John Clark is an author and speechwriter. His first book Who’s Got You? reached #1 in the Amazon Kindle “Fatherhood” category and his new book How to Be a Superman Dad in a Kryptonite World, Even When You Can’t Afford A Decent Cape was just released by Guiding Light Books. He has written hundreds of articles and blogs about Catholic family life and apologetics in such places as Magis Center, Seton Magazine, Catholic Digest, and Homiletic and Pastoral Review. A graduate of Christendom College, John and his wife Lisa have nine children and live in Virginia.
“We’re all homeschoolers now.”
That’s a recurring meme that’s been making its way around the internet for the past few months. As schools have closed in response to Covid-19, parents across the country—many of whom would have never considered homeschooling otherwise — have begun teaching their children at home. During this time, I’ve seen lots of posts congratulating homeschooling parents, because after a just a few weeks of homeschooling their own children they have begun to realize how difficult it can be.
As much as we pre-coronavirus homeschoolers appreciate the kind sentiments and sincere compliments, however, the truth is that they are misplaced. Homeschooling is not usually this difficult.
Undoubtedly, some homeschool advocates are pleased that the rest of the country has been introduced to home education (notwithstanding the grim reality of why home education has suddenly become so prevalent). I’m not sure why they are so gleeful, because if these past few weeks are all parents know about homeschooling, many have gotten a lousy first impression.
There’s a persistent notion that homeschool families are, more or less, under a self-imposed quarantine at home order every day. But if there any families like that, I don’t know any. And I know hundreds of homeschooling families.
Certainly, much homeschooling does take place at home. Our children gather at the kitchen table to do their math, writing, and grammar. They sit on the couch to learn history, spelling, logic, theology, and say the Divine Mercy prayers. They hop on the computer to take online American Government and Economics courses.
But it might surprise some of you to know that quite a bit of homeschooling takes place outside the home. For their musical curriculum over the years, my children have taken violin and guitar classes at studios and university campuses—playing in recitals and orchestras along the way. All our daughters have taken ballet classes nearby and have joined in ballet performances.
For their physical education, they have all played on sports teams: baseball, softball, basketball — occasionally going to tournaments in and out of state. In the past few years, they have taken swimming classes in a nearby city. Four of the girls have taken gymnastics and two of them have actually taught gymnastics.
We go on field trips including places like zoos, aquariums, museums, art galleries, churches, and military bases. For several years, my younger daughters joined a “Little Flowers” program at the local parish, where they learned about the saints and made arts and crafts, and my older daughters helped teach the younger girls. For many years, I often brought my children to work where they learned about finance and investments, but more importantly how to treat customers justly and charitably and respectfully.
As I write this, I’m kicking myself because I know I’m forgetting the hundreds of other educational things the children have done outside the home over the years.
The point is that they’re not exactly stuck at the kitchen table all day.
Over the past couple of months, Lisa has done a heroic job of teaching the children, and the children have done a heroic job of learning. They have clearly advanced in their academics. But while that’s all true, they are terribly missing the rest of their education — the basketball, the violin, the swimming, the going places to learn new things — that has formed the core of their curriculum over the years.
To you parents who have just started homeschooling in this environment: Don’t be too hard on yourself. With everything going on right now, it would be pretty weird if you found homeschooling easy. With the lockdown in place and everything closed, you are homeschooling under conditions that are very challenging even for us veteran homeschoolers! But please don’t form your impression of homeschooling based on these past couple of months. Try homeschooling again this Fall when homeschooling goes back to normal, and learn how much fun it can really be.