After careful consideration and prayer, my wife and I decided against homeschooling our three daughters when they reached school age, mainly because we recognize our pedagogical limitations — and we value our mental health.
How ironic, then, that in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have joined scores of other American parents violently thrust into the math-eat-dad world of homeschooling! And we stand about as much chance of survival as the last four-pack of Ultra Soft Charmin on a Sunday afternoon at Walmart.
Because my wife is considered an “essential worker,” I’ve taken on the role of the nerdy homeschool vice principal nobody takes seriously. Fortunately, my two older daughters are fairly independent in their schoolwork and only require my assistance when they need to place an Amazon Prime order for important educational supplies like pink hair dye or designer AirPod cases.
My youngest daughter, on the other hand, has the academic enthusiasm of a heavily salted slug. The problem isn’t that she lacks intelligence, creativity and extreme cuteness. It’s just that she’d rather suffer a third-degree sunburn from the glare off her iPad screen than reduce fractions. Getting her out of bed in the morning is like getting Ragú stains out of Tupperware.
Through trial and comedy of errors, I’ve discovered a few strategies to make the homeschooling process no more painful than picking your nose with a hot glue gun.
First, as qualified educators are utilizing video conferencing tools like Zoom and GoTo-Meeting to communicate with their homebound students, it’s important for parents to assist their children by stifling curse words while frantically clicking various links and buttons on the computer in a futile effort to get their children in the correct video class on time. Because the camera on the laptop will unexpectedly activate during the random button-clicking process, it’s also critical that the belt on the supportive parent’s bathrobe is tightly secured at all times. (What’s the fine for indecent exposure these days, by the way? Asking for a friend.)
Next, amid the grueling schedule of classes, it’s important to take breaks and re-energize with refreshments. My youngest daughter’s preferred activity during these pauses is dragging out her Easy-Bake Oven for old times’ sake and making the kitchen look like she’s been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the Green Bay Packers. I try to stay out of her way during this activity, only interrupting occasionally to demonstrate proper utensil-licking techniques. I then have her practice with fractions and proportions, dividing the finished pastries between the two of us according to body weight.
I must admit that there have been some meltdowns and tears in this homeschooling process — but my daughter can usually calm me down after a few hours. And despite the academic frustrations and bellyaches from too many miniature whoopee pies, it has been an opportunity for me to spend some precious time with my children.
More than anything, this experience has increased my appreciation for the incredibly important and difficult work of our public, private and homeschooling educators.
So the next time you see a teacher, offer your heartfelt thanks with a four-pack of Ultra Soft Charmin.
Jase Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas.