So I don't know about anyone else, but I am tired of the phrase "Our New Normal". Now don't get me wrong, I take all health guidelines very seriously and my business is not even open to the general public right now so that we can protect our kids and our staff. But, when I hear the phrase "Our New Normal" I feel a combination of overwhelm and confusion. I have a lot to change, remember, and protect now.
At LearnAbility, we have been fortunate to make the transition to online learning - not servicing all of our clients unfortunately - but many of them. So, I am in a very unique position of maintaining close contact with both parents and children every week since I now come directly into their homes. I enjoy my parent chats, but I see so much heightened worry and concern. Parents joke about their kids being stuck in the house (or being stuck with the kids in the house for that matter), but they worry far more than they joke. I am asked the same heartbreaking question everyday "What do you think is going to happen to their education?" I don't have an answer for them. None of us do. Instead I offer up the same sentence I am also so tired of saying "These are unprecedented times."
The worry I hear from parents is mixed with a greater emotion that concerns me even more - failure. I don't mean our children are feeling failure, although they are feeling a whole host of other important emotions right now. I am calling attention to the moms, dads, grandparents, and other caregivers who believe that "Our New Normal" has created a permanent paradigm shift in the expectation of how a parent educates their child. Parents are feeling judged on their ability to provide a quality, at home, formal education for their children. It is important to point out here, that parents are not being judged by anyone else. They are judging themselves and their own abilities as educators. Our Premier thoughtfully and clearly told parents that they are not to feel overwhelmed by at home learning and to reach out to their children's schools if they needed support with the home packages and online work . But, I'm here to tell you that because the classroom is gone and school learning is now home-based, parents feel a greater responsibility to fill the gaps and are internalizing guilt if they feel that they can't.
Let's analyze these emotions. This guilt that parents are feeling? I'd like to honour it by saying that it is actually a manifestation of a parent's unconditional love. Yep. The unconditional love your have for your child is especially heightened right now. Our parental instincts to protect our children (and we have a lot to protect them from right now) are kicking in hard. How do we keep them healthy, safe, free from inappropriate social media, unbiased, not afraid of social injustice, violence, and racial discrimination, and properly educated? Good luck. It is a crazy job being a parent in the first place and we are being tested more than ever right now. But if you are among those parents who believe that you are not meeting the standards of delivering your child's formal education, then I'm here to tell you that you are dead wrong.
First, I want you to understand, that you have already always been your child's most important educator. From the moment your child was born, you and other family members or caregivers (every family has their own unique community) helped your child grow and meet the developmental milestones of every age. Learning doesn't begin in Kindergarten; formal education does. There is a difference. Children spend most of their time not in school. They learn in every environment and context. What they learn and how they learn it is a product of your lifestyle and family dynamic. Helping them recognize moments in their lives as educational is integral to the process of their growth.
Second, unless you are a professional in the field of education, you are not a formal educator. That doesn't mean that you cannot formally educate your child - many people opt for homeschooling. It simply means that you are not required to. People go to university for years and get an education degree in order to provide your children with a formal education. Remember that and take the pressure off. Our classrooms are filled with trained, qualified professional teachers. They aren't expecting you to take on their role in your homes. I have several wonderful teachers who work for me and I can tell you, they do not expect it.
Finally, although education comes in many forms and you don't have to be a professional educator - you do have to help your children learn. You should make them read, write, do math. Why? Because it is common sense that they will need these skills all the way through their lives. Even if they struggle with some of these areas, even if they have learning deficits or diagnosed disabilities, they can practice reading a book at their level, write a story, do some basic math. You have to keep your kids learning. You have always been required to do that, even in (as my husband calls it) "pre-covid times". That is most definitely your job. If you are incorporating these tasks in your own way into your daily life, it will feel far less overwhelming when the hard stuff comes along.
Here is my definition of a parent's educational "New Normal" - Recognize that every opportunity is an opportunity for your child to be educated. If that wasn't a part of your mantra before, internalize this philosophy rather than internalizing guilt or worry. You are doing the best you can. We all are. This too shall pass. You are without a doubt responsible to help your child learn but the expectations of your role as a parent are not going to change. You are not required to be a formal educator, but you are required to be their teacher. That's parenting. Learning is everyday, forever. Learning is all around us.
I like to say that learning is a lifestyle......