By: Kathaleena Edward Monds
COVID-19 has brought many families to the kitchen table with parents and siblings helping each other complete assignments that were sent home by their local schools. Though this is an unprecedented situation, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With the opportunity to embrace education as a family responsibility, parents can rise to the occasion.
Shonda Rhimes, creator of hit ABC shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, added levity to the situation with a tweet on Monday writing, “Been homeschooling a 6-year old and 8-year old for one hour and 11 minutes. Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year. Or a week.”
Perhaps teacher pay will be up for discussion once this passes, but for now, the buck stops at home as parents are solely “involved” as teachers. Parents’ ability to educate their own children will also be up for discussion as schools begin more robust teacher-parent partnerships based on how parents are able to ‘step up to the plate’.
School choice supporters have long recognized the importance of ‘bottom-up’ vs. ‘top-down’ educational strategies that work to benefit families and the massive school closings will allow families to participate. These changes in the education landscape force us to reassess the role that families and communities play in educating their own children.
Many in the field have expressed concern regarding the equity of shifting from face-to-face to online for those students who don’t have access to internet and devices at home. We readily see the digital divide in these conditions, especially in rural areas. We must not lose heart, however, but return to the existing tools that families may use to supplement their children’s educational experiences.
I have fond memories growing up in Detroit, Michigan and attending school. We would often have snow days that prevented us from leaving the house. However, my mom was wise enough to allow us the opportunity to play a game of jacks with a ball and metal objects as a math supplement; or a game of words to help with our spelling; or she often would allow us to help her bake to sharpen our science skills as we understood the rationale between mixing wet and dry, or hot and cold ingredients separately. With the infusion of board games, book discussions, and creative activities, families can find innovative ways to ensure educational continuity, while also helping fill the learning gaps with real-world, real-time educational experiences.
There are many resources available online, and I invite you to view LearnEverywhere.org, which has curated activities and advice for at-home learning during coronavirus.
A positive, unintended consequence of social distancing may be the strengthening of both community and family via education. In isolation, parents who are working from home are compelled to find innovative ways to collaborate with their children by providing teachable moments that may otherwise have been missed.
Kathaleena Edward Monds, Ph.D. is the founding director of the Center for Educational Opportunity at Albany State University, a public historically black college and university in Albany, Georgia.