calculate, and to memorize) but on pursuing personal goals and interests and the needed information and skills are picked up along the way. Learning has real meaning and connection to their lives in that moment so it is understood in a way that a random piece of information presented by someone else is not. And because that learning is strongly connected to a real and immediate use for that information or skill, it’s much more likely to be remembered.”
    • “It is as true now as it was then that no matter what tests show, very little of what is taught in school is learned, very little of what is learned is remembered, and very little of what is remembered is used. The things we learn, remember, and use are the things we seek out or meet in the daily, serious, nonschool parts of our lives.”  ~ John Holt

If you are interested in examples of how we homeschool, please click here.

In stark contrast to homeschooling and unschooling, Pandemic Schooling is what all families, with children enrolled in private or public “traditional” schools, experienced this past spring. Although some schools and/or districts were better equipped to adjust to those abrupt changes, due to the pandemic, nobody was fully prepared for the immediate switch to 100% worldwide, virtual education. As challenging as this shift was for schools to coordinate, no group of people (my opinion) was more impacted than parents with children in school. As a homeschooling/unschooling family, we’ve (as a homeschooling community) had the time to plan how, what, and when we will teach our children and to coordinate our work and/or personal schedules (Disclaimer: this is not meant to imply that homeschooling families were not also impacted. We were and I fully acknowledge that). Non-homeschooling families, unfortunately, were immediately forced to educate their children at home, while also unexpectedly working from home, becoming unemployed, having their work-hours reduced (i.e., less pay), or being deemed an essential employee (and left scrambling to figure out alternatives for their children). This version of schooling at home is not homeschooling, it is pandemic schooling! Families are/were in crisis and scrambling to figure out what to do and how to do it. It is unfortunate that this was the first experience with “homeschooling” for many families but I assure you that homeschooling is so much better than this!! Now that we are quickly approaching a new school year, and many school districts are announcing a virtual start to the year, it is my hope that more families will do the research needed to be able to move from pandemic schooling to real homeschooling or unschooling.

Have more questions about this posts, other posts, or homeschooling in general? Feel free to leave a comment or reach out to us on Instagram or email (unschoolingindc@gmail.com).