Why Calling Distance Learning 'Homeschooling' Does Teachers A Huge Disservice

by Amy B. Chesler
Originally Published: 

The last couple of years have been incredibly hard for a thousand and a half reasons (and even that might be an underestimate). To parents, one of the hardest parts was keeping our kids on track while the world toppled around us. Schools tried their best to adapt at varying rates; teachers took varying approaches to Zoom lessons with a wide range of success.

As if to make things easier, workbooks and individual assignments supplemented a great deal of all teachers’ lessons. It was hard not to drown while managing our kiddos’ workload, as well as our own.

My daughter, who is a perfectionist, was blessed to have a teacher who was proficient in technology and seamlessly wove it into her lessons in three Zoom sessions a day. She also assigned about an hour of satellite work a day. Still, my daughter needed a lot of help. So, even if my daughter was engaged and actively taught for the mandatory three hours a day, she still needed my help to catch up about every 15 to 20 minutes. Needless to say — I’ll avoid triggering a PTSD-like response in parents — getting my own work done was next to impossible.

But no matter how difficult the last year and a half of at-home learning was, I am very clear on one thing: I was not homeschooling my children.

Sure, plenty of families actually did start homeschooling in the transitionary year, but the rest of us, no, we weren’t homeschooling our kids. We were distance learning, and there’s a massive difference.

I should know: I was a homeschool teacher for five years to two brothers, one in sixth grade and one in third grade when I started. Together, we made our way through the curriculum of seven different grades, and when the eldest entered high school, six different subjects each year.

All I received from the school district were the textbooks and a list of California-mandated standards, just as each teacher receives every year. Attached were no defined assignments, no fun activities that could take the place of reading a chapter in the textbook. Just a 20-something-page printout of numbers and choppy sentences that represent everything our kids should learn in a year, and some textbooks that drive home related facts.

But that’s the role of a teacher: To design a plan that imparts the grade-relevant, necessary wisdom our children need, packaged in a way that allows them to retain the information. Those lessons are designed by our kids’ teachers each year. It actually is a large portion of their work, as well as what forces them to work hours outside of their in-classroom schedule. When I was a homeschool teacher, all lessons were designed by me.

Now, could you imagine if in the last year you also had the task of planning all virtual and satellite activities for your children, as well as helping them while they do it? Sounds impossible (if you have any other tasks to accomplish, at least).

Well … that would be homeschooling.

Needless to say, even though we were working hard, we weren’t homeschooling. Saying so does not belittle the difficulty in our experiences. Instead, it honors the fact that parents took on extra work with relative grace. But it also — and maybe especially — honors the thousands of teachers across the country that truly worked their asses off under immense pressure and unheard-of precedents.

And lord knows, our teachers need all the recognition and support they can get.

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