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Homeschooling during pandemic

An estimated 55 million school children in the United States remained out of their classrooms the past few months because of the coronavirus. Parents already overwhelmed with the responsibility of homeschooling are faced with having to continue home studies this summer and possibly into the fall term.

Homeschooling expert Elizabeth Kanna says overwhelmed parents are seeking guidance on proper methods for homeschooling, so with two other veteran homeschoolers and educators she has put together a guide that provides advice, tips and a roadmap to help improve the at-home teaching and learning experiences for parents and their children.

While Kanna is a pioneer in homeschooling her own three daughters, her survival guide was written for parents who never wanted to homeschool, but who have had to thanks to school closings and stay-at-home restrictions. A best-selling author, Kanna wrote the first book for parents on virtual schooling, and another on distance learning.

“We’re in a pandemic, but some of the [homeschooling] ideas still apply,” Kanna said during an interview from her California home. In fact, she said, the pandemic is providing some opportunities for parents to get closer to their children, and learn what their interests are.

“This gives the children an opportunity to study something they are interested in, rather than what is on the lesson plan,” Kanna said. “They learn to take charge and become self-directed because no one is telling them what to do. A large majority of the time my daughters entertained themselves.”

When asked about the lack of peer socialization among children who must stay at home, Kanna said, “We would call that an ‘un-question. Children should learn their social skills from adults, not from other children.”

Kanna said she believes the most important measure of her experience in homeschooling is her daughters, whom she started homeschooling in 1993. Today, two are software engineers, and one is a biology major transferring to UC Davis this fall to study marine biology and coastal science.

As the girls were growing up, Kanna organized groups of other parents to help create fun activities for her daughters and other kids. She co-founded and later sold what was, at the time, the #1 homeschooling site on the Internet. Forbes named it one of the top Internet sites in 2000.

In this global pandemic she suggests creating online classes for children as ways to acquaint them with other adults.

“Tap into people in the neighborhood that you know who have interesting careers or talents, or knowledge of special subjects.”

Addressing other issues, Kanna said 15 percent of K-12 parents are concerned about learning loss.

“Who knows what is going to happen, so get them [the children] reading or listening to age-appropriate books. Create unit studies based on the children’s interests.”

Kanna used a bread-baking module she created as an example. In talking about bread, she said you can teach about math, history, culture, science and more.

This summer, Kanna suggested hiking as a way to learn about nature while enjoying time with the children, who she said don’t get enough play time.

“Their whole life is overscheduled. I always had unstructured time for my daughters. Preserve their childhood.”

As for the future, Kanna said we are in “unchartered waters.” Even without the pandemic, she said she doesn’t know what the schools are going to do.

“There are huge budget cuts--$18 million in California. This puts more responsibility on parents.”

In the meantime, Kanna said, take it one day at a time, make decisions based on reality, and focus on the family.

Regardless of how long homeschooling continues, Kanna said she helped provide the learning roadmap for today, tomorrow and for however long home-parents need to homeschool because “this is the most important thing we will ever do for our children.”

Contributed photoElizabeth Kanna is a pioneer in homeschooling. Her survival guide was written for parents who never wanted to homeschool, but who have had to thanks to school closings and stay-at-home restrictions.