More Homeschool/Alt-School Inspiration

Homeschooling, and other alternatives to sending kids to bricks-and-mortar schools, has been a hot topic in the pandemic. And I’ve made frequent reference to it on this blog. In the past few days I’ve stumbled on several tidbits that might be helpful to folks who are juggling their kids’ educational needs with their own need to earn a livelihood. Or who are simply looking for ways to enrich their kids’ education.

Struggling Under Lockdown, Schools Worldwide Relearn Value of Older Tech: TV. (Benjamin Miller and Mitra Taj, New York Times.) “Poor regions where internet access is scarce are turning to an older technology to reach students. That strategy could also help in wealthy countries that have focused on online classes.” I grew up in the 60s and 70s, and TV was part of our classroom learning. I always considered it a special treat. It’s good to see an old, widely available technology being “rediscovered.”

4 ways kids could be learning in the future (by Deena Bouknight, More Content Now; published in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Aug 20, 2020). Nice overview of options: pandemic pods (there are various kinds!); micro-schools using packages offered by a company called SchoolHouse — sounds very promising in terms of flexibility; free resources from Khan Academy and other providers; and “road-schooling” or “edu-vacation” as a supplement to virtual learning. (Personally I have a soft spot for road-schooling; it was a huge part of our curriculum as a military family who moved around a lot. My parents turned our cross-country moves by car, driving to the next duty station, into a thrilling, breathtakingly beautiful classroom with no roof and no boundaries.)

Open-air school getting fresh look in pandemic (by Svetlana Shkolnikova, Bergen County Record USA TODAY NETWORK; published in Daytona Beach News-Journal, Aug 20, 2020). Fascinating glimpse of history. Open-air schools offered learning environment to kids at risk for tuberculosis. Another “Back to the Future” development that seems like a great idea even if not for the Covid pandemic: “It may have been cold, but by the end of the school’s first year, none of the children had gotten sick, and each gained an average of 5 pounds, according to the book ‘Open Air Schools’, published in 1918 amid the Spanish Flu pandemic. Education moved onto rooftops, into open-windowed classrooms or fully outdoors on vacant lots and beaches in 168 American cities, according to a report published in 1916 by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Boston erected a tent classroom with canvas curtains on the roof of a park refectory, and New York City opened its first open-air school on an abandoned ferryboat…”

• Update! Just found another one. A Milwaukee teacher is creating an outdoor classroom. (By Alec Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel USA TODAY NETWORK; published in Daytona Beach News-Journal, Aug 20, 2020.) “Lindsey Earle, a fourth grade teacher at Prairie Hill Waldorf School in Pewaukee, said the idea came from the school’s early childhood program, which has outdoor time in the mornings. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Earle said, the school had looked to create more of an outdoor learning environment.” And yes, the students will be outdoors year-round. The open air tent-classroom has a fire pit and other measures to protect from extreme cold, but also most of the kids are used to being outdoors year-round. I love how it’s being seen not just as a Covid response, but also as a plus for emotional wellbeing and “letting kids be kids.”

Speaking of newspaper coverage, I’d like to put in a good word for my local paper, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, which does a good job carrying a mix of local articles and highly topical wire-service content. #SupportLocalPapers

And finally, a word to those of you who (like me) are not parents, students, or teachers: We all need to care about the educational system, and about kids’ access to education. It literally affects every aspect of society. (And it most definitely affects eco footprint in many ways, as I’ve mentioned in my book and elsewhere on this blog.) Any of us can serve as resources: We can tutor or mentor kids in our neighborhoods; we can have the attitude that “all kids are our kids”; we can offer emotional support to parents or teachers who are overwhelmed; we can offer our creative talents and free time.