Alberta, Canada

Back to school?

Helping people navigate the school system

Back to school?

It’s hard to believe it has been months since Covid-19 started and our world got turned upside down! This year has been very challenging for so many people for a lot of different reasons.

In our area we have received hundreds of calls in a very short period of time asking what parent’s options are. A few things spurred these calls: 1) the announcement by our provincial government that school would return in an almost normal form. This created anxiety among parents who are concerned about transmission of the virus to their children or their family members. People expressed concerns that the government was not doing enough to prevent that. 2) the announcement by our government that actually, kids would have to wear masks at school. Parents envisioned their little children sitting at a desk, not able to move around much, in a mask and absolutely not having fun at all in addition to being stuck all day in an institution that is already seen to be quite constrictive and prison-like. Not to mention that some parents fundamentally disagree with mask use and have read things contrary to the somewhat conflicting advice given to us by public health officials who first said that masks were not safe. 3) the announcement by other divisions that their at-home learning plan is going to be mandatory computer time from 8:30am-3:15pm. Parents reacted viscerally to the idea that their young children would be sitting in front of a computer all day and wouldn’t be allowed to leave.

One of the things I noticed as I was talking to parents who were making a huge decision about how to educate their children this year is that their perception of school is changing. I kept hearing about how they noticed that their children are happier since March, even though their lives have changed so much. They attribute it to their child’s school experience and hadn’t realized the pressure their kids were under in the education system. They also noticed that siblings started to get along and this was surprising to some who had assumed that so much together time would lead to more conflict. Parents were also surprised by just how little kids were doing all day at school. I have been asked dozens of times if it’s true that the education in school can be accomplished in as little as an hour and a half a day at the elementary school level (the answer is yes) at home. Some of those parents who have called me have decided to switch indefinitely to parent-led homeschooling and this is a powerful choice. When we take over responsibility for our children’s education and do not allow as much interference from a school/provincial authority, we start to tailor the experience and the learning to the child instead of following an arbitrary program set up by strangers who don’t know our children. I have found my own child’s confidence in academics soared and he became willing to try new things as soon as the fear of failure and humiliation disappeared.

That being said, I realize that school serves an economic function in our society and some parents cannot, because they need to work, home-school their children. It’s time consuming, expensive and we have built a society where most couples both have to work in order to pay the bills. To those who have no choice, I understand. Either way it’s a tough choice to home-school, do teacher-led home education or send your children to school.

Those in the home-school world are a little thrilled with the sudden interest in their chosen path. They are finally, after being looked down upon by some members of society, being valued for the choice they have made all along. Most long time home educators are getting calls and messages asking for help in choosing learning materials and home-school-friendly school boards. They are helping people write their education plans for the year and discussing home education philosophies with a greater and more receptive audience. To those moms and dads out there that have been working hard to provide this support to other parents, I think you are amazing.

I know everyone is going to have a challenging year but I also think we will discover things about ourselves and about learning that we didn’t know existed. I think there will be more good moments than bad. When you start to question your path remember that there is no wrong choice, your children are resilient, and they are going to learn things this year regardless of the choices you make in ‘curriculum’. Children (well…people in general) are curious and love to learn. They especially love to learn if what they are exploring is something they chose and are interested in. So let them have some choice in their learning path and see where it takes you!

Good luck, everyone!