careful consideration and prayer, my wife and I decided against homeschooling
our three daughters when they reached school age, mainly because we
recognize our pedagogical limitations-and we value our mental health.
How ironic, then, that in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have
joined scores of other American parents violently thrust into the
math-eat-dad world of homeschooling! And we stand about as much chance
of survival as the last four-pack of Ultra Soft Charmin on a Sunday
afternoon at Walmart.
Because my wife is considered an "essential worker," I've taken on
the role of the nerdy homeschool vice-principal nobody takes seriously.
Fortunately, my two older daughters are fairly independent in their
schoolwork and only require my assistance when they need to place
an Amazon Prime order for important educational supplies like pink
hair dye or designer AirPod cases.
My youngest daughter, on the other hand, has the academic enthusiasm
of a heavily salted slug. The problem isn't that she lacks intelligence,
creativity, and extreme cuteness. It's just that she'd rather suffer
a third-degree sunburn from the glare off her iPad screen than reduce
fractions. Not only that, but getting her out of bed in the morning
is like getting Ragu? stains out of Tupperware.
Through a process of trial and comedy of errors, I've discovered a
few strategies to make the homeschooling process no more painful than
picking your nose with a hot glue gun.
First, as qualified educators are utilizing video conferencing tools
like Zoom and GoToMeeting to communicate with their homebound students,
it's important for parents to assist their children by stifling curse
words while frantically clicking various links and buttons on the
computer in a futile effort to get their children in the correct video
class on time. Because the camera on the laptop will unexpectedly
activate during the random button-clicking process, it's also critical
that the belt on the supportive parent's bathrobe is tightly secured
at all times. (What's the fine for indecent exposure these days, by
the way? Asking for a friend.)
Next, amid the grueling schedule of classes, it's important to take
breaks and re-energize with refreshments. My youngest daughter's preferred
activity during these pauses is dragging out her Easy-Bake Oven for
old times' sake and making the kitchen look like she's been cooking
Thanksgiving dinner for the Green Bay Packers. I try to stay out of
her way during this activity, only interrupting occasionally to demonstrate
proper utensil-licking techniques. I then have her practice with fractions
and proportions, dividing the finished pastries between the two of
us according to body weight.
Speaking of mathematics, I've found it useful to sit in on some of
my daughter's lessons. This has allowed me to brush up on the geometry
skills I should have learned in sixth-grade when I was busy deciding
whether to break wind or belch in order to attract the attention of
the cute girl two desks up from me. (My daughter would tell you that
things apparently haven't changed much.)
I must admit that there have been some meltdowns and tears in this
homeschooling process-but my daughter can usually calm me down after
a few hours. And despite the academic frustrations and belly aches
from too many miniature whoopee pies, it has been an opportunity for
me to spend some precious time with my children.
More than anything, this experience has increased my appreciation
for the incredibly important and difficult work of our public, private
and homeschooling educators. So the next time you see a teacher, offer
your heartfelt thanks with a four-pack of Ultra Soft Charmin.