It’s the time of year when normally, everyone would be panic buying back to school clothes and school supplies. This year, they’re adding masks to their shopping lists and panicking about the decision they must make, whether to send the youngsters off to school as usual, or whether to return them to the distance learning situation they were thrust into from mid-March until the end of June.
I have to say that I don’t know what I would do under these circumstances.
My mother homeschooled me from grades one to the last three months of Grade 7, and I presume, from her firm refusal to let me go to church summer camp, that germs were partly the reason. Horses, the way other rural kids in our area got to the one room school, was another thing – she feared horses at least as much as germs, and I would have had to ride almost two miles on my own, uphill both ways of course, before I would have had others to ride alongside.
The third reason, and why I couldn’t go by bus to a different, two-room school like our neighbours across the field, was that our road had no gravel, and the county councillor, who didn’t get along with my dad, wasn’t about to give in and gravel it, just for a kid that couldn’t ride a horse.
My mother was a teacher before her marriage, and she had homeschooled my big brother before me, so she knew the process. She consulted the teacher of the one-room school each year and got the list of books required by the curriculum, and sometimes even could borrow the books we required, leaving only workbooks and scribblers to be purchased, a big advantage in the years when hailstorms harvested our crop.
I could already read by the time I was old enough for school, and I breezed through the readers and spelling books with no problem. I learned my times tables (do kids even learn those anymore?) and to add, subtract, multiply and divide, and studied social studies, which at that time, in the elementary grades, was called. One lesson I’ll never forget was making a poster in Grade 4 called “What Alberta Makes, Makes Alberta”, from labels of Alberta made products, a valuable lesson that maybe everyone should learn on their way through the elementary grades.
Reading, writing and ‘rithmatic, as the old song went, I learned them all, and not knowing better, didn’t realize I was missing out on learning to play baseball and hopscotch and to play well with other kids. I could skate in the winter, skip in the summer and I did go over to the neighbor’s to play once in a while. That youngster found me on Facebook recently, and it’s been fun catching up and recalling all our childhood exploits.
But still, when the gravel hit the road and the school bus finally came to our gate, I found a new and different life that I knew little or nothing about, and was not really prepared to be part of. For one thing I didn’t know a bit about science. It took me close to two years before I felt like I fit in, although my report card showed that I was right up there with the rest academically.
Today, if kids are homeschooled during the pandemic or even beyond, they will have the guidance of teachers by electronic means, so they won’t miss a thing that they would learn in class, and can even still interact with friends despite seeing them less often. When health protocols permit, they can go right back to their normal way of learning, without a problem.
Learning at home today is a viable option, far more than it was when I was a kid, with only the School Broadcast on the radio and once-a-year input from Mrs. McLean at Glenville School to fulfill my educational needs. And in the short term, it definitely could be safer than to be in a crowded classroom of kids who may have unknowingly had contact with people who could be carrying the virus.
I know my mother would have said, “Better safe than sorry.”