Failing at home schooling? Your kids will be fine (honestly)

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Failing at home schooling? Your kids will be fine (honestly)

Some days, scrolling social media sites can give me a serious case of FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) as friends and acquaintances post their amazing and exciting pictures. This feeling is particularly acute when I’m still in my jammies at 2PM on a Saturday because I’m obviously not doing the cool things my friends are doing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the pictures! However, even after a fabulous excursion of my own (Star Market anyone?), that nagging sense of FoMO can be hard to shake.

Cue COVID-19. Stay home pretty much all the time? Sit on the couch and read SEC filings or run code? As a college professor on sabbatical, I’ve been living this life for nearly a year! And while a pandemic is no joke with the sense of fear and anxiety it brings, and I take social distancing extremely seriously, friends, this is my time to SHINE.

Imagine my dismay, then, as my social media feed starts filling up with suggested schedules, pages and pages and pages (and pages) of educational activities, and pictures of kids sitting at their kitchen tables doing math problems.

It’s FoMO all over again. I admire the parents that are doing this, I really really do, but I am not one of them. Not that my kids aren’t doing the required schoolwork sent to them by their teachers (they are!), but – honestly? — they’re not doing a whole lot more.

Having been in the business of teaching college students for just over 20 years now – the last 16 as a Professor of Finance at Northeastern – I’d like to think that my hyper-educated self (BA, MBA, & PhD) has a rational and reasonable view of education both in general and in the unprecedented place we find ourselves today. Here are my thoughts.

First, it is 100% OK if you are not full-on homeschooling your children. I don’t have the first clue how to homeschool mine, and I teach college for a living! So please stop feeling guilty or anxious about not having a schedule or a multitude of enriching activities for your children. While I do recommend keeping up with the school work that the teachers are sending home if you can, I recognize that this bar may be too high for many. It’s OK. I am optimistic that the schools will do the best they can for families. I encourage you to call the teachers, email the principal, get comfortable with their expectations. They’re winging this too!

Second, not all families have a stay at home parent. Even if the parent or parents are home, they often have to work, maybe a lot of hours, maybe during the hours that parents with more flexibility can spend more time with their kids. When I was on the tenure clock (in the years before I got tenure), I worked all the time. If I were still on the tenure clock and this pandemic happened, I would be FREAKING OUT. Not getting tenure means getting fired and likely having to move. Not working so I could try to homeschool my kids would not have been a viable option. My husband and I would have worked it out, but I can promise you, there would be no homeschooling schedule. We’d sleep less and be sure our kids were getting some exercise and getting their main academic work done – and that’d have to be enough. Families in this situation should not feel guilty! We do the best we can.

Third, not everyone is economically secure right now. Some families have lost one, or maybe both, their incomes. Feeling they are required to create schedules, and art projects, and other enrichment activities is just another thing to add to their already heavy burdens. Income inequality is real and it exists in our town, too. This is a particularly unusual crisis in that we can’t band together and help each other with childcare. But we can help by being kind, and empathetic, and sensitive to our neighbors.

Finally, it’s OK if your kids are sometimes bored or not learning trigonometry. Honestly, it is fine. If they spend a huge chunk of time one day playing video games, don’t worry. If they spend another day wrestling with their siblings and driving you crazy, it’s OK. If they eat your entire stash of COVID candy in three days … let them. These times are hard for them too. Being away from friends and extended family, hearing things on the news, and facing uncertainty can take the same toll on your kids as it does on you. And kids learn through play, even big kids, even college kids. Some kids will love a structured homeschool day (I say this with no sarcasm) and others will not. It’s OK. Meet your kids where they are, and let yourself be where you are.

Stay home. Be safe. Love your family. And don’t stress about homeschooling. Your kids will be fine.

Contributed by Niki Boyson Rukstalis. Dr. Boyson Rukstalis lives in Milton. She is a Professor of Finance at Northeastern University and a mom of two Milton Public School kids.


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