Read the original publication (in French), posted on the author's Facebook
Our lives have been turned upside down lately - some more than others. Many of my friends take pleasure in homeschooling their kids but, for others, it’s a daunting task alongside their jobs (work overload, etc.). Everyone is doing their best. Have any of you decided to pursue home education for the rest of the year? Are you thinking of extending this homeschooling experience for a longer period?
Right off the bat, I have to emphasize one aspect, like many groups of homeschoolers have clarified, the current situation isn’t entirely representative of normal homeschooling. The context, admittedly, is different. On one hand, we now have free access to many educational resources. On the other hand, all in-person social activities are cancelled (get-togethers with other homeschooling families, learning activities in community centres, access to the library, museum outings, trips, etc.) At the same time, the similarity, for my son, my partner and I who have integrated family-based learning before the pandemic, is spending time together often. Spending quality time together as a family is part of our values. More than two autumns ago, we decided to change our reality, our relation to time, etc. to take the leap towards a new life.
The notion of flexibility made us lean towards homeschooling. This unconventional decision has since put stars in our eyes, despite the ups and downs. It seemed ideal for our son and our family. My son, a creative, sensitive, philosophical at times and extremely curious being, benefits greatly from this personalized space to thrive and blossom. The term that would best define “homeschooling” for us would be “customized schooling”. In my opinion, it’s like a university program where you have to meet the requirements while having the opportunity to build a schedule that is tailored to your interests and needs. The joy of learning is engraved at the heart of our philosophy. Families from the homeschool network I belong to have different schedules, socialize and choose activities that nourish their heart and mind. We use our creativity to make this experience enriching and enjoyable. My family and I have sort of become the equivalent of “self-employed” but in regards to learning. We respect the guidelines while using our creative power to build a life that resembles us and enchants us.
They say it takes a village to raise a child and it is generally what we experience and it’s wonderful. I love this quote: “When I was young, my mother told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy”. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. And I told them they didn’t understand life.” - John Lennon
What if we took the time to listen to our inner voice, to get to know ourselves better? What makes us feel good? What are our inner values? What are our gifts and unique talents? What makes our children happy? How do they learn best? How can we remain true to ourselves while staying connected collectively to move forward with a common goal?
This confinement period brought some challenges to our family as well and required adjustments. Our routine has been turned upside down… pairing work and family became a puzzle. Usually, at the beginning of the year, we prepare a learning project (that must be approved by the governmental homeschool department). For us, it’s like planning a trip. We have a basic itinerary. Then, we improve and adapt it along the way. For example, before the pandemic, my son went to a forest school with other kids one day a week, we would tour museums, my son would play with his friends regularly, during weekdays and weekends, he did art workshops with his grand-parents, physical activities with his sporty grandma, karate at the community centre, science experiments with another curious enthusiast, etc. There are many ways of learning. Our chosen approach is “eclectic”, a mix of conventional teaching (activity notebooks for math and French, educational games on Allô prof, etc.) paired with natural learning; board games, exploring nature, museums, trips, everyday life experiences, etc. We realized that every activity can become a learning experience. Some of my friends have an “unschooling approach” (natural learning) and others prefer to stick to a more conventional method. Today, thanks to the openness to the world, the evolution of technologies, science and creativity, homeschooling provides access to an array of possibilities, a myriad of tools and extraordinary ways of learning. Why not seize the opportunity? The important thing is to find the methods that best suit each individual.
Opting for homeschooling has been salutary for us. Through this experience, we have taken the time to slow down and make choices that best suit us. It has been an opportunity to find methods adjusted to our reality. Young or old, we all have natural gifts, strengths and challenges to overcome. Learning to know yourself better is an opportunity to find, trace and take your place, for our own good and that of others. When we are happy, we learn better, we work better and our joy can even become contagious. Of course, nothing is perfect, but overall, we are thriving because we are walking “our path” (“To each their path, their journey”). In my opinion, we shouldn’t denature ourselves for fear of displeasing. For some children, regular schooling is the best solution, for others, homeschooling can be an extraordinary option. For some parents it’s possible, for others it isn’t, for various reasons. Despite different constraints, we’ve decided to move forward, guided by our heart, not our fear. The choice of one isn’t the choice of another. It is wonderful when we take the time to listen to each other.
Since the confinement, I see others around me use their creativity to rise above problems and I am impressed. That doesn’t mean ignoring the irritants. It is indeed important to be conscious of the negative to find enlightened solutions and move forward by putting emphasis on the positive. I love being inspired by resilient people. Every situation can be a learning experience and can be a stepping stone to evolve, even if it isn’t always comfortable. When we started homeschooling, to fulfill some of my professional mandates as a content creator while giving my son space to learn, I would sometimes get up at night to work. Obviously, it wasn’t ideal. I knew, though, that it was temporary. I had to find solutions for my well-being and that of my family’s. We made use of our creativity and dared to ask for help. To our delight, allies joined our homeschooling team and this gave me some free time to work and create a rich and varied curriculum for my son. We put together activities that corresponded to his interests and, at the same time, respectful of each family member’s needs and the regulatory requirements of the homeschooling law.
My partner, our son and I have had the pleasure of living out a dream of ours this winter: escaping the cold for a month of travelling in Thailand. Having the flexibility to travel while learning as a family was one of the reasons that motivated us to choose homeschooling. Freedom, self-fulfillment and quality family time are among my core values. Of course, what we are experiencing at the moment does not reflect the freedom we usually enjoy. Still, I remain positive: I tell myself our freedom of thoughts remains. I prefer focusing on what is in my power rather than looping around in my mind situations with which I feel powerless. When we returned from our trip, I had to cancel all my creative and vocal coaching contracts as these are usually done in person. We voluntarily quarantined ourselves as a precaution. After a few weeks off work (homeschooling continued), I decided to fulfill another small dream. With several modifications, I was able to shift my coaching practice to the Web. I am grateful for the wonderful bond I share with my students. I feel privileged. Teaching is one of my passions. Homeschooling is a gift for me and so is coaching as. Everytime a new stage of learning is reached, for me, it’s like an explosion of fireworks. It’s amazing!
Despite the challenges of the current lock down, we are keeping our spirits up and finding new solutions daily. For that, I am thankful. For example, my in-laws now give art workshops to my son via Messenger, my mother has a daily virtual meeting with my son during which they create stories together, practice various stimulating activities, my son now has weekly occupational therapy meetings with Zoom, etc.
The adventure of homeschooling has taught us many things on different levels. With the current worldwide turmoils, we are all moving forward into the unknown… I’m adjusting my optimism glasses as we go. Every day, I try to sharpen my mind and keep an open heart. One day at a time, one step at a time. I roll up my sleeves and ask myself: What can we learn from this situation? How can we use this reality to continue to reinvent ourselves and evolve towards a better future?
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as reflecting the position of AQED.