Last week, our school district announced that in-person school, which was scheduled to start after Labor Day (already rescheduled from the original start date of August 17), would not be starting until mid-October. Maybe. (Probably not.)
Together with the parents of the other 50.8 million kids who attend public school in the U.S., I am still reeling in disbelief from the realization that our public education system is essentially gone, leaving the task of ensuring that my kids get a basic elementary education to me.
I mean yes, their teachers are working hard to prepare a distance-learning curriculum for them -- which I imagine is no small feat -- but according to my kids' principal, that will occupy 4 hours a day, 4 days a week, at MOST. Meanwhile, my co-parent and I both work full-time (and then some). Doing the math, that means of the 40 hours a week when we’re expected to be reliably available for work (not to mention the other 10-20 hours a week that we both squeeze in on evenings and weekends), our kids will be engaged in school-sponsored educational activities for approximately 16 of those hours. That’s less than 50% of the work week.
Now, I am the first to agree that public schools are not babysitters, and that their main function is not to provide child care so that parents can work (even though pretty much our entire society is built around the expectation that they will -- thanks, Betty Friedan). But as a parent of two precocious elementary-aged kids, I think it’s undeniable that 16 hours per week of education is not enough to keep them engaged or stimulated. Which means that, babysitting and child care aside, it has become my job to see to the other 50% of my kids’ education for the foreseeable future.
What I need -- what we all need -- is high-quality educational content (so my kids can stay stimulated and continue to progress academically) that my kids can engage with more or less independently (so that I can keep running my company, and so that my co-parent can keep from getting fired from his job).
A quick look at the "pandemic pod" Facebook groups shows that hiring a professional educator to provide this would cost upward of $100/hour or $16,000/month. So that's obviously not going to happen.
Lucky for us, we live in an age of ed-tech, with zillions of products already on the market and new ones coming out every day. Which is a blessing but also a curse. Do we have time to scour the internet for high-quality educational games that fit our kids’ ages and educational needs (and also fit our already-tapped budgets)?
No, we do not.
At Nanno, our goal in life is to spot ways that parents’ lives can be made easier through technology -- and then build stuff to help. Which is why today, we’re launching the Ultimate Guide for the Accidental Homeschooler.
Our goal is to put together a digestible compendium of stuff we need, as parents, to make sure our kids get a decent education this year. We’re in love with the idea of tech-enabled gameschooling, so we’re starting with the best educational games we’ve found, that both keep kids engaged and also encourage them to “level up” on learning. In the next few days and weeks, we’ll be adding more categories and content, including resources for parents (and pandemic pods) who want to take a more hands-on approach to lesson planning and live education, resources for buying Montessori materials and math manipulatives for use at home, and even ways you can find free internet access and even computers if you need them.
Here is a list of what we have in the works:
- Online Learning Tools
- Resources for Finding or Building a Pod or Microschool
- How to Get Free Internet and/or Computers
- Montessori Learning Tools
- Online Teaching Tools for Guided Learning
- Complete Online Curriculums for Elementary and Middle School Kids (coming soon)
- Physical Learning Tools (coming soon)
- Educational Podcasts for Kids (coming soon)
- Parents’ Guides for Using Common Remote Learning Programs (like Seesaw and Google Classroom) (coming soon)
- Tools for Managing Your Kids’ Homeschooling Schedule (coming soon)
- Tools for Finding Tutors When Your Kids Need Extra In-Person Help (coming soon)
Our goal is not to pick the best or even do detailed reviews in any of these categories. We’ll just provide a basic overview of what each product does, what age groups it’s good for, how much it costs, and basically how it works. (You’d be surprised how hard it can be to find this info. Many apps and websites make you sign up for the free trial before you can see anything about the product or even know how much it will eventually cost. We’ll do the signing up so that you don’t have to.)
Meanwhile, if you have a product that you love -- or a category that you need help researching -- chances are other people will feel the same, so please, let us know! We’d love to add your ideas to the list, and keep it growing.
I won’t lie. Homeschooling is one of those fanciful ideas that I loved before I had kids but that didn’t survive first contact with reality. Being my kids’ part-time learning coach is not a role I sought out, and I have no idea how I’m going to make it all work. But I guess I’m an optimist at heart. Because I have a sneaking suspicion that this whole homeschooling thing is going to turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to my family.
(At least I hope so. For all of our sakes.)