Covid 19 and Homeschool: Parents Have the Power

This guest post was submitted by Luke Zitterkopf from Parent Richly.  You can view the original article here.

Covid 19 and Homeschool
*This is a guest post and all opinions are those of the author. This post may also contain affiliate and/or paid links. Rest assured that I only work with companies and individuals that I trust. While some of those companies and individuals may work in the medical field, this post is not intended to be a substitution for medical advice. Always speak to your doctor if you have concerns about your mental or physical health.
Covid 19 and Homeschool

I like to visit with people everywhere I go. I am found at only the coolest hangouts. The grocery store, Target, and around our neighborhood. I sincerely enjoy visiting with people, oftentimes for selfish reasons because I don’t get the healthy amount of time to socialize that most adults take for granted.

Once I became a stay at home dad I was able to fully appreciate the value in a plain old no computer and no phone type of interaction with another human being. Or maybe the Covid-19 event has already given us an appreciation for visiting in person. Either way I value the time people spend talking with me.

Anymore it is hard to have a no phone conversation with adults. Phones are difficult for many people to ignore even for a few minute conversation. Sure, I would like folks to have better manners and at least put their phone on silent, but hey, what if the hospital is calling and you need to go perform an emergency operation right away! I poke fun at the issue but seriously too many of us are missing out on actually listening to what other people are saying while being prepared for the ever important call or notification.

In my view there is a great risk of losing the art of the in person conversation. Partly due to phones but partly because we are forgetting to live in the moment and value what is going on in the present. If we cannot place a greater emphasis on listening to each other in person, what more important things can there be for us to do? Go back to our work or checking social media? Would we rather read someone’s post on Facebook than visit with them in person? Food for thought. One day I will be the gray haired guy at the family event telling all the kids about back when people used to talk to each other using just their voices. It was an amazing time!

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How Does This Relate to Covid 19 and Homeschool?

Since late March I have had  many conversations with people who see us out around town with our three kids. They cannot help themselves to ask one of the kids “Do you miss being in school?” The reactions from all three of our kids are priceless because they are being asked something akin to “Do you miss traveling in outer space?”

Our kids have a big smile and they laugh a little bit. They do answer the question and say “We don’t go to school. We do homeschool.” I suppose our kids should develop a more complete answer and maybe keep the laughter to a minimum. Maybe they should provide more information such as the historical context of their homeschooling resume from day one. They learn at home and in the real world. But that would be a crazy thing to do, wouldn’t it?

I am sincerely interested in other people’s lives. When people ask the kids and I about homeschool I take the question seriously. I let the kids give their own answer but I make an effort to fill in the blanks when a person is really wanting to know more. I want to not only answer their question but I want to help them realize that homeschool is something any parent can provide if they choose to.

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It is challenging to give a complete yet concise answer about choosing homeschool. There is no short answer to questions about homeschool. So many factors will influence what homeschool looks like for a parent and their child. Is Covid 19 and the schools being closed or converted to online a good reason to start homeschooling? Not necessarily. But they are a starting point to realizing that there is probably a better way.

There is a better way for many parents with homeschool but I advise every parent to know up front that homeschool is a big commitment of their time. It is also a big lifestyle change for a parent to be at home full time, and kids will need time to make the transition mentally and socially to a homeschool life. It can be a big change for the positive but it takes time for all the dust to settle.

One of the benefits of living the homeschool life is that I have a great answer for the often asked question of what homeschool is all about. This way my answer sounds as though it is narrated by Morgan Freeman. So rich, so masterful. Well maybe I don’t sound that good but maybe I am still a voice for sanity and a beacon of hope for those wanting to leave the public school system. Those wanting to live a better family life that is free of kids living within the confines of the public education system. A system of mass education. Sounds kind of sinister. And it is!

Be free and live a richer life where the learning is made for the child and not the child made to fit the learning.

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I Don’t Know Much But I Know About Homeschool

I am honored every time someone wants to visit with me and as a result they hear my story. And thank you as well for reading about my story here. Before I answer the question about homeschool I like to give a short bio. It adds greater context to my answers.

My bio looks like this. Christian. Father of three kids. Homeschool facilitator.*  Stay at Home Dad. Husband. Tennis Coach. Fairly bad tennis player. *note the use of the word facilitator. I have an aversion to the word teacher. More on that in a later post. 

