Who really gives a rat's ass about algebra? The only greater waste of time might be geometry, although driver's ed is a close second. Let's face it, math in any flavor was never anyone's favorite subject. Math was a painful and sorta necessary evil in the past. This isn't to say that it wasn't important to learn the structure and logic concepts that math explores, but today learning to code does the same job and seems a lot more current and relevant. Every ensuing decade and each advance in technology and miniaturization (from calculators to PCs to the cell phone) has made math seem increasingly less critical to our day-to-day lives. And don't even get me started on the New Math, whatever that was supposed to be -- apart from a clear and simple way for kids to embarrass and humiliate their folks in the name of innovation in education.
Now, like it or not, you and your spouse or partner are going to be dragged -- kicking and screaming -- to "school," just as you were a few months ago, and specifically into the messy world of home schooling. How extensively each of us is involved will differ, but no one is going to entirely escape the privilege of being actively sucked into your kids' education. To say that you, I, and pretty much everyone we know with K-to-12 kids or grandkids are just as grossly unprepared -- technically and psychologically -- for this additional burden as we were last March is an enormous understatement. Especially in the midst of a continuing pandemic lockdown, when you yourself have a few rather pressing matters of your own to attend to.
This isn't something you can delegate to your staff or team members, because they're fighting plenty of fires of their own. And whatever hybrid formula your school or district comes up with, there will be a sizable at-home component. The schools aren't bailing anyone out this year and they won't be doing much babysitting either. So, without really careful planning and preparation, nothing good is likely to come of the whole home-schooling adventure. You're highly unlikely (without a lot of luck and good help) to improve your "bonds" with your children, because you're far too impatient, unskilled, and unfamiliar with almost everything that the kids are supposed to be learning today -- not to mention the computer tools and systems they are using. In addition, having them underfoot 24/7 is already driving you crazy.
That's why you're more likely to end up hating the whole process (and maybe your kids just a little) than to hang on the little dears' every bon mot and enjoy the joy of shared learning. Let's just say there will be a lot of yelling and complaining and a fair amount of tears. Your kids will be unhappy, too. You will learn one thing for sure, though, and that's just how tough, trying, and emotionally taxing it is to be a teacher. Anyone who thinks teaching is easy hasn't been there and tried it.
They say that teaching is like a candle that loses nothing by lighting another candle. You pass along knowledge and wisdom and everyone gains through the process. Sounds downright lovely. But what do you do if you're convinced (probably for pretty good reasons) that you have little or nothing useful to share? This is not just about the New Math--it's a whole new world and long past the expiration dates of your qualifications and credentials. New jargon, politically correct everything, triggers right and left, and a million other ways to fall flat on your face while you're trying to help. The last thing you want to do is to look like a doofus in front of your kids. And you also don't want all those candles of illumination burning your house down.
The good news is that you can make it through this newest gauntlet, but you've got to be really smart about it. Not school smart -- street smart. Here's a hint: Go with what you know. If you want to beat Babe Ruth, don't play baseball. Change the game.
Don't try to be a better teacher than the teacher. Teach your kids some real-life lessons that, sadly, they're probably not gonna get in school these days, in good times or bad. Draw from your own experiences -- happy and unhappy -- because you're the "expert" in that department.
Teach them about the value of, and the satisfaction in, working your butt off. Passion, preparation, and perseverance. You've been there, so now tell them: If you don't put the work into something, you don't know the worth of it.
Teach them how to write a simple story. Not fancy, not florid, not philosophical -- just the facts in a clear, organized, and convincing composition. Teaching your kids to write right is a lifelong lesson that's far more important than anything else they'll learn in school this year. It's all about substance, not style.
Teach them to focus on doing a few important things well and to keep working to get better at those things each and every day. That's how winners are built. And tell them that it's still okay today to be a winner -- and to be proud of it.
Teach them to argue, first by listening carefully to the other guy's viewpoint, and then by organizing their thoughts and their supporting facts and information and putting it all into a compelling presentation. Then make them stand up (not slump behind the computer) and make their pitch to the whole family.
And finally tell them every day that no one in the world loves them more than you do.