Embrace Learning Over Schooling: A Quarantine Opportunity
by Elaine Taylor-Klaus, PCC, CPCC
Has it occurred to anyone else that “homeschool” sounds a bit like an oxymoron?
If you’re a “homeschooling” parent, then you already know that “learning at home” is a much better description of what you do every day.
But if you’re a parent accustomed to sending your kids off in the mornings, entrusting their education to professionals, then the notion of homeschooling may raise the hairs on the back of your neck. You didn’t sign up for this!
Now, there are positives and negatives to the current climate we are learning to navigate.
- On the plus side, mornings are easier for most, and some kids who struggle (with social anxiety or distractibility, for example) are able to learn in a less threatening environment. Some parents even report that their kids are learning something for the first time ever.
- On the down side, there’s a reason you didn’t homeschool. You may not have the experience or temperament to teach your kids, you don’t know how to accommodate for IEPs and 504s, you’ve actually got another job to do, and “Zoom school” is certainly not using all learning modalities most kids need, especially complex kids.
We are on the horns of a dilemma. The schools are trying hard to help us educate our kids, but it’s not working for a lot of them. And teacher pressure for us to fulfill school expectations only adds to our frustration. Parents report stress because they cannot possibly meet the expectations set by the schools.
So, while I want to honor that schools are trying to educate kids in the best way they know how, I also want to suggest that parents whose kids are struggling in this environment would do well to shift expectations for the next few months. Instead of worrying about “doing school,” use this time to help your kids discover their love for learning!
The diamond in the dirt
Complex kids often have insatiable curiosity. Their minds race a million miles a minute, and it can be difficult to harness that and apply it in school. With space, they love to think… and learn.
So, what if we see this whole quarantine experiment as an opportunity to help each kid lean in to their love for learning?
Here’s how it might look. Just for the next month, ask your kids:
- What do you want to learn?
- What would you like to make?
- Who would you like to help?
- What would you like to read?
- Who do you want to write a letter to?
- What do you want to teach the dogs?
- What do you want to do yourself that I’ve been doing for you?
- How would you like to rearrange your room?
- What would you like to eat (and help make)?
Then, once they choose something to focus on, ask questions about what’s involved, and walk them through thinking how they might proceed. Focus on the process of what they want to do, instead of the outcome. It’s more important that they learn how to make a baked Alaska, than it is to make the perfect meringue crust. It will be delicious either way.
Let’s give ourselves permission to forget about school for a while (at least, not stress about it), and pay attention to what our kids can learn when we give them a voice in their education.
At some point in the future, public life will resume with a “new normal,” and I know you’re worried that your child will be behind. Try to remember that every child will likely be behind. So instead of going backwards, help your kids move forwards with a new sense of what it means to be someone who loves learning.
Elaine Taylor-Klaus is the co-founder and CEO of ImpactADHD.com and co-creator of SanitySchool.com, where she teaches parents, educators, and other professionals dynamic strategies for parenting and educating complex children. A former parenting advisor to the American Academy of Pediatrics and former member of CHADD’s board of directors, she’s an internationally recognized parenting coach and speaker. The mother of three complex young adults, she’s the author of Parenting ADHD Now! Easy Intervention Strategies to Empower Kids with ADHD and the forthcoming book, The Essential Guide to Raising Complex Kids with ADHD, Anxiety, and More: What Parents and Teachers Really Need to Know to Empower Complicated Kids with Confidence and Calm (Quarto, 2020).
Thank you for this beautiful article. It is exactly what I needed to hear today. I love your thinking. It’s very different than the current voices I am feeling like I have to listen to. While school professionals are well meaning and are working overtime… the methods just aren’t working for my ADHD children. And not for me either as their current at home educator. My kids are treading water because I am and I am a Special Educator by profession. I feel more pressure that my children should excel at this. I am taking your approach of helping my children learn how and what they want and need to learn. I will ask them the questions you gave in your article. I think that is a great place to start. Otherwise the pressure is just too much! Again, thank you!