From Parent to Teacher: Why homeschooling can be a huge challenge

My son thinks of me as a father. Daddy basically. I am his life teacher and coach. A general safe place to escape into after a tough day at school. Sometime last month, daddy became teacher. It happened in an instant or what the kids like to call it these days, an email.

Suddenly, I wasn’t the safe place anymore. I was the warden of the dangerous and tough place. Both of us were scared and didn’t know how to work through the tough moments of learning. What seems to be an easy run on paper can became a vicious cycle of arguing and stress that shape-shifts into genuine regret of how a situation was handled.

Here’s the problem. Parents are all grownup and function on a different capacity of comprehending thought and working through problems than young ones. We’ve already been knocked down, beaten up, and left to suffer by many tough times. only to fight another day. You can be a privileged white male or someone who just came to this country in January, and life has given you its fair share of turmoil. Some of it can be self-inflicted, but all of it feels the same. However, we worked through it and found a way out of the darkness.

That’s next to impossible to pass onto a kid in a school teaching type environment. Without the proper training, parents are basically loud cooks at a quiet restaurant. The child is the only patron in the room, looking for a warm meal and some comfort. One tiny thing doesn’t comply and we lose our cool, spending the rest of the day trying to find it.

We run on a sharper system than kids. That’s the short of it. They aren’t there yet and really shouldn’t be. But adults aren’t all gifted with the ability to teach young minds how to mold themselves in reading, math, and vocabulary. The frustration is equal yet stems from different areas of the brain. Trained teachers know how to guide them through tough patches and push them to places academically that previously only existed in a dream state. Parents can’t do that. It’s their world and we are just living in it right now … for another four to six weeks.

That’s like going from a sous chef to top chef in a matter of days. Maybe even hours. At first, it was some reading and going over old data taught earlier in the year. Once schools were closed for good, we got another email that included a full week plan of assignments. While a few friends of mine have reported their workload goes between 50 minutes and two hours, what I do with my son every week comes in between three and four hours per day. No joke. A second grader and his “definitely not a teacher” parent.

We manage. There’s good days and bad days. Some days, we find a new way of getting it done, and others find me shouting at him and later myself. One day, he’ll find a new way of understanding and I’ll discover this new way of explaining something-but there are very difficult days.

I can tell you this. It’s okay to be pissed off about it. It’s okay to be struggling. 98% of us are in crisis mode. While this time has made us find new value in our teachers, it’s also taught us that it’s okay to be flawed and not so good at something. The truth is there is a lot of stuff people aren’t good at, but feel too ashamed and embarrassed to admit it. I used to be bad at it. You know, pride fucking with me. But I have gotten better at it.

I am not that handy of a person. My wife can fix just about anything. I have a problem with directions, and keeping all the screws and pieces in one place. I lose my temper too quickly. I think I am just okay at weed-eating, but there’s no score there. The grass and weeds always win. I am not the best egg whisker. I just move my hand around super fast to make it seem that the eggs are being whipped around. There are a lot of things I am not good at or just okay in.

But I am a hard worker. Vinny is the same way. We aren’t happy about homeschooling, but we find a way to get it done. I don’t want to do less and find a reasoning for it. We’ll do every last bit of required work. There may be beer at the end of it, but the work will be finished. That’s where good parents step up. When the going gets tough, we don’t run. You dig in and adapt.

Homeschooling has been the challenge of a lifetime. I can’t wait until it’s over, when the final assignment is completed and summer officially begins. But I will not forget these eight or so weeks where parenting went to a whole new level. A time where the entire world was challenged in multiple ways. COVID has changed things for good, but it has reinforced what parents are capable of … as well as what could make us go insane if it were permanent.

Like a lot of things, this pandemic has reminded us what the good stuff truly is, and what it could mean moving forward. I mean, did you know that one tooth in a megalodon’s mouth is as big as a baby’s head? I do now. My son taught me that last week!

Hang in there, my fellow new teachers. As the old man once said, this too shall pass.

Now, where’s my Stella?

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