Even if schools close, I won’t be teaching my kids at home
When Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he was going to ask us to do things we'd never been asked before, I didn't think he meant fractions.
But as we face down the very real possibility of school being out forever - to paraphrase the prophet Alice Cooper - I'm facing down the very real possibility of homeschooling my three kids while simultaneously trying to pay a mortgage, panic buy gluten-free chickpea pasta (ie. the only thing left on the shelves), and stave off half-hourly anxiety attacks.
Homeschooling my kids was something my wife and I never considered for one simple reason: we already have jobs of our own. We also trust teachers to do theirs, and so far they've been doing it incredibly.
This isn't really a forum to attack the growing number of Australians who homeschool their kids (around 20,000 people at the last count). I'm sure those people are really great at social distancing as well.
But our school just sent home learning packs for each of our three children, and I'm freaking out. Because if I can't even get my kids to do six minutes of homework a night, how am I going to get them to sit in a chair and learn for six hours a day?
And even more worryingly, if I can't even do basic percentages, how in Pythagoras' name am I going to get them to calculate the amount of rectangles that fit within a 24-centimetre perimeter?
"Now our children will find out how dumb we are," said an Israeli mother of four in a viral video posted to Instagram. "The music teacher of my youngest sent over a musical score this morning. What am I going to do with that information? What, have I got some band in the house? I can't read music. Just one second, let me pull out my clarinet and help my son with his score? Enough guys, teachers, dial it down with the expectations," she continued.
In fairness to our teachers and the Victorian education system, these home learning packs seem hands-off and fairly straightforward. They also come with a cover letter stipulating they should be undertaken independently with minimal assistance from parents. Thank god for that.
But parents being parents, we've already started sharing action-packed COVID-19 daily schedules that include flash cards, sudoku puzzles, journaling, study guides, and disinfecting the kitchen sink. We're flooding WhatsApp groups with advice on online learning modules and setting up Zoom conference call link-ups with their classmates. We're panicking about exams, ATAR scores and this year's NAPLAN being canned.
Even in a time of unprecedented crisis, we're implicitly shaming and pressuring parents who are already at breaking point trying to keep businesses afloat or pivoting to careers they have no skills in or wanted in the first place.
On one level, it's great we're taking our childrens' education so seriously. On another: are a few weeks off school really going to damage their vocational prospects long-term?
I've whipped up my own realistic COVID-19 curriculum for busy parents that are barely holding it together. Feel free to print this out and put it on your fridge.
8am: Wake up
8am-9am: Rigorous hand washing to the tune of 'Happy Birthday'
9am-10am: YouTube unboxing videos
10am-10.58am: Breakfast in pyjamas
10.58am: Thoughts and prayers
On paper it looks like a disproportionate amount of downtime, but I'm trying to teach your kids the ultimate lesson here: how to deal with boredom when you've completely rinsed every show on Disney+ and Netflix.
Darren Levin is a columnist for RendezView.com.au
Originally published as Even if schools close, I won't be teaching my kids at home