A Year of Possibilities

The year was 1985 when I secured my first teaching job. After giving birth to my four children and staying home with them for eleven years before heading to the classroom, I was anxious and excited to start this career I always knew I wanted from the time I was five years old.

I taught part time and substituted here and there while my children were younger but remained home to be with them most of the time. Having my mom and a good friend nearby helped. I had a chance to exercise my teaching skills at my church Sunday school and summer programs. I loved being with kids so I sought opportunities when I could. It was rewarding but I longed for a classroom of my own.

I taught full time for eleven years in both private and public schools and then discovered a desire to help teachers and students in an administrative capacity. I held various administrative positions from 1996 to 2015 when I retired as an Assistant Superintendent of a school district in northern California.

I always had the heart of a teacher which I considered essential in taking on the responsibility of nurturing and guiding a room full of someone else’s children. I frequently asked the question, “What if this was my child, what would I want them to know and be able to do? How would I want them to feel in my classroom?”

As each year progressed, I experienced a rigid and regimented system of batching, labeling, herding, coercing, bribing and punishing on a daily basis. I saw children who just needed a little more time but rarely got it. I saw fearful, upset, active and aggressive young people acting out, seeking attention, looking for someone to notice them in a positive light. I heard parents asking how they can help and some so frustrated with the system they just gave up.

I also saw what teachers would call the “good” ones as compliant, quiet, polite and obedient getting most of that positive attention. These were the ones who could follow directions, hear and do the first time asked, and seemed well-suited to the school framework of listen and learn then repeat.

Participating in the institution of schooling by way of showing up every day, doing my job and collecting a paycheck I felt responsible for all its faults and shortcomings that became increasingly obvious to me. I tried to offer a different perspective on learning, teaching, grading, and a multitude of other system practices. I saw sincere teachers and some administrators who also wanted some sanity for our children in the midst of the ever looming high stakes testing, standardized curriculum and ineffective grading and reporting practices.

It was an uphill battle indeed. I stayed positive enough and retired after 30 years in the schooling world. Before I retired I started gathering my thoughts and decided that perhaps writing a book on some of the ways we could do schooling better than we have would offer the reader a much needed perspective. I was optimistic and hopeful. Rowman and Littlefield published my book in 2016 one year after I retired.

Since writing that book, my convictions have become even stronger. I am certain now that the schooling system won’t change because it can’t. It’s entrenched in years of repeated mediocracy and indifference.

I have observed what is happening in schools now, what we are asking teachers to do, what it has become and what it still is. Parents learned the inherent flaws, inconsistencies and limitations intimately during the past three years during the COVID pandemic. Eyes were opened for many which resulted in a larger demand for other choices like private, homeschooling, micro schools, learning pods, self-directed learning and a plethora of new entrepreneurial learning start ups. It is an exciting time.

Simply put, school as we know it is a social construct that has run its course. We are embarking on a new learning journey where parents, teachers, community members and young people are yearning and looking for something better, more relevant, more child-centered. Teachers who find themselves in this group are starting to venture out with likeminded individuals to start new models with this in mind.

I titled my 2016 book, Learning Unleashed – Reimagining and Repurposing Our Schools. The time has come to unleash the children from the old paradigm of schooling to a world of new possibilities. Our future depends on it.

If you are a parent there are resources available to you. If you are a teacher looking for something more aligned to your teaching heart there are like minded people to journey with you. If you are a young person ask those tough questions, think critically for yourself and be willing to stretch your horizons.

It can start with reading, learning, dialog and conversation. I have listed a few people I follow.

Dive in!

Follow on Twitter:

Kerry McDonald@Kerry_edu

Hannah Frankman@Hannah Frankman

Rebel Educator@rebel Educator

Easier Than a Corn Maze

Have you ever lost your way in a corn maze? I have, more than once. Thankfully I had helpers with me to point me in the right direction. Getting lost is a scary thought. Finding your way is exhilarating.

My grandson Troy told me about a recent corn maze he visited with his mom and older cousin, Alexis. He said that the kids’ maze was “ridiculously easy” but the big people maze was a bit more challenging. He said he found his way out of that one too. I’m not surprised.

