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The times, they are a-changing!
Truer words might never have been spoken before in more ways than one. Some days it seems like the changes are even happening on a minute by minute bases. As far as the current pandemic and schooling… my own thoughts are following the same path. I seem to change what we are doing, and what we plan to do for our kid's education all the time.
I think, at least for me, it is a mixture of what I am hearing from doctors and scientists and pure emotional hope that is dictating my personal response.
I hold on to the dream that I will wake up one morning to the news that there is a silver bullet treatment that makes it all end overnight.
Of course, I know that is wishful thinking.
So where does this leave us with education for our children?
How can we keep them learning and plan for their future education? I've been grappling with this for months now and I finally feel like we, as a family, have a plan and I'd love to share it with you all.
Hopefully, this will inspire your plan for an uncertain future too.
Summer “school”, 2018.
So how did we get here? For us, we haven't focused on traditional schooling for our kids in years. We never followed a school year schedule either. For us, we planned our lessons around the kids' interests and our travels. When Emmy was really into wolves, icebergs, and the different states in the US, we booked a cruise to Alaska. The exact one was determined by the ports, especially being able to see Hubbard Glacier.
Yes, it was as cold as it looks, even with a fake fur jacket and multiple layers on under it.
We took every opportunity on this trip to learn. We panned for gold, saw a bear, listened to everything we could find about the local communities, and experienced what it means to live under harsh conditions. We experienced nearly no darkness and talked about how that happens and why.
But if you asked the girls, they would say that there was no education or schooling involved… and that is exactly what we were going for. We want education to be a part of their daily lives so that they never stop learning.
Summer “school”, 2019.
Last year was busy. I guess that is the most direct way to say how we spent the year. It was nonstop travel and it was great. Especially looking back now that we have been sidelined for the past six months… and we have no immediate plans to travel in the near and long-ish future.
We spent a month in Canada and were even there for Canada Day! That opened so many opportunities to learn about a different (albeit similar) culture and explore.
We also spent almost two months exploring all over Europe. We saw where the Berlin Wall was, the Holocaust Memorial, and every museum or learning experience we could find about the extensive history that Europe holds. It was everything I hoped it would be and more.
Summer “school”, 2020.
School looks completely different than in years past, or what we thought it would be.
We should be in Canada again for a month and then heading to Europe. We should be learning on the road, exploring, and having fun.
Our life should look completely different than it does, yet here we are.
We haven't left our home beyond getting essentials since the beginning of March. We are three months in with no end in sight.
Sadness, shock, uncertainty are all feelings we have cycled through over these past few months, but the one that we feel the most is hope and pride because we know that by staying home we are doing the best we possibly can for ourselves and our community. Oh, and we wear face coverings when we are unable to maintain physical distancing. Masks are not fun, but we want to tell our future grandchildren that we did everything we could to be a part of the solution.
With this huge change to our lives, we also had to step back and see what school was going to look like for the next year.
For Ashley, it was very bittersweet. She is a graduating senior and we had hoped to have a graduation party for her. Instead, we will be having a Zoom party. We know that we have nothing to be sad about even though this isn't ideal. We are all healthy and have income coming in. Perspective helps so much in these situations and we also remind ourselves that this isn't forever. Life will be back to normal-ish before we know it. Thankfully Ashley also has this same perspective and is keeping her spirits high! She has already signed up for college courses online. The funny thing is that she did this mainly just to have something to do as she builds her own business. She hadn't planned to take any college courses this year.
Maddie was already taking local college courses and had her classes moved to online. It was fine, although her classes were canceled more than they were held because her teacher had connectivity issues. She decided to take a college course with Ashley for fun this summer but isn't sure she will take any fall term classes. She has been working really hard within our business and might just take a break from college as she has done in the past. It is important to point out that we don't push our girls to take college courses.
We as a family believe that college should only be undertaken if there is a clear path that shows its benefits. For us, that means if one of our children wanted to be a physician, we would support them. But if it is for vanity only, we don't encourage attending. Maddie has enjoyed taking specific classes because she enjoys learning and Ashley has specific classes that she wants to take because she wants to learn skills that will help her be a better entrepreneur. We also understand that some kids just want the college experience like Pete and I had, and we would be pleased to support them for that too.
We just don't want our girls to go to college because they feel parental pressure. We want them to be happy and if they want to go to a trade school or start their own business, we would be thrilled to support them on those paths as we already have.
This is what the kids' education is going to look like for the coming months.
With all this in mind, Ashley and Maddie are taking college courses that allow distance learning this summer, for fun, but they have not decided what they will do in the fall. They both are working on new businesses and with our existing ones and are making decisions as needed.
Emmy is going into 5th grade and she took a break from her formal in-person schooling in March when the pandemic closed in-person learning and went virtual. Up until that point, she went to a learning center for Yoga and a science history class. She loves being around people and loved these classes. She has since finished out the school year via Zoom and I signed her up for classes next year for 2 days a week for 4 classes. Beforehand, I made sure that even if they open the center again, that she can still join in virtually. We most likely will not be sending her to in-person classes until there is a vaccine or a good treatment.
She also has a private teacher/tutor that comes to our house once a week to work with her on traditional subjects like writing and math. After that March break, she now meets with her virtually. Instead of taking a summer vacation, we are planning to keep working through the summer. She loves her tutor and I think it is really good for her to have not only a dependable schedule when the world seems so up in the air as it is, but also that human interaction outside our home.
For the first couple of months of the pandemic, it felt like we were all in survival mode. Now we are in planning mode. I know this won't last forever, and as soon as treatments and vaccines are available, we will be traveling again.
I would love for the kids to be able to take a break from their lessons, Pete and I to step back a bit from work and really enjoy the experience. So with this in mind, we are full steam ahead with school and work now, so that we can really enjoy life later.
If you are also wondering what the future of education looks like for your own children in the next 12 or so months, you have a lot of options. Maybe even more than you can imagine.
A lot of schools are planning to have options to make all families comfortable, but you can (and should) make your own plans too.
If your regular school doesn't fit your needs, you can also consider a charter school or online school. Depending on your local regulations, you can also home school. Here in California we can file a private school affidavit and be completely in control of their education.
Even if we were not following a formal plan for Emmy right now, she is living history and there are unlimited amounts of learning to be had. These same opportunities are available for all children. The science of the pandemic and the societal aspects are rich with lessons. The civil rights movement happening right now is also providing unlimited learning opportunities. Just keep a journal of everything that they are going through and reading the journals of other kids that have lived through volatile times can help them mentally and educationally.