“Well at least you know what you’re doing!” I’ve read more than once on group texts with mommy-friends all collectively lamenting the perils of homeschool. I don’t write a word in reply—knowing in many ways I am a charlatan—equally overwhelmed and frustrated by my children’s online lessons. When we were all abruptly, and without warning, thrust into the role of “homeschool teachers” several months ago, there was an unspoken (and sometimes spoken) assumption among parents. Those in the field of education would have a total leg-up. We’re educators—we work with kids every day and know the ins and outs of pedagogy and curriculum, right?
Well, here’s a little secret– it’s HARD to teach your own kids, even if you’re trained to teach others. It’s hard to get them to listen to you, to provide a schedule they’re willing to follow, and to come up with day after day of engaging, enriching, exciting activities that stimulate their minds without making us want to pull out our hair. From piano lessons, to reading instruction, I’ve heard time and again “I can’t teach my own kid!” We turn to Pinterest for ideas—or we compare ourselves on FaceBook and Instagram and feel inferior to other parents.
With the summer quickly approaching and, with it, an end to the structured online learning provided by the schools, again there’s the assumption that professional teachers will instinctively know just how to keep their own kiddos learning.
As an educator, all I know for sure is that the “Summer Slide”—the term used to identify the knowledge kids inevitably lose every summer when the lessons from the year before are not reinforced—feels more threatening this year than ever. School teachers have done remarkable jobs of quickly transferring their plans to online platforms, but many parents, like me, worry that our kids didn’t digest the same lessons and fundamentals that they would have in the classroom. Will my kid be as prepared as s/he should be when school starts again in the fall?
The truth is, we’re all burnt out. We’re tired of trying to balance our own work, housework, and schoolwork. We’re tired of staying enthusiastic about math, and reading, and social studies. The pull of the iPad is just so strong….and so eassssy….but then the GUILT!
Sometimes, in my own house, I wake up in the morning and say to myself, “I’ve got this. I have a plan, and I’m not going to snap at my kids. We’re going to be creative and productive and it’s going to be fantastic.” It seems that particularly on the days that I walk down the stairs with this overwhelming optimism, I’m more likely to be at my wits end before breakfast is over. No one is listening, no one is motivated, and no one thinks any of my well-thought out ideas are worth considering. Those are usually the days I end up in my closet at some point—often clutching tightly to a glass of wine if the time on the clock isn’t shaming me too mercilessly—and I force myself to take a big breath and remember I can start fresh again in the morning. Those little self pep-talks are sometimes the only breaks I get during my children’s waking hours—and I often walk out of that closet feeling like I failed yet again. If only my mommy friends knew what a fraud I am!
Honestly, it is the unplanned moments as a PARENT that have proven the most enjoyable over the past couple of months. The unscheduled hours spent baking, the unanticipated connections between a storybook character and a conversation from days before, the impromptu dance parties, and the meaningful heart-to hearts, have been the highlights of my time in quarantine with my kids.
While there is absolutely no denying that our children NEED to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, they also are craving the life lessons they can only truly learn from their parents, guardians, and caregivers. Emptying the dishwasher or helping a sibling get into his/her pajamas can lead to spontaneous conversations and help them grow into the caring citizens this world needs.
We ALL feel guilty not constantly focusing on the basics of reading or the fundamentals of math—but those are not the only lessons we need to teach our children. We have a rare opportunity to use this precious gift of time to mold them into the people we want them to become.
Our kids need to stay academically engaged this summer more than ever—and the dreaded SUMMER SLIDE is a real thing that can cause our kids to regress and be less prepared to enter the upcoming scholastic year. Open Minds Academy has organized a group of certified teachers to lead students in grade-specific, interactive Virtual Hangouts designed to keep them both socially and academically fulfilled. OMA also offers individual, customized tutorials tailored to your child’s unique challenges and goals, as well as diagnostic tools, his/her tutor can use to identify any holes s/he might need filled before entering the next grade. Let them ease your anxieties and take over the role of academically enriching your kid(s). You can then focus on what YOU do best.
About the Author: Tyler Shernoff
Tyler Shernoff lives in Wellington, Florida with her two children: Anna (8) and Evan (4). She was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and grew up right outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Tyler is a certified school counselor and co-owns Open Minds Academy, an individualized tutoring center that caters to the equestrian community. Tyler considers her life’s biggest challenge finding a balance between being a good mother and fully committing herself to her business. Tyler loves the pool, the beach, work, and playing with her exhausting kids.