A Homeschool Year
by Charles Weld and Ruth Ann Bradley
Poplar Ridge Meeting
One of our realities during the COVID pandemic was home-schooling an 8 year old, third grade grandchild. His mother left for work a little after 7 a.m., so we’d be at their home before then, one of us starting the oatmeal downstairs in the kitchen, the other upstairs in the bedroom, supporting dressing, bed-making and room straightening, and, after breakfast, teeth cleaning and hair brushing. The school day began at about 8:15 a.m. with a morning meeting at the breakfast table, and, after that, we covered all of the subjects from his curriculum—reading, spelling, writing, mathematics, geography, history, art, music and science—interspersing naps or body wake up periods, when requested or when academic energies seemed to be fading, and adding field trips and extra-curriculars such as shoe-tying, keyboarding, sewing, and thank-you note writing, as needs presented.
One of our helpful insights during the year was a recognition of what we ask of young people, when it comes to learning. Many of us, as adults, find a specialized area in which we develop skill and knowledge, and we often stick to these areas for years, sometimes decades, comforted by the familiar. On the other hand, we ask children to push up against their limits of skill and knowledge in multiple areas every day, and we ask them, in most educational settings, to experience these challenges publicly, in front of teachers and peers. Demonstrating ignorance in front of others is an uncomfortable activity for most of us, adult or youth. So, for us, developing empathy for the learner, or in John Woolman’s words a feeling sense of the condition of others, was a positive result of our covid teaching experience.
The eight-year-old is now nine, delighted to be back in school, in a fourth-grade classroom with his friends and peers. We are 68 and 70, delighted not to be setting the alarm for 5:30 a.m. each night before bed.