No, school at home during a crisis isn’t the same as normal homeschooling. Both technically involve some type of learning at home, but there are some key differences between the two. Today we’re digging into those differences and looking at the misconceptions head on.
I can’t think of another time in history when so many people were calling themselves homeschoolers and discussing the ups and downs of homeschool life, but then again, 2020 has been the anomaly no one saw coming. The rise in “homeschooling” is one such case.
Between well-meaning celebrities joking about the wine they consumed two days into school at home, neighbors wondering how to manage the logistics of logging in for lessons, and even politicians using learning at home as a talking point on what should have been handled differently during the global pandemic, homeschooling is a hot-button topic these days.
Unfortunately, all this talk about homeschooling isn’t necessarily about actual homeschooling.
Normal homeschooling and school at home during a crisis aren’t the same.
Before we dig into what normal homeschooling looks like, let’s talk about the concept of normalcy. After all, normal is a rather subjective notion; what’s normal can vary greatly from home to home because of that.
To keep us on the same page, here’s how Mirriam-Webster defines normal when used as an adjective:
Normal – A. conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern: characterized by that which is considered usual, typical, or routineMerriam-Webster
B. according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, procedure, or principle
Based on that definition, we can look at normal homeschooling as any representation that’s considered typical or conforms to a standard. For me, that standard comes from the 11+ years we’ve been homeschooling and the time we’ve spent with homeschoolers in different communities (and even different states).
All of this greatly influences my understanding of what’s normal in regards to educating at home. My knowledge of normal also includes the experiences and perspectives shared with me through homeschoolers I met online through the years.
4 Things to Know about Normal Homeschooling
The thing about homeschooling during a time of crisis is that the time of crisis itself is a big factor in the experience. When things are stressful, chaotic, and unsteady because of the crisis, chances are that’s going to show up in your homeschooling experience.The thing about #homeschooling during a time of crisis is that the crisis itself is a big factor in the experience.
That’s why it’s important to point out these distinctions between crisis-induced learning from home and the homeschool life that most of us know and love.
1. Normal homeschooling involves choices, planning, and diligence.
For most parents, normal homeschooling involves more than logging in and being the adult in the building while school happens. I don’t point that out as a criticism of that approach, but to highlight that distinction.
Also, while it’s true that longtime homeschoolers have times that require extra grace, most of us aren’t operating with a “fly by the seat of your pants” educational model for our children.
There’s a LOT of thought and planning that goes in to what we offer our children through home education.
Our overall goals for educating our kids come into play when we study educational philosophy. Then we dig through mounds of curriculum and resource options on a yearly basis to help us implement that philosophy. After that, we finetune our learning plans to best fit learning into our daily routines.
Sure, some homeschoolers choose online schooling for some or all subjects, but they still choose that option for homeschooling after researching the online options out there.
Point being, most homeschool parents aren’t on the sideline answering to a school system. We’re customizing education to meet our kids where they are and to help them get where they want to be. All of that takes time and diligence.
2. Homeschool doesn’t happen at home only.
Homeschoolers aren’t usually “stuck” at home.
The bulk of the schoolwork may happen inside the home, but normal homeschooling also includes plenty of interaction outside the home. It looks different for each family and sometimes it’s even different for children within the same family, but generally speaking, homeschoolers are an out-and-about bunch.
Through homeschooling, learning happens in a variety of places:
- co-ops or homeschool groups
- community educational opportunities (think of all the places a public or private school may visit for a field trip; those are usually available for homeschool families also.)
- nature walks and nature study
- music, dance, or theater groups
- classes that cover specific subjects
Between those options and options like regular playdates and team sports, homeschoolers aren’t usually starving for social interaction. The main difference is that homeschooling parents can control how much time to spend outside the home and make adjustments as needed.
3. Homeschooling is more than an educational option, it’s a lifestyle.
In all fairness, homeschooling is an educational choice, but it’s different from other school choice options. It’s more than a place to go; it’s how you live your life.
Normal homeschooling allows families to do life together and builds learning, exploring, and growing together into the family culture. Through this, learning shapes who we are as families and how we spend our time together.
That said, education is the heart of homeschooling, but it truly is more than a location for education. It’s a lifestyle for many homeschoolers; that’s especially the case for those who are in it for the long haul and aren’t testing the waters.
4. Normal homeschooling *IS NOT* psychologically damaging.
You’ve likely seen the headlines, read the articles, or watched the videos by “the experts” — you know, the politicians, doctors, and big names from various governmental educational offices — concerned with the psychological damage that comes from being kept away from school.
You may have even come across these statements when listening to anti-homeschooling voices who focus on horrible cases involving truancy, abuse, and neglect. This leads to dangerous misconceptions about normal homeschooling.
To be clear: abuse, crisis, and pandemics are awful things that can absolutely lead to trauma, but they aren’t normal for anyone. This includes homeschool families. Consequently, it’s unfair to view normal homeschooling through the lens of circumstances like these.
Normal homeschooling does not cause psychological damage to the children who are educated this way. Parents assuming responsibility for their children’s education, enjoying a variety of educational activities, and family culture centered around learning and growth aren’t harmful concepts.
What’s more, these things make homeschooling an awesome choice for families who want something different than the school bus standard. Not only is it not harmful, normal homeschooling provides advantages that other options can’t:
- truly customized education that can be molded to fit a child’s academic, emotional, and physical needs.
- opportunities to work a child’s unique gifts and interests into their learning plans.
- freedom to dig deeper or move on when concepts are mastered and extra time to master them. Homeschool students can pace themselves rather than following predetermined standard.
- flexibility with schedules. This allows families to spend more time together if a parent works nontraditional hours or travels for work.
Times of crisis can understandably present psychological challenges, but normal homeschooling doesn’t cause those challenges. Instead, normal homeschooling allows kids and families to thrive together and to do so on their own terms.
In closing, let’s remember to extend grace and show compassion for those who are schooling at home in a stressful, chaotic time.
At the same time let’s also be careful to acknowledge the differences between that kind of school setup and what’s involved in normal homeschooling. Both are happening around us, but our knowledge of one shouldn’t define the other.