As far as the title of this post, here’s the number one question I field from the Covid 19 school closures. This is where every parent needs to know they hold the power to determine what learning and “school” will involve. If you have been considering homeschool and want a little motivation to move forward with it, this post is just what you need to hear!

 #1 Most Asked Question During Covid 19 School Closures – “How are you guys doing with the school closures?”

Shocking question, right! I feel the best answer to this question starts at the beginning and works forward with additional details. So it begins with a statement. It goes like this. “We are doing great because we don’t go to any schools.” Once the initial shock of my answer wears down a bit I continue the dialogue.

Not that people are shocked negatively but they are more in a state of surprise, and in some cases jealousy! The good kind of jealousy. As they think about the bullsh—t that is often part of most public school environments. They want to get out and who can blame them! But let us not digress, back to answering the school closures and how do we live without the public schools question.

Once I let the cat out of the bag that we are not part of the school system people are often paying close attention to any details I present. Curiosity is peaked and there is a fair enough question in most people’s minds. They wonder, rightfully so, two big questions.

“How do you do homeschool?”

and most people’s common fear of

“Do you have to report to the state what you are doing?”

Before answering either question I start the conversation with an overall context as to what our lives are all about as a family placing no emphasis on the aspect of what school our kids attend. This is an important part for setting the stage for why we are homeschool by default.

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Most important is we are Christian and that has the most influence for why or why not we make certain choices. We are blessed to have children and it is our responsibility to raise them in a way that honors God. As such, we have the liberty and freedom to give the biblical perspective of truth in everything our kids learn. They are shown that not all information is true. And not all intentions are good. This sounds a bit dark but in reality our jobs as parents is to equip our kids in preparation for them being on their own. And that means they must be able to think for themselves.

An essential part to good thinking is sorting out what is true and what is an opinion.

With biblical perspective to our learning at home we have our kids practice seeing all information from the lens of truth and morality as defined by God. This reality is the short answer of why we homeschool. A longer list of reasons why are covered in posts tagged homeschool.

Nearly every person I meet is intrigued that our family is homeschooling. I can understand why it may seem fascinating to the casual observer. It is different. It is a big commitment. It often requires a stay at home dad or mom. For all of these reasons I feel it is critical to start with the why and then progress to the how.

More information about the why part of my answer I often describe our daily lives in terms of living in a balanced way. This is important to our family and to provide a rich life for our kids.

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We start the morning with all three of our kids having breakfast together and deciding what activities to do first. And I am not talking about the “activities” of doing worksheets for hours at a time in a classroom. Activities at our house include reading a book of their choice, painting, playing outside, working on math puzzles or going to tennis practice. Other times our activity is making a grocery trip to Costco. We almost live at Costco with our frequent visits to buy food for our family of five.

A more complete answer to “How are you guys doing with the school closures” involves painting the picture of our kids’ living a balanced life where the learning takes place in a natural way to the student. This is a totally different approach than the forced feeding style of a public “education” system.

Our family lives each day in the real world and we learn with every opportunity that is part of our day. We do not have a separation of life that would include going to a school building to “learn.” We live and thereby we learn. The real life application of any form of knowledge is natural and obvious. There is not a time when any of the kids or myself are wondering why we are learning something new. We learn because our brains are naturally hungering for information and we want to make better sense of the world around us.

The approach to a child learning naturally is in direct opposition to that of a public education system. For our kids and family the learning is part of living. We do not have a separate time for learning and there is no separate time for learning. Life is our learning laboratory.

We have the freedom to choose learning materials that are best suited to each of our children’s needs. If you have not already encountered the term, the public education system uses the term curriculum for learning materials and areas of study. It sounds more academic using the term curriculum. As though a group of the world’s best minds are all sitting in a room debating about the newest and best curriculum. Funny, in the old days it was called studying and learning when the opportunities for learning presented themselves. Which happens to be every day, even to this present day!

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When people discover you are doing homeschool they will often ask about what curriculum you are using. If you are familiar with the movie The Matrix you can think of curriculum as a pleasant state of ignorance blue pill. I recommend you take the red pill. Though it may be initially unpleasant you and your child can see learning as it ACTUALLY IS versus a place to send your child for most of their young lives. For our family, the thought of the state spending more time with our kids than we do AND being the primary source for presenting are reinforcing most of what they learn is chilling.

