What if I can’t teach my kids?

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“Stay at home learning” is the new topic for TV ads, displaying how home, work, and kids are perfect partners.  As a former stay at home mom, partial homeschooler, and then teacher and principal, I’m here to say that the fantasy is true for some, but not for others.  Some will discover creativity and excitement expanding their role at home, discovering an “inner teacher” they never knew.  The “expected ideal” is that parents will find competence while they appreciate the challenges teachers face in the classroom and balance easily the myriad of tasks thrust upon us.

Or.  For a million different reasons,  schooling kids at home can feel like a long, drawn-out, open-ended slog.  You may have, a time-and-focus-requiring job, or a job that lights up your life and you feel uncomfortable compromising your time.  You may have multiple children, a plate of daily activities, and towers of laundry and dishes, each pulling you to create an elusive framework of order that allows perfect balance.  Your child’s teacher or school may have been deficient in providing guidance for you, or your own resources at home may be limited.  Your child might require the structure only a school routine can provide,  and although the school has done its best to provide resources, you feel overmatched every seemingly endless day.

So what do you do if you, like many others,  feel that you are not up to teaching your own child every day?

Here is my advice:  you do what you can and you celebrate what you can do.  Celebrate you, and celebrate your child.  Celebrate the fact that you have time to spend together.   Look in the mirror and see a good parent.  See someone who loves their child.  See someone who teaches your child every day, just as you taught your child before we all isolated ourselves, because that is what parents do.

Education does not live in a school, or in a book, or on a worksheet, or even in a Zoom meeting.  Before teachers can teach they must create rapport with children.  Good teachers spend lots of time making connections with kids, because they know that learning happens when the brain is at peace, and kids feel safe when they know that adults are safe people. The brain can only learn in a place of safety;  if not, the brain is searching for a way to make things feel right instead of focusing on the task at hand.

Guess what?  You already have that connection that teachers work so hard to attain.  You know your child, and your child is comfortable with you.  You start the day ahead of any teacher;  your child loves you.  Now the specifics of teaching can be challenging for non-teachers,  for sure, but the specifics of learning are embedded not in the curriculum guide but in our humanness.  Learning will happen no matter what you do because that is what humans do:  we learn.

When you wake up in the morning, embrace your humanness, your love for your child, and ask yourself or your child:  what shall we learn today?  I promise you that whatever you decide,  it will be enough.  Even if the plan for the day gets out of hand, even if your child can’t sit easily for an online lesson, even if the curriculum goals are not addressed, what you end up doing will be enough.

Make the shift:  as a parent you are your child’s teacher.  You taught your child how to walk and talk, and sleep in a bed, and use the bathroom.  It might help to make a list of the things you have taught your child.  Maybe this list will become some of the things you will do together or that your child can do on their own.  It’s about learning;  it’s not about school.

We are all creating this new reality together.  Teachers and schools are doing their best to provide a structure for parents but they are not in charge of your child and they are not in charge of you.  You are the one who knows what is best for your child and you.  It’s your home.

Don’t believe the narrative  that if you do it  “right”  your child will not “miss anything.”

They will “miss things.”  It has to happen in this “not normal” situation.

But kids will also “get things” they would not have gotten if they were in school.  I imagine you could make a list of the things they are getting from you that they would not get in school,  good things, things that will be part of them forever, unlike many things kids learn in school.

Many parents think they are failing at this “teach your kid” thing.  I think that people are trying the best they can.  I think whatever you can do, maybe it’s good enough.  I think it’s time to celebrate our kids and—us.  If they learn nothing but resilience, working together in a new situation,  it will be a huge, long-lasting gain for us all.



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