AUGUST! Back-to-school time for most of the nation’s school children.
Even in the Before Times, “back-to-school” did not mean the same quality of education for every child.
In the uncertain Fall of 2020, school will differ more than ever for the nation’s children.
The most publicized options
Some children will go back to in-person instruction, public or private.
Others will attend school on line, completing assignments for a variety of subjects.
Some will follow a certified homeschooling curriculum or participate in a neighborhood learning pod.
What about households unable to choose any of these options?
Obstacles to distance learning
Here are a few obstacles to distance learning I’ve seen described by parents in opinion pieces:
One computer for the entire household.
Children unable or unwilling to complete digital assignments without constant supervision.
Parents uncomfortable with technology.
Too many assignments.
Conflicting instructions/expectations from multiple teachers.
Parents insecure about their ability to teach.
Parents whose work limits the amount of time they have to help their children.
Is there anything parents can do to keep their children learning at home in less than ideal circumstances?
Perhaps there is.
One skill to rule them all
The most essential academic skill children can acquire is the ability to read to the level of their intellectual understanding.
Even as we mourn the disruption in regular school attendance, it is well to remember this: mere school attendance does not ensure that a child will become educated.
Long before the pandemic struck, an astounding number of American students completed twelve years of school without learning to read to the level of their intellectual ability.
Some children may actually benefit from a few months of at-home reading instruction and practice. Parents with limited time for one-on-one interaction with their children can still do much to equip them to continue to learn, no matter how formal education may be disrupted in the months to come.
In ten- to fifteen-minute sessions, parents can assess their children’s reading ability and help them progress. They can guide them to reading material that builds vocabulary and general knowledge. They can set aside an appointed time each day to turn off the TV and other devices for a few minutes or an hour for family reading.
The child who can read fluently and has access to good books need never be bored.
Children unable to read easily approach every subject at a disadvantage. They lack the means to develop an inner life by exploring the riches of literature.
A fluent reader holds the power of life-long continuing education and life-long solace during difficult times.
If harried parents can do nothing else for their children’s education during these distressing times, they can help them master the one academic skill that is the foundation on which formal education is built.