I loved watching his face as he described the ins and outs of corn mazes and his fascination with finding the exit.

Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is an effective antidote to the ills of complacency, ignorance, apathy and boredom. There are added benefits as well that include ample opportunities for laughter, elements of surprise, and a good dose of unconditional love. It also has the potential to shed light on our faulty assumptions about learning and teaching. This corn maze was another one of those learning moments.

I continue to find my old assumptions about teaching and learning challenged as I spend time with any of my grandchildren. Every one of them has been homeschooled for either all or a large portion of their young lives.

It is reported that the number of home schooling families has risen sharply over the last couple of years and is still rising.

It is estimated that over 11% of all school aged children in the United States are now being homeschooled. That is approximately seven to eight million children. While the pandemic spurred this outcome, other factors contribute to the rise. Whatever the reason, homeschooling experienced an historic surge and appears to be alive and well in the midst of a return to the classrooms around the country.

My years of being both a teacher and an administrator has provided me with a traditional perspective on teaching and learning. Observing, participating and assisting in the homeschooling of several grandchildren has given me a unique and different perspective. Watching my grandson close up for the past four years has catapulted me into a totally different and exciting realm.

I know that not everyone can or wants to homeschool. I realize that time, finances, temperament and resources may influence the decision to homeschool. With that being said, I still believe that it provides an incredible advantage on multiple levels. Therefore, I will continue to support, encourage and congratulate those who choose homeschooling as an avenue for learning.

Homeschooling is not an easy choice, but may be a bit easier than a “big people” corn maze.

Next time, I will feature an example of my daughter Amy’s homeschooling journey and a link to her incredible field trip resource guide.

Happy Fall!


Power of the Spoken Word

Any parent who hears their baby speak for the first time knows how exhilarating that sound is. There is a definite distinction between babbling and a real bono fide word. What will it be first, mama or dada or some variation of the caregiver’s name? We wait anxiously for that moment and congratulate the child with accolades, excitement, and even hugs and kisses. It’s a milestone for sure.

Once they have mastered a basic vocabulary of a two or three year old, it’s usually smooth sailing from that point on, even with various pronunciations. It’s amazing to hear a child develop a large vocabulary from simply listening to others speak.

It doesn’t take long for a young child to learn the power of words. After sorting through and perhaps using them indiscriminately, they discover the wonderful ability to communicate just about every need or want.

As an example, my soon to be four year old grandson eagerly explained to me that he wanted to go to the bike store near his preschool. I asked if he had ever been there before or if mommy or daddy took him there. He replied, “No they didn’t.” I asked how he knew about it and he answered, “Because I see it every day on my way to school and I’d like to see the bikes inside.”

I could tell by the look on his face that he wasn’t sure if I would honor his request. While strapping him into his car seat after picking him up at school, he provided me with the most convincing rationale for why I should stop there before we headed home.

“Grammy, trust me you’re going to love this bike store. It has really cool bikes that we could both look at and it won’t take too long. We can stop now because it is right here. We have time. Trust me, trust me you’re really going to love it!”

His speech sounded convincing enough and we did have enough time, so of course I stopped at the bike store and we both enjoyed our visit. He consulted the owner about a bike he liked and also asked if they did repairs. He asked if he could see how and where the owner fixes bikes. The owner was incredibly obliging and showed us his work station. He gave Troy a key chain and showed him all the various tools he uses.

Troy talked about the store on the ride back home, what he had learned, what he thought was interesting. He explained that he might want to go back there again even though he already has a bike, because eventually he would need a bigger one.

Thinking of his future, I can’t help but wonder if his command of the English language will take him very far in life. At the very least it will serve him well accomplishing his goals over the next few years. There will no doubt be more interesting places he’ll want to visit. As Troy would say, “Trust me!”

Flat Griffin

For those of you who teach in schools, homeschool or work with school-aged children, you may have heard of the story called Flat Stanley. Short version finds Stanley in an accident and smashed flat. This enables him to go places where he might not otherwise be able to go. Stanley then proceeds to visit family and friends around the country via the U.S. mail system. He may even find himself in another country. He spends time with his guests and is included in photos that depict his adventures. Stanley is mailed back to the classroom and children share all the different places he’s been and all of his adventures.

