Last year was an unprecedented year, with most school children learning at home for most of the year, and a good many of them not learning. Parents were trying to help their kids connect and learn while simultaneously working from home at their own jobs. By the Spring, teachers were doing the monumental task of simultaneously teaching in person and online.
This year, we have talked to many parents who worry that their children fell behind last year and will have difficulty catching up. Meanwhile, children have been in class all year, and for most, wearing masks is second nature. The vast majority are attending to school and learning. However, parents are still wondering, what did their kids miss last year, and are things heading towards normal for them?
A few years ago, I read a book called Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover. She described growing up in a family that was “homeschooling” her but actually wasn’t. She learned hardly anything until she attended college at the University of Utah. She wasn’t at all prepared for college but used various resources at her disposal and did catch up. At college, she had many obstacles and setbacks, but she worked hard and succeeded. She had a goal and pursued it.
At Tutoring For Success, we work with teens who recently immigrated to the U.S. Many of them are still learning English and did not receive adequate schooling from their home countries. They have many obstacles, however, most of our students have tremendous support from their social workers, teachers, and tutors. They have mentors who guide them towards careers that interest them and help them pursue their life goals. Many of these students succeed against all odds and gain rewarding careers and family life in the U.S.
Focus on Learning
Many of our children have lived relatively easy lives, with the exception of the setback last year. They can certainly catch up on anything they missed. Rather than focus on grades, we need to focus on learning. We need to focus on why it is important to read fluently. I have written many articles on how being a good reader teaches empathy, improves knowledge, and improves writing skills. Almost anyone can learn to get joy from reading with the right guidance. We need to focus on how writing down your thoughts effectively gives you power to share your opinion. We need to focus on following current events and politics and having an informed opinion. We need to explore with our children how to get accurate information about the news. We need to help our children want to learn about history because both in our individual and public lives, we learn from past mistakes and accomplishments. We need to make sure our children learn science to make sense of the world.
If we focus on our children becoming educated in order to become knowledgeable and good citizens, and to prepare for college and a career that will contribute to society, bring joy, and enable them to be self-supporting, most will work hard to achieve their goals and enjoy learning. Having collectively been through the various levels of Covid-19 and its variants, we as a society need to focus on the big picture. In Washington, DC and its suburbs, we are lucky to have excellent schools and teachers. It is our job as parents to support our children, discuss what they are learning, and add to their learning with field trips, documentaries, and other learning tools.
What is Important?
So what did we learn in the Covid era? To me, it is to focus on what is important and not worry about minor annoyances that undoubtedly come up in school. Missing part of one year of school is just a glitch. Our children will catch up and gain perspective. They have learned how to deal with unexpected challenges and be resilient, one of the most important predictors of success in life.