Online (Home) Schooling

John Dewey (1859 – 1952), regarded as one of the most influential, prominent educational reformer and a scholar reflected “education is not preparation for life; education is life itself”. Dewey strongly voiced his enthusiasm and invigorated ‘progressive education’, which spurs intrinsic motivation in a child’s mental development. In simpler terms, learning activities based on interests portrayed naturally by a particular child’s character and personality as opposed to the traditional education model which uses extrinsic motivation such as grades and prizes (and sometimes an ego boost for high achievers from an early age that can spell disaster in later ages! – over confidence has ruined many a great minds – but that’s a different topic for another day)

Every child is unique and possess individual strengths and weakness that compliment their development. Their physical, emotional and mental development takes them through many changes that are further compounded by family and societal ‘norms’ and/or dynamics. Hence, subjecting every child into a ‘standard’ mold of curriculum may effectively motivate some to excel while leave other bright minds to desperately seek their mojo.

Knowledge experts have defined the process of education based on dual stratagem working in parallel, psychological and sociological as the former acts as the basis and latter supplementing the cause. Natural instincts as a function of a child’s intrinsic character will form the foundation of their knowledge with everything build upon it, for the rest of their life.

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself

I have three children (cubs as I refer to them sometimes) at different stages of early learning life. The oldest started high school during the early onset of COVID-19 pandemic. The middle one embarked on his Grade 5 journey and the little munchkin – well, he is special indeed! He was really enjoying his specially tuned and catered program at Erin Oaks before the lockdown took full effect. All three have had to adjust quite differently to the changes that fast emerging and developing pandemic has thrown at them in terms of schooling in its traditional sense. The middle one (grade fiver) has yet to attend class physically ever since March Break 2019. He completed his Grade 4 online and commenced year 5 fully online. The oldest started her high school Grade 9 by attending classes physically hesitantly. I recall the conversations with her principal back in September 2019 that it was just a matter of time before lessons ‘voluntarily’ shift online to begin with and eventually ease into ‘mandatory’ online attendance to curb spread of the novel SARS-COV-2 virus. His foresightedness wasn’t too far off target, he only missed his estimates by a couple of weeks.

In essence, all three had to adjust to learning online from the comfort of their home. As a universal law, whether in temporal or spatial realms, change is constant. As much as change can be difficult to accept, adaptation to it quickly can certainly save a nerve or two! A lesson well learned for beings during any stage of personal life – young, adulthood or retired age alike. It has been a difficult change for both children and parents alike, in almost every corner of the planet. Both parents and children have had to make difficult adjustments at the whim due to fast changing course of the pandemic. Which leads me into posing the question for my readers – is home schooling a privilege, choice or necessity moving forward?

What was John Dewey’s definition of school? He implied ‘education is the process of living and not meant to be the preparation of future living”, hence schooling must represent the present moment! That bodes well with nurturing, doesn’t it? Cultivating even! A gardener nourishes and cultivates his/her flowers from seeding all the way till they bloom and blossom ensuring they remain in that state forever. Isn’t that what ‘progressive education’ meant to be? A gardener doesn’t ‘teach’ the seeds how to grow into a beautiful flower but cultivates it grow into a beautiful one!

Modern education, even though under the guise of progressive label, has turned out to be a mundane ‘chore’ for both students and teachers alike. Am not ranting or generalizing education system as a whole or taking a dig at educators in any way. In fact its difficult for educators in this day and age to ‘cultivate’ students when they’re having to deal with bureaucracy from different level of governance and face wrath of parents from other end. I write out of experience as I see the difference while sustaining their education as they learn from home during lockdown(s) imposed due to current pandemic. Overall they’ve excelled academically, enjoying the subjects they dreaded in school even but I fear for the shift back to ‘normal’ once again when pandemic subsides and things crawl back to default. Change is constant after all!

Education is the process of living and not meant to be the preparation of future living

I come back to my query posed earlier – is home schooling a privilege, choice or necessity moving forward? For us as parents, both working from home and schooling kids online (not homeschooling per se) its a necessity at the moment. Not only us, majority of parents struggling and juggling all over the world am sure. Not a choice or privilege. I personally do foresee this necessity taking a turn into privilege as the satisfaction of ‘nurturing’ your own child is unexplainable.

Looking at Canadian statistics pertaining to homeschooling data over the past decade (from 2010 to 2019), it’s evident both national and provincial (Ontario) homeschooling ‘enrollments’ have trended upwards. Overall Canada homeschooling learners in elementary and secondary homeschooling type rose by almost 62% and Ontario numbers rose by almost 81%. These shifts portray upward trends before pandemic forced many students to learn online. There is a difference between online schooling and homeschooling nevertheless.

Following charts indicate homeschooling data represented nationally and provincially in last decade.

Homeschooling Trend in Canada (2010 – 2019)
(Data Courtesy: Statistics Canada)
Homeschooling Trend in Ontario (2010 – 2019)
(Data Courtesy: Statistics Canada)

Therefore, graphs clearly indicate homeschooling has been in favour with substantial growth even prior to pandemic took hold. Personally, as parents we are converging towards shifting from online schooling to homeschooling our kids as there are glimpses of academic improvements. There are cons, however, such as social impacts and group learning activities that encourage team building and dealing with other unique personalities, which go a long way in real world scenarios. I shall discuss risks and benefits of homeschooling in another blogpost detailing available resources and best practices for interested parents who may be dwelling on the prospects to aide a little in their decision making, hopefully!

In conclusion to this post, however, pandemic has necessitated many working parents to take on added responsibilities of teaching assistants while children school online. A paradigm shift in education system is in the offing perhaps as the pandemic pans out in the near as well distant future. An education reform is evidently shaping up as we all navigate through this pandemic. As a tutor and teacher to my own kids, I personally see an amalgamation of various education methods and models taking shape in the future such as; Experiential Education, Learning by doing, Learning by teaching, Positive education, Student-centered learning and/or Project Method in contrast to traditional methods currently being challenged by the pandemic. As John Dewey put it, education is a process of living, who can teach their progeny to live profoundly as best as own parents whether leading by example or instilling values entrusted to them ancestrally.

Signing off this post by wise and apt quote on this subject by Franklin Roosevelt

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” – F. Roosevelt

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