My grandson in Oklahoma sent me his Flat “Griffin” a few weeks ago. I took this challenge quite seriously and brought him everywhere I went, including the grocery store. He fit well in my purse and only suffered a few crinkles. Except for the day we went to the park with my youngest grandson Troy. That day Flat Griff had a real workout.

He climbed up bars and down slides. He flapped in the wind on the swings. He landed on the soft bark more than once without an injury. It was his last ride down the slide that ended his fun day at the playground. Poor Flat Griff broke his arm. We checked to see if he was okay and then tucked him and his arm in Grammy’s purse for safe keeping.

When we arrived back home we taped him up without a whimper. He was so brave.

We ended our time with Flat Griffin by taking a road trip to the mountains. He enjoyed seeing three different states and stopping at a favorite sports store of his uncles.

We mailed him back to Oklahoma and hope that he arrived safely.

There is something special about connecting with children in this way. Nothing beats in person visits but helping a class of children learn a little more about their fellow students’ friends and family along with interesting and fun facts about cities/states/countries is worth the adventure and time.

I’d like to mail a Flat Evonne to a few places around the world that I have not seen yet and hopefully learn about and enjoy my vicarious adventures. Now I just have to find a willing participant to greet me there.

Reflections in the Mirror – SMILE it’s 2022!

When you have more decades behind you than ahead of you the mirror reflection tells a much deeper story than just wrinkles and lines.

Each line represents a story, a moment in time when life happened. Perhaps we can’t trace each one to a specific event but we certainly can recall occurrences that brought about an emotion or two and left it’s mark.

When we look in the mirror, what is our usual reaction, a smile, a frown, a quizzical expression?

Looking in a mirror as a child we see innocence, purity, vulnerability and a spark of hope for what is yet to come. If you’ve ever noticed children seeing their reflection in a mirror it usually includes a smile. They like what they see. Why not? It’s validating and inspires confidence. It also encourages experimentation, like sticking out tongues, crossing eyes and generally silly expressions that promote laughter and creativity.

Somewhere along life’s journey that smile may become hard to muster in some cases. It’s obviously still available to see and on occasion we might surprise ourselves with a big grin, but we use it sparingly.

For those who read my blogs regularly, you know that I often include a list of some sort. Here is another one.

Reasons to resurrect your smile in 2022.

  1. We’ve all heard that it takes less facial muscle to frown than to smile so we might want to smile more often just for the pure exercise value.
  2. We’ve been seeing masks for about two years now and we all need to see folks smiling again.
  3. Smiling at others signals that you see them and you care about them.
  4. Smiling at yourself in the mirror sends positive, self-affirming signals to your brain.
  5. Smiles cost you nothing, but yield great benefits.
  6. Even your dog appreciates your smile, according to new studies on the subject.

With the last few years of not seeing faces, it’s about time to break out those smiles again. Never thought much about New Year’s resolutions before, mainly because they are so hard to keep. But this smiling thing might just be doable. Give it a try, I know I am.

Dog Smiles
Dogs can learn to recognize smiles, a study indicates. (Image credit: Caroline Kjall/stock.xchng)


A Different Perspective

As parents we often find ourselves focused on the “raising” of our children rather than the relishing of every moment. We take the responsibility seriously, reading whatever we can find, asking friends and family with more experience than us or just learning what works through trial and error.

It occurs to me that I might have benefited from a do-over, but I’m not afforded that possibility. That is unfortunate because age can provide a greater perspective on what is really important. I’ll have to settle for the belief that my children survived their time with me and are well-adjusted adults knowing how to contribute to their community.

They often tell me that they are thankful for me and their father but we made plenty of mistakes.

Even though there are no parenting do-overs, I have the incredible privilege of being a Grammy. It’s a much better family position in my opinion. You don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. You don’t feel the need to be in constant control of every situation. You don’t even need to raise your voice.

Having also been a teacher and school and district administrator I’ve learned what doesn’t work by way of punishment, discipline and so called motivation. I’ve written extensively about these in my book and other blog entries here on my website. Threats, praise/rewards for compliance and withholding based on behavior are unproductive and harmful tactics often used in schools and at home.