I personally feel the term curriculum is synonymous with programming material. As in, program everyone the same way. Sinister much! Maybe I am too sensitive but I take this issue very seriously. Every child deserves better and more personalized care than mass programming. But hey, if it’s good enough for the state it should be good enough for your kids, right? Of course not and we all know better. But making the switch from public school to homeschool is nonetheless a little intimidating. At least until you see there is nothing but freedom on the other side. The freedom comes at the cost of your time and considerate choices for your child’s learning opportunities. But you are truly free. Free from the directives of what other people insist is best for your child. How ludicrous a concept, yet the public education system is big and they will not be going away without a big fight. They are too big to fail. So we can do our part and not send our kids there!

Proverbs 22:6:  Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

Math sheets with all the basics, reading comprehension pages with questions about the text, short stories, science principles and experiments, geography and the list goes to infinity. Anything we want to practice and learn. We move on when the child is proficient. Which leads back to the question of reporting back to the state. For some of us, including me, we think of Darth Vader strolling around the bridge of the Death Star.

Each state has different laws and requirements. In our state of WA, we must declare with our local public school district that we will be homeschooling our child. After that letter is sent to the local district, that state of WA will mail a test for our child to complete and we mail it back to the state. That’s it. Check with your state to determine your requirements to be in legal compliance with doing homeschool. After that you are officially free to provide a learning environment for your children. You have the privilege to provide learning that is integrated into everyday life. And you have the essential room needed to fit the learning in ways that best meets the unique needs of your child.

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The commentary I usually provide for “how do you homeschool”  is to make the clear distinction between homeschool and public school. When done well homeschool is kryptonite to public school. A brief list of versus attributes:

Public School Homeschool
Class based on age No class, individual learning at own pace
Learning material, AKA curriculum, chosen by the Department of Education Learning material chosen by student in conjunction with parent
Student is fed information Student feeds themselves information
Student is asked to recite information Student is asked to apply the information
Student receives grades for homework No such thing as homework, all work is at home
Grade is received at the end of class or year Student is asked to correct their work until it is correct
Grades are given on a curve from the student population Assessment of the student’s work is based upon their best effort and completeness of answers
A failing grade means repeating the class/material The student stays with the material until they understand
Exact amounts of time per day are applied to studying mandatory curriculum Proportionate time is used for the student to learn the material and move on

For a more complete study please see the book by Mary Pride, School Proof. It is not only insightful but it is written with bright humor throughout. A must read for those wanting a guide to what homeschooling means.

My work with homeschool has proven to me and our family how it can be used to meet the needs of a student better than any group educational system or school. One of the best ways to convey the message for any of us, including myself that does not have a homeschool background is to think about learning a new language.

We can read books about German, listen to an instructor talk about German dialect and composition best practices, and take tests to see what we can remember about the subject. This would be comparable to taking a class at a school.

To put the same goal of learning German in the homeschool approach, one choice would be to install the Babel app on a phone or computer and practice the language with an interactive program. The next step would be to locate a native or fluent German speaking person in your community and ask if they would be willing to speak with the student for one hour per week. Hopefully this person would be willing to accept free lunch for their work. If not, Babel allows for practice speaking but a real live person would be more fun. An additional step would be to watch YouTube and listen to a guide that is providing tours through Germany while speaking in German. The student can go from learning the very basics all the way to practicing fluency.

All of this without a school, class, formal “teacher”, or grades. Homeschool should probably apply for an official name change in the dictionary to Home Based Learning. Wait, that’s a bit too fancy, too academic. Maybe we should just call it Learning.

Did this post encourage you or help with homeschool ideas? Please let us know! Leave a comment below.

Author Bio

Luke Zitterkopf is a writer and parent coach. He lives in the Pacific Northwest in Spokane Valley, WA. Luke provides insight and coaching on homeschooling, parenting, and individual personal development. When he is not writing or responding to audience questions he spends time coaching youth tennis. Luke responds to as many messages and emails as time allows and he believes that the only dumb question is the one that is never asked.
Pinterest: @Luke_Zitterkopf