Hope to Home Learning – May 14, 2020

Parent’s Perspective: A Leap of Faith by Nicolette Shea, parent to Declan in 7th grade

This is a longer article than we usually send out but we encourage you to read through the entire piece. – Mrs. O.

“No! No! No!”

This was my immediate thought when Mrs. Okabayashi asked me to write about homeschooling from a “parent’s perspective.” I am pretty sure I am not the right person to write that kind of thing. For starters, I write as I talk with no real regard for the rules. Second, I am doubtful that my perspective or Declan’s experience will resonate with anyone. Despite my better judgment, I decided to just take a leap of faith and see what comes of it.

When we heard the news that Hope was closing, we immediately went into panic-induced control and organize mode: Ink for the printer, supplies, a tentative schedule, and a functional workspace. When the first day of home school arrived, we assumed Declan ready—more or less.

Spoiler Alert: He was LESS ready!

Declan’s dad, Chris, and I were both working on the first day of homeschooling, so neither of us could help guide Declan. I was a little worried. I figured he’d get online, find some assignments, do some worksheets, and call it a day. That did NOT happen. At about 11 a.m., I get a call at work. My child is sobbing. My child is frustrated. My child is begging me to come home and help him: “The assignments are coming in too fast! There are too many. They are all due at specific times. The schedule you wrote doesn’t work. And… I’m hungry!!!!!”

I found someone to cover my shift at work so I could head home early. On my way, I wrote Mrs. Meyer a short, unnecessarily curt email: “What IS going on?” Then, I saw her number on my phone. Oh no, I went too far. But, as you’d expect, Mrs. Meyer was her usual, calm, kind, and understanding self (and I felt like a total jerk) when she asked, “Can I speak to Declan?” I reluctantly handed him the phone. They spoke privately for 20 or 30 minutes and when he came out of his room, he was smiling. With all the confidence in the world, he said, “Everything is going to be okay.” Whatever Mrs. Meyer said instilled confidence and made Declan feel supported. He was ready to try again the next day.

So, we started fresh. Chris and I had the next day off, and we decided to just observe how the teachers were using all of these new tools. We would fill in the gaps as needed. After all, Declan is a good student, smart and independent. We believed wholeheartedly that he could “do school” with just a little support and structure. That day, and over the next couple of weeks, we knew that the teachers and administration at Hope had already given Declan almost everything he needed for homeschooling success. I don’t mean the iPad, keyboard, passwords, Schoology, worksheets, and weekly schedules—although all of those things have been invaluable.

I’m talking about what his educators gave him before Covid-19: The incredible language of learning that exists between teachers and students when they trust and respect each other. If Mr. Allen were to tell Declan that the grass is purple, then gave him the steps to investigate and discover why the grass isn’t green, but purple, Declan is going to do it. Not because he believes that grass is purple, and not because he thinks Mr. Allen is crazy enough to humor him, but because he trusts Mr. Allen. He trusts that Mr. Allen is leading him somewhere, that somehow this is important, and by the end of this assignment he will learn something about himself and the world around him. Declan has complete faith in his school, his teachers, his peers, and himself. All he needed from us was a little support around prioritizing, organization … and another trip to Staples.

Two weeks ago, Declan sat Chris and me down. He said, “I don’t need help with school anymore. You don’t need to check Schoology, look over my assignments, e-mail my teachers with questions… I can do it on my own. I am not enjoying having parents as teachers.” I smiled, and simply said, “Fair enough kid. What do you propose? “After a bit of negotiating, we agreed on a plan that allows Declan the independence he desires. We stay informed and here for him when he needs our help, and he manages the rest.

The plea from Declan for us to “Exit: Stage Left” from his education has shown me that homeschooling, itself, will be one of the most important lessons Declan has received thus far in his educational career. In eight short weeks, my 13-year-old son has learned to pivot, to be flexible, to use technology as a tool instead of a toy, to calibrate, to implement time management, and, to prioritize his workload. Declan has learned the importance of advocating for himself, yet, at the same time, creatively finding the answers before asking for help. He became part of a community, despite being locked up in his house. He found some joy in times of stress. I believe other lessons and skills will pop up throughout Declan’s life, and he will attribute this experience.

I have learned something, too, that will stay with me forever: I have seen a small glimpse of what kind of human my son is growing into. It’s lovely and I am grateful.