An Open Letter to Parents Who Are Homeschooling During COVID-19
Dear Parents Who Are Homeschooling During COVID-19 (or at least, those who claim they are),
This letter is for you. I contemplated not even writing it, but on behalf of the many educators I know and love, I felt that it was necessary.
So here goes.
COVID-19 has brought challenges among all of us in many different ways — but heavily on parents. With school buildings closed and distance learning in full swing, parents have had to accommodate a new schedule and living situation. It’s understandable that you all are under a large amount of stress. No one has been through this before — all feelings are welcome and valid. Keeping track of kids all day, monitoring their schoolwork, and helping them understand class material in the middle of your Zoom with friends, house cleaning, chaotic remote work day, or whatever other task you’re preoccupied with can be incredibly overwhelming.
But please, please, please do not make the claim that you are homeschooling your children. Here’s why.
First of all, homeschooling is a legit thing. Families opt for homeschooling for a variety of reasons — children learn better one-on-one, parents enjoy customizing lessons, children have learning disabilities, families like the flexibility, and endless other reasons. This letter is not directed at families who are already homeschooling children, or parents who are also licensed teachers. In fact, I am defending those families. When a parent uses the term “homeschooling” to describe the help that they are offering their children during remote learning, it’s invalidating to people who practice homeschooling by choice.
And secondly — and most importantly — when a parent throws around the word “homeschooling” during distance learning, it’s insulting to teachers.
Because here’s the thing: teaching is one of the most underestimated, underrated, underpaid professions in the US, despite their tireless dedication. Not only are teachers delivering content, but they are also shaping social-emotional learning, building strong bonds, creating lesson plans and incorporating curricula that cater to learning styles and preferences, checking in with kids routinely about their physical and emotional well-being, monitoring behavior and reinforcing good values, and serving as role models.
And for years, so many teachers’ admirable efforts have gone unrecognized.
Adults are quick to blame the school systems for areas where children (or society) are lacking, without understanding the whole story — which has to do with the fact that education has gone underfunded for years in the US. Buildings and technology are old, students who need educational resources or support rarely get it to the extent that they deserve, class sizes are huge, security is scarce in a time of abundant gun violence, facilities are often unclean or run-down, and there is huge crowding. Teachers do their best, but when the system operates like this, it is hard for them or their students to thrive.
And get this: teachers are often Master’s-level professionals (surprise!). Even after finishing college and graduate school, teachers have to jump through several other hoops— they have to attend meetings and conferences, apply and test for licensure (which is different in each state), earn certifications, go through trainings and exams, et cetera. They have to be routinely assessed and observed by administration to be sure that they are practicing under the correct standards and material.
But that’s why none of this is fair. With the amount of work that teachers go through just to be able to have their career, we should not be letting our society dismiss, blame, under-appreciate, and underfund the education system as much as we do. Because it’s bad. Even worse, the US is classified as a developed country, so we really have no excuse.
But teachers persist. They love their careers, their students, the families. They teach with heart and deliver not just information, but life lessons and compassion. They are optimistic, bright, intelligent, caring individuals who seek to provide and incite change for the younger generations. They are creative, challenge-seeking, and fun. (Yes, of course you will get those teachers who are rather careless and don’t fit this description, but you’ll find exceptions in every profession.) Teachers choose children. Teachers choose the future. Against all odds, despite each of their hardships, every single day — they choose to show up.
So before you comment under a news article on Facebook that “homeschooling has been hard,” or that you “can’t be a teacher much longer,” or you’re “tired of teachers doing nothing” (and yes, these are all direct quotes I have seen from families on social media), please think twice. Think about how qualified these people must be to be educators, and how offensive those comments can be. Think of the fact that even though remote learning is hard, there is a teacher on the other side of the screen, making all of this possible. Think of how our country leaves education in the dust, time and time and time again.
Against all odds, despite each of their hardships, every single day — teachers choose to show up.
Because teaching requires a special soul. It requires someone caring, intelligent, accommodating, and willing to grow. There is a path to take to be an educator. And sometimes, it can be lonely and thankless.
Put simply: classifying yourself as “homeschooling” or a “teacher” invalidates the journey that teachers have taken to get here.
Because they’ve worked hard. It takes a lot of strength, resilience, persistence and patience to be a teacher, especially during these chaotic times. Their job has been no small feat. People who choose to diminish that are doing a great disservice.
We’re in a global pandemic, and you may be forced to help your kid, and that may be difficult, and you may be overwhelmed. I hear you, and I empathize with you. I know that it takes a lot of strength and patience just to get through the day. I respect all of you out there who are fighting this battle. I really do.
However, it cannot be used as an excuse to insult teachers or underestimate their influence in the lives of our children.
And if nothing else, it should be a wake-up call: if it’s hard for parents to be behind-the-scenes of their children’s education right now, shouldn’t we have more appreciation for teachers? Shouldn’t we come out of this pandemic with an eagerness to fund schools, to help foster a positive environment for children, and to recognize the people that facilitate that?
I have hope of that happening. After all…
It’s about damn time.