The Helicopter Homeschooler
This year’s Kindergartners were forced to enter school during the worst conceivable time in recent history. In the state where we live — and more specifically, the county — parents were given the choice of whether they wanted their child to distance learn completely, or go the hybrid route where kiddos would physically be in the classroom two days a week, and learn virtually on the remaining three days. My husband and I chose the hybrid approach. And while far from ideal, this at least gave our son a semi-normal beginning to his early education.
I was able to take the obligatory “first day” photo. He got to ride the big yellow bus that he’d excitedly been talking about for the past year, clad in the orange vest that all Kindergartners are required to wear. He met his teacher and classmates in person, in a classroom setting. Masked, but in person.
Then our state’s COVID numbers started rising, and about a month ago, it was declared that all onsite schooling would cease for at least the remainder of the quarter. Possibly the year.
My son had a good three months of face-to-face learning, led by his amazing teacher, surrounded by his peers. Every Tuesday and Thursday, he boarded the big yellow bus, made it to his classroom, and completed his classroom tasks. At the end of the day, he was responsible enough to make it home with his Chromebook tucked safely in his backpack.
So why, when he went 100% virtual, do I feel the need to monitor his every move?
It started with his first Google Meeting from home. During these meetings, his teacher posts a prompt on the screen for the kids to respond to. Simple questions like, What is your favorite stuffed animal, and why?
I would take the first few minutes before the meeting started to ask my son the question, and then engage in conversation about it.
He would stare at me blankly, then respond with an answer that didn’t even remotely address the question.
Yeah, I like my stuffed animals.
Ok, good! But which one is your favorite?
Umm…will you buy me more stuffed animals? And I want more toys, too.
Ok, sure. But think about the stuffed animals that you already have. Which one is the one that you like the most?
After much dialogue, he finally chose a monkey that his aunt bought him during their trip to the zoo last year. But only because I told him to pick it, after breaking down and nearly losing my shit because he could not come up with an answer.
Oh my God, honey…this isn’t a difficult question! Just show your class that tie-dyed monkey with the Velcro hands, and tell them how you got it at the zoo.
Nevermind the fact that we recently bought him a Baby Yoda doll that he is completely obsessed with. He sleeps with him nightly, carries him everywhere, and cannot stop talking about “how little and cute he is". Yet asking him his favorite stuffed animal caused him to look at me like I was speaking in tongues.
I immediately moved his desk into my home office. I figured this would be a good way for me to keep him on task. I could also prompt him with answers to these seemingly easy questions posed at the beginning of every meeting.
It wasn’t long before I realized that the two of us being in the same room together during meetings might be causing more harm than good. Anytime I would silently reprimand him for wiggling around in his seat or getting up and walking out of the room would send him into a raging fit, witnessed by everybody through the eye of the laptop camera.
That’s when it’s occurred to me.
Why am I hovering over this child, prompting him with answers, and scolding him for acting out in class? He was doing all of this on his own, at least two days a week, up until a few weeks ago. His teacher can see him clearly... if he feels that he is being disruptive enough to call him out, I know that he will.
Yesterday, I moved my son’s desk, laptop, and school supplies back into the living room. I made it a point to stay in my office while he completed his morning Reading Class meeting. I resisted the urge to rush in when his teacher called on him to answer a question.
That’s when something miraculous happened.
He answered the question. He sounded out the word on the screen that his teacher asked him to sound out. He unmuted and muted himself with no problem. He wrote the words on his whiteboard and got major accolades for how his handwriting is improving.
And he did it all by himself.
Maybe I’m overprotective because he’s my youngest, my last baby. I have a daughter graduating high school in May, another daughter entering high school next year. And I was never like this with them. Then again, I wasn’t working from home while homeschooling during a mass pandemic when they were in Kindergarten. I’m sure that changes things just a bit.
So for any of you parents like myself, trying to hover too closely to your little ones who are just now acclimating to Distance Learning…they just might have this locked down better than you think.