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My last post was all about how HOME school doesn’t mean we are holed up in our house for weeks at a time. In an interesting twist that I did not predict, this post is going to be about how HOME school can mean exactly that: we are going to be holed up in our house for the next several weeks.
If you guessed that this is going to be a post about the Coronavirus (COVID-19), then you are right.
I know, I know, you’re tired of hearing about it. Everybody is talking about it and it is already getting really old. And yet, here I am, I’m going to talk about it some more.
There’s been a lot of information going around about this virus. Some of it is probably true, some of it surely isn’t. It can be impossible to sort out fact from fiction. Depending on who you ask, COVID-19 could be the next iteration of the Black Plague or it could be a vast media conspiracy to change the course of American politics. I am not going to touch any of that with a 10-foot pole. We’ll call it “social distancing.” (Yes, that was a joke. I can’t help myself.)
Homeschooling can help flatten it out
Here’s my personal opinion on COVID-19. A lot of people are saying that if people would voluntarily sequester themselves for two weeks, then we could slow the spread of the virus and ease some of the strain that will inevitably be put on hospitals and medical professionals. They call it “flattening the curve.”
In theory it sounds reasonable. There are a lot of other people who don’t believe things will get bad even if we do nothing. I don’t know which camp is correct. What I do know is that for my family, canceling or postponing all of our activities for two weeks is not too difficult of a thing to do.
If COVID-19 ends up being a dud (which I sincerely hope it does), then the worst we can say is that we stayed home for two weeks. However, if it turns out that the “flatten the curve” camp is correct, then we could potentially be saving lives. This seems like a no-brainer to me. The RPC and homeschooling in general allow us to be flexible enough that our sequester won’t even disrupt our school schedule! Can you say the same?
I have no hot-take or expert opinion to offer you on Coronavirus. I’m just your average stay-at-home-mom with no relevant credentials on the subject. There is a lot about COVID-19 that I don’t know. What I do know is that schools, businesses and churches are taking the threat seriously. Many workers are being asked to telecommute if possible. Events, sports and gatherings of all kinds have all been postponed or canceled. There has been what appears to be a domino effect of school closings.
Teleschool and school closings
The school closings are of particular interest to me because this blog is about education. It doesn’t matter very much what my opinion, or your opinion is in regards to the wisdom behind the school closings, the reality is that they are happening.
Back in February, Dr. Nancy Messonier of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) said the following during a briefing: “You should ask your children’s schools about their plans for school dismissals or school closures. Ask about plans for teleschool. I contacted my local school superintendent this morning with exactly those questions.”
It turns out that Dr. Messonier was right about the school closings. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like very many schools are prepared when it comes to teleschool (also known as eLearning, virtual learning, and online education) or plans for making up the missed days. The school closings are certainly an interesting development when one considers that public schools are only ever closed as an absolute last resort.
The reasoning for this has absolutely nothing to do with learning and everything to with school being a social service.
The function of public schools
The hesitation to close schools is because there are children who depend on free or discounted school lunches in order to be fed. It is because for some students, school is the safest place that they can be. It is because there are students who have working parents who cannot afford to take off work to stay home with their children if the schools are closed.
Similar reasons are given for why plans for online learning are the exception rather than the rule. There are some children who do not have access to computers or to wifi. Even if the school were to provide these things, the most vulnerable members of society are less likely to thrive in an online learning environment, according to NPR.
What about your children?
It is not my intention to judge the goodness or propriety of public schools as a social service. I am not here to preach that we should stop concerning ourselves with the plight of the vulnerable populations that live among us. As a Christian I am called to look after the disenfranchised members of our society. However, I am also called to be responsible for my own children. I am responsible for their physical well-being and their education.
When a parent hears that the school their children attend will be closing indefinitely due to COVID-19 and there are no good plans in place for distance learning, they may wonder if the decisions being made are in the best interest of their children. What about the schools that are not closing? Are they staying open in the best interest of your children?
The government is not going to make decisions that are in the best interest of your children in particular. They will make decisions that benefit either the greatest number of people, or to benefit children who do not have adult advocates. Whether or not we should, and how to change the American school system or the American government is a topic for a different post, probably a different blog.
Is there anything you can do?
You are the best advocate your child has. You are the only one who will make decisions solely with the best interest of your child in mind. The school closings necessitated by COVID-19 are something that we haven’t seen in recent memory, but that doesn’t mean that this situation is unique or won’t happen again.
If COVID-19 has made you curious about online education then take this opportunity to look into the Ron Paul Curriculum! A few weeks ago we took our homeschool on the road. It is looking like for the next few weeks our homeschool is going to be at home. The good news for us is that RPC is extremely flexible and we’re used to our school moving with the flow of our lives. Sometimes that involves traveling to visit friends, and sometimes it involves staying home because of a pandemic.