• Kelly E.

Pandemic Education Panic

We are not the first people to experience a pandemic and sadly we won’t be the last. That thought doesn’t help soothe the soul of a parent who is worried about their child’s education. We feel that we have the power to make it or break it for our children. At least we think we do. But the reality is that disruptions happen all the time and it’s a normal part of life. Sure, this disruption is much larger than what we are used to, but educational disruptions happen all the time. A broken arm means no handwriting for six weeks, tonsils coming out means a week at home away from class, a death in the family could mean extended mourning that impacts a student’s studying for months or years. These disruptions are frequently overlooked because they are a normal part of life. There is no panic associated with missing school time for these occurrences. Sure, there is concern and an effort to shuffle things around and make sure all the student’s educational needs are met but there is no general feeling of dread that one of these events will ruin your child’s life for years or even decades to come. So why are we losing our minds about education during the pandemic?

The timeline is a big part of this panic. An illness is typically measured in days or weeks and here we are planning our pandemic lives by months and possibly years. How will our children survive such a long disruption in education? Articles abound about how this pandemic will cause educational problems for years. Yes, this is true, but only for some children. Children without support, children with reduced access to educational materials, and children living in stressful homes where school was a welcome haven will carry a heavy burden even years after this pandemic has resolved. I do not want to overlook how horrible these months will be for these children and how the pandemic may leave them too far behind to continue successfully with their peers once school resumes normally. For these children, a week at home due to illness would be rough to recover from and months could be devastating. However, these children are the same children we were neglecting before the pandemic. No one was concerned with how they were navigating a complex educational system. These children needed extra support before, and they absolutely should be the first priority of schools right now. But what about your children? You shouldn’t worry so much about your children.

The priority for all children should be physical and mental safety. Having grown up in a chaotic home environment, I can tell you there is little learning going on at school if what is going on at home is too much to handle. The pandemic is having a huge impact on finances and resources of families. Which inevitably will have an impact on the physical and mental states of individuals. A chaotic world is going to lead to chaotic homes and a child in a chaotic home is not going to focus on learning. Bringing education to these children in one form or another could bring them some level of normalcy that is welcome and comforting. Unfortunately, schools cannot do much about the physical state of children during the pandemic but giving the kids something to focus on might help even a little bit mentally. If you are primarily worried about your child’s education in the middle of the pandemic there is a good chance that you have fewer worries about their physical and mental health. Although we should be aware of the educational impact of the pandemic it really should not be our focus.

If your child is missing out on classes and activities due to the pandemic, this might be a great thing! Many children are over scheduled to the point that they don’t know how to create their own entertainment for even an hour. This lack of free time has left them with no time to try new things or read for entertainment. Sure, they are right on top of it with all their assigned schoolwork and various lessons, but they are lacking time to really digest it all. For many kids, a few months to a year of reduced “academic progress” will be a blessing in disguise if their parents can open up to the idea. Sure, it’s a shock to your system to have your child unoccupied. And it won’t necessarily be that great time of family bonding that you might be hoping for, but it could be a chance for the whole family to explore learning and entertainment in a way that they haven’t before.

If your pandemic educational panic is based on too much digital learning and not enough hands-on time it may be time to work on a flipped schedule. You might be used to your child getting hands-on work at school and a lot more digital free time at home. Flipping that to digital school and screen-free play time will truly be a challenge for parents and kids alike! Art and science projects don’t have to be big or elaborate to be educational and fun. Baking soda and vinegar is still entertaining as an adult! But the mess and chaos are going to be things that you will have to work hard to get past. Teachers have acclimated to the messy activities and you haven’t! So, take it easy on yourself and your kids as you ease into small simple projects.

Don’t rule out the importance of this time for older children. Having some extra time to really wrap their heads around a world in a pandemic is important. The reduced workload will give them the mental space they need to cope with all this new information. What about college? Sure, things might be different, and your child may not leave high school with exactly the same level of knowledge as a child who graduated a few years ago, but this has happened before. Two world wars threw similar wrenches into the works of “regular education” and the product was not a generation of morons! It is hard to wrap our heads around a sudden and significant change in education, but it doesn’t have to mean that all is lost. This free time could be used to explore new hobbies or develop deeper understanding of a topic of interest. What college wouldn’t want to hear that you spent your pandemic days learning to hand sew a historic period dress, to carve spoons, or to study in depth about the pandemic by reading the primary papers related to the study of Covid-19. This time doesn’t have to be a drain on education if your family has the resources and the patience to adjust.

We don’t all have the same resources to deal with the pandemic in the same way, but we may be able to mitigate some of the damage by assuming the best instead of the worst as far as education goes. If you are able to provide your child a secure environment and some supplies, you will be able to provide them with an educational experience that although different from what is normally expected is in no way worse. The pandemic is hard enough without stressing out your children and yourself unnecessarily. We could all benefit from what the pandemic is teaching us about adaptation and resilience.

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