Questions to Reignite Curiosity

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

When will the public schools open? No matter the political bent of the source, papers across the United States run headlines asking the question on every working parent’s mind: how much longer until their kid gets back to learning in the classroom? A survey respondent candidly observed that virtual students are in the mall and Walmart—why not school?

As a homeschooling parent, I was grateful to be uniquely positioned to weather the educational storm when everything shut down for corona. My children’s learning goals went uninterrupted and they had the blessing of public-schooled neighbor kids to play with on nice afternoons.

Interestingly, at the same time public education systems dropped standardized testing and college applicants no longer need sit for the SATs or ACTs, I am required to submit proof of progress for my children’s education. How curious. In a season that homeschooled children—who far and wide out-perform publicly educated students on standardized tests—never missed a beat, I need to prove what they have learned while at the same time the government run, taxpayer funded institutions will never be held accountable for the abysmal results of virtual learning?

Unsurprisingly, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) responsible for collecting information about enrollment and education-related data is about a year and a half behind in publishing pertinent information. Shall we guess at what we’ll see in the numbers? A conservative estimate was about a ten percent increase in home education enrollment in 2020—who’s willing to agree that number is staggeringly low compared to the reality? Parents who could afford to move their children to private school did; parents who could cobble together a homeschool arrangement did.

But maybe we’re missing the blessing of this virtual learning disaster by focusing attention on when schools will reopen. Maybe the real story is that millions of children escaped the systematically rigid environment of the school cell walls, were free of institutional conditioning and managed to gain a sense of self and family.

The real tragedy of virtual learning has not been the six months of material lost (again, an overly generous estimate), but that it took the pandemic to reunite families in concentrated amounts of time. People often say, “what about socialization?” when discussing homeschoolers—to which I reply, “The family is the first unit of socialization.” My children can converse as easily with other kids as they can adults—with kindness and respect. In an era rife with mass shootings and school violence tracked in the NCES data, explain to me whose children need socialization? Mine or the kids left to institutional, once size fits all learning?

In the space of the corona virus pause, something miraculous took place. People started paying attention to the world around them. Reasonable questions have been asked of people in positions to know the answers, and yet these questions are dodged and left hanging. Keep asking questions. Keep seeking answers. Rest in the knowledge that you are more wise than you think you are, more capable than you were led to believe, and more resilient than you could have expected. Build yourself and your family in the asking of hard questions, guided by your innate curiosity and the joy of uncovering hard earned knowledge.

Maybe the question is not when will schools reopen but how can education proceed without them?  Working to answer this question allows Americans to explore the originality that is fundamentally our heritage.

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