Education when school closes

So. School – and just about everything else – is shut down. Everything but vaguely defined “essential services” are told to have their employees stay home and chill, unless they can work from home remotely. Teachers are getting an unexpected pause, or break, as are the kids, while the ossified bureaucracies across the globe try to figure out how to teach when nobody is allowed to come to the school… or at least how to go through the motions well enough that they can keep drawing a paycheck. Most of the teachers really do want a solution, a way to effectively teach their far-flung classes. But they are often hamstrung by broken and inappropriate paradigms, insufficient tech, poor curricula, and stifling regulations.

Meanwhile, parents are juggling working from home and trying to help instruction while not going crazy, or not working at all and struggling with the stress of cash-flow, enforced isolation, and not being comfortable with the concept of “home schooling.”

I’m a teacher. I’ve talked to a number of parents in poorer districts who said, in so many words, that they can’t help their child with homework because they did badly in school themselves, and don’t know it well enough to do it themselves, help out, or even read the text-book and figure it out with their child. Sometimes it’s the bad side of pride – they can’t show their kids any weakness. Sometimes it’s just an honest grasp of their own IQ limits. Sometimes its laziness. Sometimes is a lack of self-confidence. Sometimes it’s a lack of time. Sometimes it’s a mix of reasons, these or others. But suddenly they are handed the situation of teach or let them youtube-out and learn nothing. Most parents are, however poorly, trying to step up.

(side note: I’m noting that some kids in my classes are doing quite well with remote learning via web-cam, as well or better than in class. Some could do better if they had a better home situation (perhaps as little as a regular desk in a quiet desk space without siblings or parents bothering them and making lots of background noise). I’ve got none who are doing noticeably worse then they did when in a regular class, nor have I heard anything particularly bad from other teachers yet. The biggest problem is bandwidth for decent quality video-chat upload or flaky wifi that disconnects in the middle of things. I suspect some kids will continue to want to do remote when this is all done.)

The first step is, I think, to get your kids doing, and learning, something. Anything, really. Find something that will intrigue the mind and turn them lose. One of my kids made a book. You know, book-binding. Simple materials: folded paper, glue, and thread, bund with Cheerieos box cardboard and left-over canvas from a earlier project. Now she’s painting a scene from the Hobbit on the cover. And doing more cooking for the family, because “hey, experiment with FOOD!” So far, so good – last Friday it was a turkey from the freezer that had originally been planned for Thanksgiving, but got derailed because of illness and a series of events and schedule conflicts. The other kid is reading A Man Most Driven, the story of Captain John Smith, of Jamestown fame, and 48 Liberal Lies About American History. He reads a chapter a day in each, and after he tells me about them we discuss them. He’s also practicing math with (a pretty good practice site), and practicing his penmanship and literature by copying (one stanza a day in pen) the poem Horatius at the bridge. And he’s being asked to do more cooking, lift weights regularly, and we are trying to keep him on a regular schedule of learning things parallel to his stalled school in terms of developing a variety of pieces of background knowledge. There are a stack of books – adventure, history, novels, etc., that await him. The daughter unit doesn’t need to be encourage to read 🙂

As for myself, I am continuing to teach, remotely via web-cam. But at home, because of zero commute time and the ability to work on home things between students when there is a gap, I’ve done spring cleaning, done some reloading (working through all the calibers of empty brass I have one at at a time; just finished up 38 Special, moving on to .40 S&w, with 10mm after that). I’m also building myself a new computer as my old one is approaching a decade, and throwing off a somewhat errors set of that indicate a collection of problems associated with increased age and likely failure – if not impending, at least not too very far off. Having the kids help with building the computer, reloading, yard maintenance, and the rest is an education in itself.

Learning and schooling are not synonymous. Make the most of what you have. More later.

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