I have been an advocate for parent empowerment, particularly when it comes to the education of children, for nearly 30 years. In that time frame, I’ve met so many wonderful moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles and older siblings who want a brighter future for the children in their lives — and who recognize that education is the path to it. Often these are adults who feel powerless to fight for something better for their children and I take great joy in helping them tap into their voices and resources to enable change.
Watching the events of COVID-19 unfold, however, has given me a new perspective on parent empowerment as it relates to education. Instead of interacting with parents who are at their wit’s end due to their limited schooling options, the entire world is now full of parents who have never seen the limitations of their children’s schooling quite so clearly.
Even with emergency “learn from home” plans, most parents were handed more responsibility for the education of their children than had ever taken place in the past. Educators have continued to provide tremendous support, even remotely, but the experience has still been eye-opening for parents. But in discomfort, there is growth.
For some, it is the first time they’ve been tasked with literally pulling up a chair next to their kids and watching them, guiding them and helping them through their coursework. With forced remote learning, parents have been tasked with taking on that sometimes-intimidating instruction. They see firsthand what is working and what is not. They see that one-size-fits-all approaches do not work. They understand, more clearly than ever, the pressures facing both students and educators.
As a daughter of two public school teachers, and the identical twin sister of a retired special education teacher, I have the utmost respect for teachers and believe they play an incredible role in the lives of our young people. The sudden and prolonged school closures have certainly opened the eyes of parents to all of the responsibilities teachers face and the hard work that goes into lesson planning, instructional time and even “down” time to let kids be kids. I hope that this has shown parents the true positive effect teachers have in the lives of our youth — and that this encourages parents to want to support and work alongside their children’s teachers. For those who have decided to homeschool — for the short- or long-term — I know that the responsibility of serving as both parent and educator is not one they take lightly.
And despite the added stress that goes along with parents having to pull up that chair alongside their kids and be frontline participants in their education, I believe this has been a blessing. Since they have been forced to be so hands-on, parents are empowered — with knowledge, with new skills and with their voices.
My hope is that as children transition back to more direct instruction from teachers, their parents, relatives, grandparents and other caregivers will stick around and stay invested in the learning process.