Due to COVID-19, parents have more school choice than in the past, but what should they choose? It depends, A LOT.
Across the country, schools are opening in a variety of ways. Some are giving parents the option of fully face-to-face (f2f) or fully online. Others are offering hybrid options. Some parents are considering homeschooling.
Certainly work schedules will dictate some choices. COVID-19 concerns present other considerations. Yet the decision should go much deeper than this. Parents are children’s first and foremost teachers because information and beliefs that parents share becomes more deeply ingrained in a child than knowledge and beliefs of outside teachers. For example, a child that can say, “My mom/dad/guardian believes math is interesting and important to learn,” has an advantage over a child that can only say, “My teacher believes math is interesting and important to learn.” (See Knapp, Landers, Liang, & Jefferson, 2017.)
In order for parents to instill their knowledge and values, they need time with the child. The flexible schooling options now available are making more time available for children. If parents can tag-team their work schedules, or even reduce their hours, they can make more time for training and teaching their children as well. It is easier said than done, but a worthy goal to strive for. As I was in the process of shifting from working away to working from home, and from working full-time to working part-time, each additional hour spent at home parenting was worth its weight in gold. The children have soaked up the attention I have poured into them.
Yet parents don’t have to go it alone. Schools are becoming resource centers for families, and there are many variables to consider. In general, older children can handle more independent learning than younger children. Younger children need more behavior training than older children, if handled well from the start. Influences of untrained children in the f2f school environment may impact the attitudes of your children. On the other hand, too much screen time is a problem. Children will enjoy f2f friendships that you provide for them. Teens often benefit from sports and part-time jobs. Time to talk with parents and get some sleep needs to be carved out as well.
Knowledge of the parents is also an obvious consideration. Parents tend to have several areas of expertise, and some areas they know less about. Most parents know how to read, and could guide their children in this area with simple resources such as, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Many can handle elementary math through the basics of adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and mental math that they use in daily life. On the other hand, upper elementary math and above might be a good subject to lean on the school for. High school students that can read and write can learn much online, but some content such as Chemistry labs might be better learned f2f.
In conclusion, there is not a one-size-fits all schooling model. Parents should take this unique opportunity to evaluate their own situation and make informed decisions on what would be best for their children. Important questions to consider include: What knowledge and values do I want my children to learn? How can I arrange my work schedule to best teach and parent my child? What resources are available to help meet my educational goals for my children? What is my child’s attention span? Is my child a responsible independent learner? Once you have carefully considered these questions, weigh your options and make the best choice you can. With time, you can re-evaluate and tweak your model.
Video on using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCtmOMqc0s4
Knapp, A.K., Landers, R., Liang, S., & Jefferson, V. (2017). We all as a family are graduating tonight: A case for Mathematical Knowledge for Parental Involvement. Educational Studies in Mathematics 95(1) 79-95. DOI 10.1007/s10649-016-9741-4.