Many parents are expressing concern about their child falling behind academically, regressing. Some parents and some kids really take to this home-schooling like a duck to water and that is amazing, admirable and wonderful. But many do not. Some children have little interest in the online learning, in schoolwork at home, or in being taught by Mom or Dad. Many parents do not feel qualified to be their child’s teacher. Many parents are also suddenly dealing with huge emotion-consuming and time-consuming crises, (e.g., their own or loved ones’ health or mental health or financial challenges). This makes home schooling pretty impossible, at least for now.
While many kids will very likely be further behind in school curriculum than they would have been without this pandemic, behind who will they really be? Kids across the country (around the world) across all grades are all missing out on months of school. This creates a new norm in this generation of students. This does not mean these children will achieve less in the long run, or will be less capable as adults. This only means that at time X, let’s say September 2020, they may not have mastered curriculum items D through G. By September 2021 most will have mastered what they would have by September 2020. In the scheme of things, I do not see this as a meaningful problem.
Imagine if the government were to fund every kid to have an extra year of school. Then by graduation they would have had more schooling than the last generation. This lost time of school would be automatically regained. Behind is a relative term. It is not a race.
We really have no idea the potential negative or positive impacts of this time. Very likely, as we see with dire events in general, different children will be impacted differently. This generation of school kids is having a unique, massively intense, and globally shared experience. I think we have no idea yet what the impacts will be. Here are some possibilities that come to mind and I know there are a gazillion potentially positive impacts I have not thought of:
Maybe this generation, or a cohort of it, will have a deeper understanding of how interconnected we all are. This is the first time all children share a life altering crisis with children around the world. Maybe we are harvesting a cohort of more compassionate kids who will be overall more inclusive, compassionate, adults.
Maybe a cohort of this generation will have a deeper understanding that all of the massive advantages we had in our day to day lives that for now we no longer have, are something special to appreciate, not to be taken for granted. They are also learning quickly that we can get by just fine without many of these luxuries, and that what matters is your relationships. Maybe a more grateful, more spiritual, less materialistic cohort will emerge than otherwise would have.
Maybe a cohort, with more time on their hands across fewer places, will develop deeper appreciation for, deeper understanding of, or deeper curiosity about something in their now smaller worlds (e.g., some aspect of nature, of cooking, of food chains, of world geography, of dogs or cats or fish).
Maybe a cohort will grow up with greater awareness of and appreciation of the people who provide the services keeping us all going, such a grocery-store workers, farmers, delivery people, truck drivers, trash collectors, in addition to doctors, nurses, scientists and so on. Maybe there will be common new answers to the ‘what do you want to do when you grow up’ questions.
There is no doubt this generation of children will have computer literacy beyond our wildest dreams!
Of all of the potential impacts, I don’t think being 6 months or a year behind the supposed grade equivalent curriculum established based on assuming no pandemic/school closures, matters much at all.
I guess my point is that there are many different ways to learn and many different domains of learning, and that yes, less school curriculum learning will be happening around the world for these however many months, but other kinds of learning will be going on in ways we can’t yet know or even imagine. Kids are learning all of their waking hours. We just don’t know yet quite what they will be learning. There is not yet the Pandemic Curriculum, the goals and benchmarks, the scopes and sequences developed for children across each grade in the time of coronavirus.
I think essentially what we all want is for the kids to be ‘OK’. I think this is what we want from their school experience and this is what we really want for them in their lives, now and in the future. We are very used to measuring ‘OK-ness’ in terms of meeting academic milestones, keeping up with the curriculum, meeting IEP goals and so on. But I think there are far more important measures of OK-ness.
Here are some Goals that might be on that Pandemic Curriculum
Avery will set up 2 video chats, with 3 relatives, with fading adults supports.
Martina will participate in 3 activities, with adult support, that contribute to the community impacted by Covid-19.
Chen will sustain play with his little sister for 10 minutes 2 times/day with fading adult support.
Josh will learn to manage anxiety as evidenced by being able to sustain an activity, with fading adult support, in 2 out of 3 instances.
Keisha will cook three items weekly, with her older brother, with less than 4 arguments per item needing adult intervention.
I think the fight for more successful school experience was excellent preparation for the fight now to help children be OK. I think it is the same fight really, to make the children’s world a place where they can be successful, happy, contributing people.
Children who are finding new ways to be happy, who are learning, through this intensive pandemic experience, to better manage anxiety, to gradually adjust to huge changes, who are experiencing being valued members of their family, who are learning all kinds of things that were not on their IEP, are probably, mostly, doing OK. And you, as parents, who are helping the children and yourselves to get through most days and nights, mostly intact, most of the time, are doing amazing.