Obviously being a parent comes with a few caveats.

  • There is no manual.
  • There is no one size fits all.
  • There is a short window of time.

What’s important is to relinquish the urge to mold your children into your perfect image. None of us is perfect.

How do we undo any negative residual effects based on how our parents may have “raised” us? How do we focus on the positives while supporting the growth and well-being of our little charges? It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. It’s hard work and exhausting until we realize that it’s not really that hard after all.  

The terms “child-rearing, raising our kids, training them, or teaching them” may be misnomers. I’ve discovered that parenting is more about us than our children. Are we willing to learn what we need to learn in spite of what we think we know?

Humility and forgiveness along with a heavy dose of love are essential ingredients for a successful experience with our children. 

I’m able to contribute to the growth of my three year old grandson, since we spend at least three days a week together. I love his mind, heart and energy. I’m the benefactor of the gifts he brings and freely shares with me. In a sense, being with this little guy is kind of a do-over. 

I’ve compiled a short list of reminders for those of you who are parenting for the first time.  

  1. PLAY with your toddler, child, or young person.
  2. Put your hand held devices away and BE IN THE MOMENT.
  3. Resist the urge to punish. LOOK for underlying causes instead and address those.
  4. LISTEN to them and follow their lead.
  5. The FIRST FIVE YEARS are critical but so are the remaining ones.

I often suggest homeschooling for those who can do it. But homeschooling that just replicates school is not what I suggest. There are plenty of good resources for parents willing to give it a shot. Connect with those resources in your area and consider the benefits for both you and your child.

In the meantime, embrace your role as parent. It’s how you learn who YOU really are, so you can become even better!


That Pesky Conveyor Belt

My husband Norm used to say that with each passing day he could better see the end of the conveyor belt.

At first, I wasn’t clear on his analogy until it occurred to me that I had walked, jumped and even hopped off many a conveyor belt or escalator over the years. It’s the end of the ride so to speak and with it always brought a bit of apprehension knowing that timing is everything.

A family story that his sister told was a vivid reminder that one needs to pay attention on the conveyor belt or it could end up very messy. After a wonderful trip together, she, her husband, her sister and brother-in-law were all headed back to their car at the airport long term parking lot. To get there, they had quite a trek that included a very long conveyor belt or people mover. While all of them were only in their early sixties, they decided that the belt would get them to their car faster than walking.

As they approached the end of the belt, her sister turned back for a split second to ask a question. At the same time, one husband had successfully stepped off the belt and started walking. Her sister was next. She lost balance when she turned back around and missed the step off point only to land face down as she rolled the rest of the way off the belt.

What followed was a comic routine that bystanders enjoyed and probably remembered for a very long time. The sister on the floor was followed by her sister on top of her and the last husband on top of the two of them sandwiched in between several pieces of luggage.

If it was just this family it would have been plenty, but others followed with at least two more added to the heap. The first husband turned around when he heard all the commotion to see his sister and brother-in-law, his wife and two others sprawled out on the floor, luggage all around and uproarious laughter. He wanted to know “what in the world happened” as he examined the pile of humanity just a few inches from the end of the conveyor belt.

One woman who landed on the very top of the pile refused to find the humor in this situation. She yelled a few profanities and after hoisting herself to a standing position, stormed off mumbling all the way.

A conveyor belt can be tricky for sure. You know it’s coming and you try to be prepared but anything can change the dynamics of the drop off point. The belt can stop, slow down, or speed up. Others might block the clear path you’ve set and you have to recalculate your moves. It can also depend upon how much baggage you have.

Choosing how to exit is important. We can fly off or land in a heap. We can step off smoothly or keep backing up to avoid the inevitable. One thing is certain, there is an end just like there is a beginning.

It’s this conveyor belt of life that has me thinking more and more about where it might end. That’s what my dear late husband meant.

None of us knows the exact end point from where we currently are but we can enjoy the ride along the way, right?

Photo by Naim Benjelloun on Pexels.com

What Have We Learned?

It’s high school reunion time!

