Overcoming the challenges of the Covid-19 Pandemic

By Dinah Whitton

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, my family and I have stopped counting every time someone says “you must be used to this”.

It’s alarming how many people actually think that homeschooling includes isolation from our community and the world.

The struggle is also real for traditional parent educators because homeschooling never includes isolation. However, the lessons we are learning will continue to shape and equip us for the journey ahead.

It’s been 4 years since we transitioned from public school to homeschool and we have never spent so much time indoors…ever. As a homeschool mother of 4 active children ranging in age (16, 12, 7 & 4), there’s nothing more challenging than being stuck inside for extended periods of time. My heart breaks for my children who are frustrated with not being able to see their friends at co-op or on play dates. We can’t spontaneously head to the library to stock up on books or blow off some steam at the park. Daily gym programs, co-op, field trips, project day, ballet recital, basketball practices and games, year end gala and graduation, swimming and piano classes…all cancelled. To our children their world has stopped and they are experiencing genuine isolation for the first time. Those of us who have been homeschooling long before the school closures are struggling too. While we are used to ensuring our children get the best education at home, we are not used to being confined to our home. The true beauty of homeschooling is maximizing learning opportunities beyond the four walls. While we must comply with the physical distancing mandated by the governing authorities, we are also learning to make the best of a challenging situation.

Here’s what I’ve observed and learned so far:

My kids are ZOOM’d out!

Support groups, community gyms and even dance schools are doing a great job connecting with kids online right now. I was so ecstatic to learn that my kids could still interact with their friends and even continue some classes despite all the cancellations. My children were very apprehensive about virtual meetings and I didn’t understand why. They’ve been on video chats with family members before and my teenager even takes online classes using Zoom. After the second online gym class and my 7 year old son was in tears, it was time for a serious talk. His tearful words struck a chord “I don’t want to see my friends on a device or on TV, I want to play with them in real life.” Later my two older children echoed the same sentiment. Interacting with people online is nothing like being with them in person. And, that’s why this time of isolation hurts so much. They have chosen not to attend another online substitute for physical human interaction. While this may be ideal for other kids, I’ve learned that mine would prefer to politely bow out until they can return to real life connections…and, that’s ok.

Homeschooling has enhanced our socialization skills 

Since we are so used to being out and about, being limited to short walks and our backyard has been humbling. As homeschoolers, I truly realize that we thrive on connecting with others. We have the flexibility to go where we want, whenever we want. That type of freedom automatically results in being a social butterfly. We’re used to interacting with people of various cultures and age groups within changing environments. It’s their heightened awareness of socialization that makes this time of isolation so challenging. However, I am grateful that they recognize the importance of making meaningful connections outside of our home.

Doing nothing and being bored is actually ok

Those dreaded words “I’m bored!” seriously annoyed me. I fervently tried to find activities and alternatives to our outings, but that still didn’t stop boredom from settling in. So, I simply gave up on trying to keep my kids entertained every hour of the day. Prior to this I made it a point to carve out some personal time for myself to avoid burnout. Even with the current restrictions in place, I still have to find a way for a little downtime. Ultimately, this means the kids have to entertain themselves in the house while I retreat to another room by myself. I believe my kids actually need structure; but, I also understand the importance of free time. Not only does that give me the time I need, it also allows them to openly use their creativity and imagination. So far in our home, boredom has caused the older kids to create their own movie trailer called “The Pandemic”. They spent hours together using barbie dolls and other props around the house and our front yard. It only took a national state of emergency for our girls to do something productive together without fighting! And, that makes me smile.

A simple reminder…

No matter how long you have been homeschooling, remember why you started in the first place. The flexibility to help your children thrive based on their needs applies to every circumstance they face…including a pandemic.

Even though it is uncertain when things will get back to normal, you already have the tools to help your children adapt to changing environments. As a traditional home educator, we can continue providing our children with the best educational options long after the schools reopen. We will have opportunities to enjoy our libraries, parks and extracurricular activities again without interruption. But until then, take a moment to observe your children and be in tune with what they need right now.

Together we will come out of this stronger and ready for the next chapter of this incredible homeschool journey.

Gap Year for Growth