Back to school or no?

Public and Independent School Back-to-School will look quite different for 2020-2021. The current plan is that all students will be back full-time, with students and staff divided into learning groups within which they do not have to physically distance. Students and staff will be grouped in groups up to 60 for elementary and middle schools, and up to 120 for secondary schools.

I like the Learning Group idea, because it means any Covid outbreak should be fairly easily traced and spread is reduced. It also provides students with the community atmosphere their families expect from the public system.

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For the families uncomfortable with BC Ed’s back-to-school plan for schools, they have the option of homeschooling or online schooling. These are very different options than the “emergency” plans put together in the spring. Online schooling requires serious diligence on the part of the student, with reporting required by the child and parent, with oversight by a certified teacher, and works for some families. Homeschooling is an entirely different ballgame.

As a veteran homeschooling mom with 6 children, (all at home from K-12, except our last going to public high school for Grade 11 and 12) my best advice for those considering homeschooling is “Don’t do it unless you have positive reasons.”

Homeschooling is a lifestyle choice with consequences. If you have school-aged children, ask yourself, do you want a lifestyle that will be out-of-synch with most of the rest of society? Why do you think you could do a decent job of educating your children? If you think you have good reasons, then consider what it takes.

Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart. Fear of Covid is not enough to sustain the very different demands of homeschooling; it requires two kinds of bold confidence. First, a bold confidence in your ability to meet the demands of guiding and facilitating little minds; being okay with learning as you go, no matter what your neighbours or parents think. Second, a bold confidence that your children will learn in spite of your shortcomings, and will actually flourish in the home environment.

Homeschooling is not school-at-home. Over my 25 years of homeschooling, I watched many families’ attempts to model a school classroom fail. None that tried that model succeeded.

Methods are usually a combination of a parent’s abilities and your child’s interests. Classical, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Unschooling, Unit studies, and Eclectic are the general styles, but most families end up with a combination of a few styles, and then find themselves switching as needed, and as each child needs. Search engines will provide thousands of hours of insights and help. There is a vibrant homeschooling community in Prince George, so you won’t be alone, but since each family is different, advice always has to be modified to suit your family.

If you choose homeschooling, instead of water-cooler talk, you’ll be discussing what to make for lunch, or what makes the moon look bigger when it’s near the horizon. If this isn’t appealing to you, do your family a favour: face your fears and send your children to a classroom, public or private.

Regardless of which schooling option is chosen, children will flourish if their parents are interested in them, and provide them a secure home where they know they are loved. All the best, regardless of your choice. Be kind, be safe!

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