This is a milestone year for me and for all those who graduated high school in 1971. It seems like ages ago that we were singing our favorite songs with James Taylor, Carole King, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Or dancing to the best Motown music by the Temptations, Gladys Knight and Marvin Gaye.

We enjoyed being with our friends and made every effort to extend that time beyond our classes together. We were living in our protective high school bubble, filled with the usual school stuff like cramming for tests, talking on the phone for hours and planning for the weekends.

But on the outside, something was trying to burst that bubble.

We lived through the Vietnam War even though many of us didn’t understand why we were there. The world around us had experienced massive changes. Protests and unrest were the norm in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Assassinations and tragedies seemed common place. African American and Women’s rights came to the forefront. Young people struggled to comprehend what was happening. Fear, mistrust and confusion entered our bubble and it was difficult to adjust.

At some point in time, it was as though a generation decided to turn on the lights in a very dark room.

Inside that room, visible for all to see, especially the young people, was not only dust and cobwebs, but rotted floorboards and peeling wall paint. There was also a stench that was indescribable. What do we do with all this? How do we clean this place and make it something beautiful? That question still permeates the thoughts of many young and older people today. They are still grappling with some lingering remnants in that now, semi-dark room.

It’s not easy to change the flow or to nudge it in a different direction. Some in my generation don’t particularly care to change much of anything and others are still energized to see it through to a better end. Some just prefer a comfortable familiar, where they have discovered another kind of protective bubble.

Bubbles eventually burst no matter how hard we try to keep them in tact. It’s okay. Being outside the bubble has the potential to give us a new perspective. It can help us learn more about ourselves and others.

Whether an activist or a pacifist or a status quo-ist, we all can learn from each other. Kids do it instinctively. We did too when we were children.

If left without hovering or biased adult interference, except for matters of safety, little ones learn how to navigate their challenges through trial, error and negotiation. They eventually learn to build bridges and on ramps. They learn that differences in thought are not to be feared or silenced. Initially, it may be easier for some than others, but eventually they discover their own value and what they can bring to the table.

In those moments, learning out of their bubbles, they are making something beautiful. They are building relationships.

As I remember 50 years ago and think about what I value today in regards to those high school years, it’s the relationships I made and still maintain. Each of those friendships may look differently today. Sometimes we blossom in different directions on the issues of life, like religion, politics, and family. But in the big scheme of things, we can agree on some basic principles if we so choose.

Kindness, compassion, understanding and humility, built on the premise that we are all created equal has now, as it did when we were children, the power to make something beautiful in our lives.

So, what have we learned?

Wishing and Thinking and Hoping and Praying

Borrowing the title from an old Dusty Springfield song, which clearly ages me I know, seems to convey my thoughts on this matter in which I write today.

Maybe it’s the ability to observe without an agenda. Maybe it’s the lack of preconceived notions. Maybe it’s watching without judging. Maybe it’s the wisdom that comes with age.

Perhaps it’s about raw, authentic, built in curiosity and brilliance manifested in the most extraordinary ways.

I know I say it often but it bears repeating. Learning is not the result of what the teacher does, but how the learner innately interacts with the world around them.

I was in my twenties, thirties and forties while being a mom to four very bright, energetic and curious children who are now grown. This year I reached the noted distinction of having four in their forties. How in the world did that happen so quickly? I watched them learn and grow even though I had somewhat narrow notions of how that was supposed to happen.

Over the years, my experience as a teacher, administrator, and grandparent, gradually shifted my perspective on teaching and learning.

I first was a grandma at forty five and I am still enjoying new little ones being added. Three years ago, Troy arrived and most recently 8 year old Griffin, through the marriage of my second oldest son and his sweet wife, Griff’s mom. My “grand” total so far, is eleven and counting.

When the first ones arrived, I lived across the country and was working full-time which only gave me holidays and spring/summer weeks to visit and spend time with them. Every moment was precious and wonderful memories were made with loads of stories to tell in the years to come.

It was a different kind of grandparenting and took a lot of faith to assure me that regardless of the miles or time lapse in between visits, we still built close relationships. Many grandparents find themselves in this kind of situation. It’s the quality time that counts, even though deep inside we all want more of that.

