As the novel coronavirus pandemic has an unprecedented number of American schools shut down indefinitely, the Washington Post worries that “homeschooling” may “set back a generation of children.”
Perspective: Homeschooling during the coronavirus will set back a generation of children https://t.co/hNnx62PVLe
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) March 28, 2020
The op-ed was written by Kevin Huffman, a former education commissioner of Tennessee and a partner at a national education nonprofit.
“As the coronavirus pandemic closes schools, in some cases until September, American children this month met their new English, math, science and homeroom teachers: their iPads and their parents,” Huffman writes.
“Classes are going online, if they exist at all,” he continues, arguing that students will become victims of what is essentially a drawn-out “summer slide.” “The United States is embarking on a massive, months-long virtual-pedagogy experiment, and it is not likely to end well.”
Huffman points to a study of virtual charter schools which notes that “challenges in maintaining student engagement are inherent in online instruction,” in part because of the limited student-teacher contact time. “Years of evidence [is] accumulating about how poorly these schools are performing,” the author of another multiparty report declared in 2016. That report concluded, “Full-time virtual schools are not a good fit for many children.”
Regarding the “summer slide,” Huffman cites a “massive analysis of testing data” by NWEA, a nonprofit research and assessment company that works with millions of students. The report found that “in the summer following third grade, students lose nearly 20 percent of their school-year gains in reading and 27 percent of their school-year gains in math. By the summer after seventh grade, students lose on average 36 percent of their school-year gains in reading and a whopping 50 percent of their school-year gains in math.”
While these are fair enough points, Huffman makes one critical flaw in the accuracy of his editorial. It is wildly inaccurate to label the current situation foisted upon the American education system as “homeschooling.”
Homeschooling is not parents and teachers being forced into an impromptu “public school at home” distance learning model.
This isn’t a matter of homeschooling superiority, it’s a matter of intellectual honesty. Society at large, not to mention parents in the trenches of “schooling at home” right now, does not need this image of “homeschooling” in their minds.
If the families affected by widespread school shutdowns were actually homeschooling, parents and children would be freed to choose their curriculum, adapt to individual learning styles and schedules, not to mention participate in co-ops or visit all manner of museums, galleries, and more, and often after a period of “de-schooling” and allowing children to decompress from rigid public school demands on their time and attention.
For many homeschooling families, life is practically business as usual—just with a global pandemic going on in the background. If the families impacted by involuntarily “schooling at home” would like to see what it’s really like, the Washington Post might not be the best place to start.
If you are a homeschooling parent, consider reaching out to your friends and family impacted by school closures. Offer them a listening ear, an understanding heart, and kind words of experience. We’re all in this together!
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