You don’t have to drive yourself (or your children) insane with distance learning

I had to get out this morning, so I took a short walk with our daughter down to a playground along the Intracoastal Waterway. I was shocked to discover the fascist mayor had not re-closed playgrounds along with her unconstitutional and unenforceable mask mandate. During the lockdown, she had city workers put large chains around the entrances. (Senior citizens playing pickleball was okay, though. This is what happens when younger generations don’t vote. Get out there and defend your families, people.)

I found a picnic table in the shade to read a chapter in my latest book, Theodore Dalrymple’s Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses (excellent – but then again, I celebrate everything the good doctor has written). While I was reading, a woman walked up to me.

“Your daughter over there, who is playing with my daughter on the playground… She says you homeschool her?”

“Yes, we have been homeschooling her for several years.” (Here it comes, I thought. My daily encounter with someone who is homeschooling-curious. Is anyone actually putting their children back in school this year?)

“Do you do virtual learning or are you homeschooling homeschooling?”

“We do not do virtual learning through the school district. We do our own thing. We are classical homeschoolers. Our curriculum includes subjects like logic and Latin.”

“Can you tell me how to do what you do?”

After chatting with her for a while, I discovered that her daughter was about to enter kindergarten here. As you can imagine, the mother did not want to introduce her to the idea of school with all the draconian CDC requirements. So she intended to sign her up for the school district’s virtual school, which was well-established before the coronavirus.

(So many people are moving to Florida that they cannot construct new school facilities to keep up with the influx of kids. The state actually encourages parents to have their kids do public school online. And, contrary to what many people say about virtual school, the virtual school in this district is the highest-rated of all the schools in terms of standardized test scores. Apart from test scores, the school district has the added perk that they don’t really have to teach the kids but still get the per-pupil state funding that follows the kid simply for being on their books. The teachers’ union is okay with the voucher structure if it enriches public schools for doing nothing.)

The only problem was… The school district wanted kindergartners staring at a computer screen for FOUR HOURS A DAY. She did not think that was healthy behavior for a very young child, and obviously it isn’t.

Ladies and gentlemen reading this blog… You do not have to do this to your kids. You do not have to do this to yourself. Especially if you have very young children like this mother.

I explained to her that all she needed to do was get a phonics workbook, a beginning math workbook, and flashcards for sight words. Work with her daughter for 30 minutes to an hour, total, and it doesn’t even have to be in a solid block. Teach her to count. Teach her to count backwards. Skip-count. Basic addition and subtraction. Go through the sounds the letters make and some combinations. Practice her handwriting. Then let her daughter play for the rest of the day and maybe do some crafts. Read a few high-quality children’s books to her each day or get her listening to an exciting chapter book. Point out words in her environment and have her help measure ingredients when you are cooking. Watch educational programs on television. Find some kids in the neighborhood to chase and skin her knee every once in a while.

“But what if my daughter is behind when she starts first grade?”

“If you actually do those things every single day for a year, your daughter will probably be way ahead of everyone who parked their kid in front of a laptop,” I said.

Education does not have to be torture! It absolutely should not be torture! This is about shaping an individual who genuinely loves to learn new things, to the point that she will take the initiative herself to continue to learn for the rest of her life.

We are going through a period where a lot of bureaucrats, like middle managers in large corporations, feel the need to justify their existence to the people above them. Your child’s intellectual well-being does not need to be collateral damage.

The woman, who happened to be a very intelligent and well-spoken immigrant from Estonia and moved here from Chicago, went on to explain how she was astounded at the level of screen time kindergarten seemed to involve, even in ideal circumstances. There was a lot of time where kids were doing activities on a tablet or in a computer lab – sounding out words for the device instead of a human, etc. – and she was deeply uncomfortable with what schools have become in the United States.

I find this fascinating. One of my friends has a side gig teaching with VIP Kid, where teachers are one-on-one tutors for children in China. In a land so populous that you would think they would substitute teachers with technology, parents are paying for one-on-one tutors for their children on the other side of the world. In the US, parents are whining about how a pandemic is forcing them to spend time with their children, and they send them to schools where their kid is just going to be sitting alone with a device. Guess what culture is kicking butt academically and which one is in an epic secular decline.

I told her that she did not have to make a decision now. She could try the online program for a few weeks and see how it made her and her daughter feel, or if anything changed in our country politically before the end of the first semester, such that she could go back to in-person classes with confidence.

If not, she could file her intent to homeschool at any point during the semester, with zero notice. And she could get back to me, because I would help her put her daughter on a bona fide path to academic excellence.

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