An Open Letter to Accidental Home-School Parents
By Dr. Kevin Talbert
Dear parent who is now also a part-time teacher,
I am sure you are already inundated with information during what is, no doubt, a very stressful time. But I want to offer you some words of encouragement as you navigate this unprecedented time with your child home from school. I often share similar thoughts each year with my student-teachers as they embark on their careers teaching your child.
First, know that the most important thing you can do for your child's education is probably something you're already doing: building a relationship. It is okay to set aside the "work" of schooling and instead to simply spend time playing, reading, and talking with your child. Indeed, I argue that playing, reading, socializing are the work of education. In fact, these are, in a nutshell, what teachers are doing all day with your child, albeit in more formal and structured ways. I won’t take the space here to recount all of the research that shows the cognitive and social benefits of play and reading, but suffice to say these are foundational for learners’ growth.
Second, give yourself space and permission for whatever learning experiences you might set up to not go according to plan. Real learning is messy (I know, you’ve got the dining room table to prove it!) and disorganized. Even teachers lament the lesson-plan-gone-awry. But there is often buried treasure in those moments. Students are so creative at finding their own deep meaning despite our best laid plans. And, even if all it seems they learn is that sometimes grown-ups make mistakes and things do not work as planned, that’s okay, too. What an important lesson! But don’t worry, you won’t ruin your child’s education; kids are often quite forgiving in these moments, especially when we’re honest with them about our challenges.
Finally, know that you are not meant to go it alone. It takes a village. Reach out to fellow parents and, especially, to teachers during this time. Let’s all work together to support each other in these challenging days. Let’s strengthen our partnerships so that when school starts again—and it will start again!—we have a renewed sense of shared obligation to make a better world for our kids. It’s a big burden, but if we share it, we can bear it!
Dr. Talbert is an Associate Professor of Education at The College of Idaho. For more information about Dr. Talbert, you can follow him on Twitter at @DrKMTalbert or visit https://www.collegeofidaho.edu/directory/kevin-talbert.