NAVIGATING THE UNCHARTED TERRITORIES OF HOMESCHOOLING IN THE AGE OF CORONAVIRUS
“It’s recess time!” shouts 6-year-old Annabelle, as she sets down her iPad, removes her headphones and steps out onto her back patio. Her brother Henry follows suit, closing his book and grabbing his scooter to do laps around a small table.
A few blocks away, Charlotte is just beginning her math lesson for the day: a baking project with her father. She sets aside three cups of flour, two eggs and small teaspoons of spices. Her father displays the recipe before them on his laptop.
Jonnie, around the corner, is in the middle of a tele-tutoring session with his writing coach. He holds his recently completed assignment up to the screen as his tutor leans in closer to view it from her own home. “Great work!” she says. “Let’s move on. Can you hold up the following activity so I can see?”
As we all know, this is not a scene from a Ray Bradbury story. This is us handling the new normal, a week into quarantine, balancing busy lives from within the confines of our own homes — all while trying to keep our children engaged and entertained.
With DC Public Schools operating via distance-learning through April 24, and local private schools on similar schedules, the responsibility is falling on families to keep children up to speed with their learning.
One scroll through your Instagram feed will show you the ways different families are handling this, some with daily agendas to keep a routine in place. For most, this is truly uncharted territory, and whether families are navigating it instinctually or heeding advice from pros is up to their own discretion. But one thing seems to be unanimous: Go easy on yourself.
Molly Tartaglia, a teacher at Horace Mann Elementary, advises that a laid-back approach is best for everyone. “The first thing to remember is to give yourself grace. Set a couple of times for learning each day, but don’t feel like you have to schedule the entire day. Leave time for play, bend the rules on screen time and go outside. It’s a tough job to teach your own child and emotions may run high. If frustrations are starting to peak, take a break. Just make sure to do something every day to make the day we return to school, and we will (!), easier for your child.”
Christina Cuomo Diver, a lawyer with no teaching experience and two small children, says she would be lost without the classroom schedule her son’s teachers sent her so she could adapt it for use at home. “It’s been helpful to have some guidelines on how to break up the day into manageable chunks,” she says. “Even if you get sidetracked and get off schedule, it’s there as a roadmap to help you get reoriented.”
The bottom line is we are all doing the best we can in this unprecedented time, and we are in it together. The most important thing we can do is to make sure our children continue to be inspired and to love learning in whatever unique shapes it takes in the coming weeks. At the end of the day — or at the end of the quarantine, perhaps! — this has the potential to be an unforgettable learning experience for all.
A former DC Public Schools teacher, Chloe Kaplan is the founder of Amore Learning, a Georgetown-based boutique education business that offers enrichment classes in more than a dozen D.C. schools.