In those 15 years, I observed the sweet curiosity and innovative energy in each one of those dear grandchildren. It was a delight to watch them, spend time with them, take them on vacations and see them grow.

I remember thinking how brilliant these grands were and still are. I was moved by how they navigated their world as we took them to beaches, oceans, rivers and streams, museums, historic destinations, big cities and little ones, parks and walking trails. We took them to plays, dance performances, theater, and art galleries. We traveled together by plane, car, train, boat, bus, trolley, and horse drawn carriage.

They asked a few questions along the way and were terrific travelers. Our many special photo albums document our adventures.

At sixty-five, Troy arrived twenty years after my first grandchild, Maria. Being retired, I now had more time, closer proximity, and much less energy than I had at forty-five.

I am thrilled that I can be available to watch Troy three days a week. When I used to see the grands at three month intervals, I now see week to week changes and growth. It is so wonderful. I see him discover and learn without any preconceived agenda on my part.

Since I taught in a classroom for many years, and supervised others in this endeavor, I thought there was a “right way” to teach. I thought learning happened because of direct teaching. Perhaps for some it does to a certain extent.

The kind of learning that lasts beyond a test, has much less to do with teaching than it does the curiosity, interest and sense of meaning for the learner. When children are enabled and empowered to choose, investigate, experiment and play with the tools in their environment, deep and lasting learning happens.

Wish it could be that way for all children. Wish teachers and parents understood the power in that kind of learning. It is truly incredible to observe.

I guess I have always been drawn to children. I love their innocence and pure hearts. Wishing it could always be that way in our world. Wishing that hatred of others, disregard for life, and greed were not part of our human existence. None of us starts out that way. It is learned behavior or lack of healthy support in the growing years. My personal faith tells me that it doesn’t have to be that way. I try to live my life by that belief.

A certain quote in the bible seems appropriate here.

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Without much religious commentary or dissection, let’s just assume that the heart of a child is humble and innocent. It is trusting but curious. It is looking for meaning and purpose in life, in it’s own rudimentary way.

How incredibly powerful to watch, participate in and to support the growth of a little one in this life.

I can’t think of a greater privilege or responsibility.

Learning Loss – The Myth

No Learning Loss for Troy as we build train stations, bridges, and tunnels with dominoes and blocks. If only life was this uncomplicated.

Turn to any news media sources and you’ll hear the often repeated myth that children are experiencing learning loss due to the pandemic-induced shutdowns happening in most schools across our country. The truth is, you can’t rely on the media to provide any credible information regarding the evidence that science presents on any given day, no matter what your political persuasion.

Because of our reaction to the unknown as well as our overt political polarization in these intense times, we deemed it appropriate to close everything down and stay inside to slow the spread of this unknown, killer Covid-19 virus. This included schools. A year ago in March the shift to “school” at home began for the majority of young people across our nation.

It took a while to catch on as the inequities of remote learning manifested in predictable ways. Now, one year later, there are still many schools that are not fully open except for a range of private schools, including Catholic. Depending upon the local teachers unions, some schools may never fully reopen or return to normal any time soon. Some are using a hybrid model and will complete the school year in that manner.

Without an end in sight, a moving target is hard to manage. Dr. Fauci in a recent interview responded to a current study suggesting that there is no marked difference between three and six feet distancing measures for students in schools. Dr. Fauci agreed with the research. However, the six foot requirement has been one of the main hurdles to reopening schools.

Many schools believe that remote schooling is not the same as in person learning. Teachers and their districts hope for the best even amid plans to require state testing this year. Testing seems a cruel and unusual punishment after a school year like this one but it’s proponents consider it an important accountability measure, one whose purpose is to address performance gaps among various demographics. That’s what it’s typically designed to do.

Even in the best of circumstances, schools have experienced performance gaps for many, many years. Remote schooling promises to shed a blinding light on the existing gaps even more so.

The “learning loss” mantra is not the same as performance gaps. Learning loss presumably effects everyone. Gaps are distances measured between groups. But it’s believed that the already existing gaps will be even greater due to this past year and a half outside of the school setting.

What exactly does learning loss mean?

