The last ten days have been tough – trying to figure out this home schooling thing. And I must admit that I have blamed a lot of my angst on poor communication on the part of the teachers. As a parent with two children, I am having very different experiences with the two class levels. One year level is much easier to cope with than the other. Perhaps because of this, my frustration and impatience with the more difficult scenario has been greater.
But then yesterday my brother said; “Have you talked to Mum about it?”
He was, of course, referring to the fact that when we lived in Indonesia, Mum taught us using the Correspondence Schooling system as provided by the Australian Education Department. At that time the Indonesian Government would not allow expatriate children to attend local schools. I was only seven when we left that particular set-up and I don’t have clear memories of how Mum coped. My clearest memory is of sitting beside Mum while she drank coffee and ate toast with marmalade and it smelled absolutely phenomenal. Perhaps I can assign my coffee addiction to that single memory. 🙂
Even just my brother’s question set me thinking about the differences between now and then.
Firstly, we used no computers and technology played almost no part in our schooling. Mum confirmed this today. The Correspondence schooling curriculum was set up for kids in remote areas (usually outback Australia) and no assumptions were made about what technology would be available in people’s homes. We didn’t even use tapes! At that time in Indonesia, we had no telephone in our house. (In fact, the nearest telephone was an hour’s drive away in the island’s capital city and you had to book ahead to use it.) Everything was done on paper which was posted back and forth. There were long gaps between doing the work and getting feedback. But it was okay. Everybody understood that that was how it worked.
Secondly, a Correspondence School is, by nature, set up for long distance education. Those teachers did not expect to have much face-to-face time with their students. They knew from day one that parents would be the prime educator even although it was the school who was providing the exercises and the curriculum. So, my Mum told me, even although she (coincidentally) had high school teaching experience, any parent could step into the role of teacher because the school had the instructions clearly laid out about how to proceed with the work. Of course, there would be parents on remote properties in central Australia. But in our little community there were nurses and librarians and full-time-Mums and they all coped with the correspondence schooling scenario.
And thirdly (and this part may not be entirely correct)… my memory is that most of the kids who were doing correspondence schooling had never attended school in a classroom before. Correspondence was their first experience and was therefore “normal”. Once they left that little Indonesian island to their home country, going into a classroom was the big adjustment, the change, the difficulty. Older kids who didn’t cope so well with ‘Mum as teacher’ would be sent off to boarding schools.
But now it is so different. None of this was planned. None of the teachers expected to have to teach online. None of them are used to having the parents so intimately involved in the schooling process. And, apart from all those more intrinsic changes, there are these huge adjustments to technology that need to be allowed for. The ways of communicating have changed. This is hard for the teachers and for the children (even if we leave the parents out). The kids are used to the teachers being available for verbal instruction and instant feedback. Now they must read instructions or listen to a defined amount of instruction from a provided video. The opportunity to ask questions is limited and the lines of communication are often delayed. Furthermore, many parents are trying to work from home as well as be ring-in teacher. And most of the kids must be reeling from the loss of social contact and the loss of that sort of “team” environment that the classroom provides.
And so, each time I feel my frustration levels rising, I must think about the shock of all this to the teachers as well and try to be more understanding. My way of coping is to timetable our days the night before. I don’t try and get the kids to do EVERYTHING that is set. Just a nice mix that will give them a good day, a good education and leave me a lot less frazzled. Fingers crossed for continued success with this method!