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Home-schooling has taught me more than it's taught my son

I remember looking over the very detailed e-learning plan from my son’s first-grade teacher that dropped into my inbox on March 15.

A few days earlier, officials in Hamilton County, a suburb of Indianapolis, announced that schools would be closed after two people in a nearby district tested positive for the coronavirus.

My son had come home with a bag full of books. And starting at 8:30 a.m., there was a full day’s worth of activities we had to complete. There were writing assignments; science, technology, engineering and math activities; and additional work in mathematics. On top of all of that, I had to make sure that he got daily physical activity, while simultaneously keeping him away from the things in the outside world that could expose him to the coronavirus pandemic that prompted this new foray into home-schooling.

A month ago, if you were to ask me whether I’d ever home-school my kids, the answer would have been: absolutely not. Fast-forward to now, nearly two weeks into this home-schooling experiment and the answer remains the same.

More than learning about my son, this time has taught me about myself (I’m not the most patient person) and about how much I might have undervalued our suburban Indianapolis school system.   

Gabrielle Flowers Rader with husband Chad Rader, son Chad Jr. and daughter Reagan.

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The first few days of home-schooling were downright rough. I wasn’t prepared for the constant stream of questions from my 7-year-old son. I mistakenly thought that I’d be able to sit him down with a worksheet, set a timer for 30 minutes and he’d be good to go.

When things didn’t turn out to be that easy, I began to question whether I was qualified enough to teach first-grade anything. I had to Google the Mexican flag to check my son’s work and ask Alexa for help making a snowflake. At times, I felt ridiculous.

I know this is probably going to sound horrible, but it was in those moments that I realized the responsibility I hadn’t fully embraced in my son’s academic education. Sure, I teach my children things all the time: how to be respectful; the importance of cleaning up after themselves. We’ve started paying our son for doing chores. He gladly worked hard to earn a few dollars the first week, then decided he didn’t need the money. Perhaps he learned a lesson about finance and hard work. But is it enough?

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