There are many challenges surrounding us during this pandemic. Social distancing, lock-downs, and lack of human interaction are just three. But the issue that has become one of most important to students is the new state of our learning experience. As we are now all officially “homeschoolers” for the time being, it presents the question of how different has this been from true cyber school or homeschooling, and how are we all really handling it?
I am related to a cyber schooler, so it is quite simple for me to give the basics of his everyday life. He gets up around 9 and will begin to get on “livelabs” or live classes where he can interact with teachers and other students as they learn lessons. Then he will be given assignments based on those teachings and have lessons to help explain on his own. He can jump on during certain times to get further teaching or instruction one on one with teachers of each subject. It is collaborative, yet individual, but provides the resources for students to a well-rounded idea of the subjects they are learning. My mom has said that even after a year of being in this learning environment, there are still many struggles and he is still learning to have a flow of productivity at home.
To get a better understanding of homeschooling, I reached out to a friend in this area that is one of four kids and has been homeschooling her entire life. Their curriculum, though ranging from 4th to 11th grade, lines up in some ways, in order to have a more collaborative and cohesive learning environment. They work at specific times during the day in order to keep the quiet environment and create multiple different study spaces in order to not fall into slumps of unproductivity. There is a fully stocked library in their home for all different subjects to refer to and workbooks that their parents help them work through to learn new material. It is a loose and flexible environment that allows each of them to pursue passions outside of school, such as art and music, more easily.
These two realities are not ones that many of us are familiar with and do not necessarily have the resources for at this moment. Many regular public school students are not experiencing peace or fluidity that comes with true homeschooling options. In order to get a better look at how students truly felt about the new environment, I put a poll on my Instagram story asking “Do you like this new environment more” yes or no, and then asked to explain why.
As I observed the responses that I got about this topic, the feedback was almost surprising. For me, though regularly an avid self teacher and studier, I have struggled through this transition and suddenly found myself unable to do virtually anything due to lack of motivation and focus. And many other students felt this way as well. When asked the question of “do you enjoy this new environment more than traditional school”, 77% replied no, and when asked to explain why echoed many of the same feelings I have had in the past few weeks. From things like “can’t stay focused”, “can’t see my friends”, and “much less productive”, to “without a teacher in front of me, I can’t learn anything”. The majority of students are unable to function in this environment, one that has not been made perfectly conducive for real learning, an unavoidable issue during this time. With homeschoolers and cyber schoolers, there is a teacher there guiding them through the work. They go to classes, get private tutoring sessions with teachers, and have specific lesson plans and workbooks that help them study on their own. More than that, over time, they have created and become accustomed to the spaces they learn in. However, we have been merely thrown into this situation at random and had absolutely no time to prepare or even have the choice. Many public school students at this moment are used to being in a classroom and work best under those conditions. Those students now, including myself, are struggling to cope with this unknown terrain of learning.
However, on the flip side, I received a lot of positive responses as well. Though only 22% answered yes to enjoying a new, at-home learning environment, they provided a perspective that better helped me realize just how different we are as students. Students talked about how they were now able to better focus on themselves, or that they work better when making their own schedule. This reflects how though all of us are in the same type of environment and used to it, the learning habits of individual students vary greatly. Understanding this concept now, as we have had many normal notions stripped away from us, could be exceptionally helpful in the future as we re-tackle school after the pandemic. Many things about our lives may change, but we can take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about our own learning habits. Some people are made to be able to do homeschooling, while some need collaborative environments to thrive. Either way, as we are faced with the new obstacles, we all take them on differently and hope that soon, we will see the end of this.