Self-proclaimed experts say, learning loss is attributed to lack of in person teaching and learning for over one year now. It’s hard to imagine how teachers would be held accountable to ensure that every major grade level standard is covered let alone tested and graded during a time like this. It’s hard enough to covered the glut of standards in the a “normal” year of schooling.

Many have adjusted to working at home, but teachers had to basically shift gears midstream, likely without the adequate time, resources and training to pull off such a unique feat. Savvy teachers who use and understand the tools of technology may have had a small advantage, but the learning curve was still steep. Even more so if they have children of their own to care for while zooming with their class of 20-40 students everyday.

Parents too had a similar challenge of working remotely and keeping up with their child’s school work. Juggling computer time and access for themselves proved quite challenging.

I remember my former school district brainstorming this scenario many years ago. How we would ensure that students could still access learning if a catastrophic occurrence happened and schools were closed down. I was fortunate to work with forward thinking colleagues who tried to stay several steps ahead of the “what if” scenarios. I believe they are doing better than most during this current situation.

Learning loss has not been an issue of course with those who homeschool, unschool, or attend private schools that remained open.

Parents desperate to deal with what they perceive as an unacceptable situation took a critical look at learning alternatives. Some banded together to create learning pods as chronicled in a recent New Yorker article, Why Learning Pods Might Outlast the Pandemic, by Lizzie Widdecombe, March 14, 2021.


Another example is highlighted in a Forbes article written by Kerry McDonald titled, More Parents Opt For Private Learning Options, March 15, 2021.


From Kerry’s article, she states that, “Polling from both Gallup and Education Week last year estimated that the homeschooling rate has at least doubled during the pandemic response, suggesting that up to five million students could now be learning this way.”

She also cites that various edtech startups have emerged to meet the demands of parents for affordable, enriching and high quality digital education.

The article goes on to say that “school districts across the country have felt the exodus with public school enrollment down in most states since the fall as parents choose other options.” In addition, “support for school choice policies has grown since last spring’s school closures, with parents and taxpayers having a more favorable view of allowing the funding to follow students directly in the form of education savings accounts, tax credit scholarships and vouchers.”

Kerry explains that more than two dozen states currently have legislation proposing or expanding educational choice.

As a former public school assistant superintendent, I know this is problematic for those districts on many levels. School district funding is a slippery slope, as they rarely have a huge stockpile of emergency funds available to handle regular mandates let alone pandemics that wreak havoc on already strained budgets.

It is no wonder that the Covid relief bill includes $128 billion for K-12 schooling. When school enrollment is down, overall school funding takes a major hit and since the bulk of K-12 spending is dedicated to salaries, one can imagine the impact. Thus the uproar from the teacher unions.

The Covid relief bill covers a wide variety of perceived needs. Every aspect of life and work is impacted by the shutdowns. For public schooling to stay afloat during this time, federal and state aid is considered essential to survival.

Reason opinion article written by Peter Suderman, February 18, 2021 below.

The article concludes, “How much of this alleged coronavirus relief plan is actually related to the coronavirus?  According to CRFB, just 1 percent of the relief plan’s spending would go toward vaccines, and just 5 percent would go toward pandemic-related public health needs. Meanwhile, 15 percent of the spending—about $300 billion—would be spent on long-standing policy priorities that are not directly related to the current crisis. For proponents of these long-standing policy priorities, this relief package is a huge step in the right direction.

Perhaps you might want to read the legislative and budget office cost estimates here. https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/2021-02/hEdandLaborreconciliationestimate.pdf

For those concerned with the impacts of learning loss among students this past year and a half, this relief bill does little to address that as the spending is rolled out over a period of years. As noted in the Reason article, “Previous coronavirus relief and congressional spending bills have already included more than $100 billion in funding for schools. But according to the Congressional Budget Office, “most of those funds remain to be spent.”

When you depend upon the pubic schooling system to educate your child there are a number of strings attached. If you don’t mind the strings and you love your local school then stay the course.

If you find that this pandemic has broadened your viewpoint and perspective on learning, I encourage you to seek out alternatives. There is a vast supply of resources and networks available to parents as they consider the options.