My grandson is one of the millions of students doing online public school from home. He told me it’s not working out so well. As a high school sophomore, he missed his final months of his freshman year, and now is trying to navigate even tougher courses without the in-face interaction with teachers and students. For my grandson, he needs that structure, that kind of on-the-spot accountability, and the routine that his parents are trying so hard to establish during these homestretch years of adolescence.
I homeschooled my kids — but only until the age my grandson is now. My kids took the educational baton and ran with it by age 15. Until then, they used the curriculum I’d found to meet the required standards, but we added the bonus things like community youth orchestra for my daughter, and a daily job managing a dog kennel for my son. Neither of those activities led to a future career, but both equipped my kids with skills I could never teach and they couldn’t master from reading a book.
Now I’m watching my grandson homeschool in a whole new way. I ache for him as I see his pent-up frustration with trying to find his way in an academic environment that is working well for some and not for others. I know he’s not alone. After we have a vaccine for COVID, we will be trying to mitigate learning gaps in young students, while trying to see if we can get the wind beneath the wings of our older ones so they won’t crash land.
I’m one of those who looks for silver linings in the COVID clouds — having more family time has been wonderful. Yet, it’s tough to enjoy that time if your child is struggling, feeling less capable, and less worthy. It’s hard to get inside a teen’s brain, so as I watch my grandson, I worry that COVID may impact him and many others in ways that will require some flexibility to “get back to normal.”
But that’s me — the one who homeschooled kids and at the start of every school year would pray that I would not be their biggest learning obstacle. I remind myself, that if my kids survived the academic fallout from my teaching imperfections, then today’s students can have this chapter in their schooling story. It will only be a chapter — they have many more to write.
When I faced mountains of adolescent struggles, my dad used to tell me to look for the opportunities underneath the problems — they are there, but I had to be willing to look. So, my worries won’t accomplish what encouragement can do. I’m looking underneath the problems for the opportunities buried there. I need to find new ways to help my grandson, and the other students I know. All these months away from the classroom is taking a toll on a lot of students.
I also want to encourage the teachers for all they are doing. Perhaps finding ways to offer help to teachers will enable them to be patient with the students who need more than they ordinarily would. Parents could use some extra support as so many are juggling work and managing to help their kids with their studies. Offer to tutor in a subject you know, or just volunteer to help a neighbor family in a way that might help.
In 2020, I’ve found myself praying for things I never imagined I’d be praying for. This is an incredible chapter in our life story too. But until we get our kids back in school, I’ll be looking for ways to be a proactive helper — students, teachers, and parents. We don’t want defeat to sweep away the hope that’s needed to get through this.
Karen Farris saw the need to help underserved kids while serving in a youth ministry that gave her the opportunity to visit rural schools on the Olympic Peninsula. She now volunteers her time grant writing to bring resources to kids in need. She also shares stories of faith in action for those needing a dose of hope on her weekly blog, Friday Tidings.www.fridaytidings.com