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The dual dilemma for students and adults – will working from home really work?

Uploaded: Jul 7, 2020
The big conundrum facing us this summer and well into the autumn months is: a) should our kids go to school and risk exposure to the corona virus or can they be taught from home and b) should adults go to work or should employers ask their people to work from home and teleconference?

We can thank COVID-19 for these ever-explosive challenges in our lives. And here in the U.S. we seem to be facing greater outbreaks of the virus so our problems are more perplexing than those facing European and Asian residents.

Many are touting work at home as the new future.

I don’t think so.

Work issues

Sure it’s easier to work from home in some ways. The home environment is quieter, Zoom can handle staff meetings, and a good laptop, a smart phone, a zoom shirt and wi-fi can get most people through a day. One other advantage – no commutes and less traffic on the highways.

But what about our need to work with others, to offer and challenge ideas of staff members, to get new inspiration from colleagues, to brainstorm over a water cooler? Zoom is just not capable of the human interchange most of us need.

I’ve worked both from home and offices. For me, offices are great. Perhaps because while raising my children I always felt I was responsible for keeping up my home. That feeling never leaves a woman.

So as I’m writing this column, I just put in a load of wash I meant to do yesterday, I got the meat out of the freezer for dinner, ran to the store for some fresh vegetables, and paid those bills that are due in two days. Yes, this typically happens when I work from home.

My phone rings -- mostly Robo calls. Those now-clean wet clothes need to get into the dryer; I forgot to water the houseplants over the weekend so better do it today.

My full-time working friends who now function from home say they are being asked to do more and more work, because their boss doesn’t see how much time they really are working. One starts at 8 a.m. and quits past 7 pm. She eats a quick lunch with her computer in front of her. She’s is working weekends just to keep up with her assignments.

When I was at work in my office, I had nothing to do but work. No dishes to put in the dishwasher. And no office to clean!

That was almost the best part. The cleaning crews came at night and I didn’t have to use my vacuum cleaner! Someone else washed windows and emptied wastebaskets. Things were better defined – work was at work, and home was for home things.

And then there’s the need for human contact. It’s hard to find at home, particularly if one’s spouse commutes to work. And if he’s at home, there are different problems, the least of which is getting a second phone in the house.

Learning issues

From all evidence I’ve read, kids don’t learn at home as well as they do in a classroom, and they absorb less using Zoom than being in a class environment with other students. Period. So the logical conclusion is children should be back in the classroom as soon as possible.

My grandsons are in college and they can’t wait to get back into the classroom. “Using Zoom for five or six courses every day becomes a boring and repetitious learning experience,” one of them said. I sure agree – even the meetings I attend on Zoom get tedious at times.

School boards and colleges all over the country are struggling with this problem, acknowledging classroom learning is critical but fearing that exposure to the ever-escalating corona virus is a huge problem for the parents and schools. No one wants their child to get this disease, with all it unknown crippling aftereffects.

The Palo Alto School District board doesn’t seem to have solved this dilemma either. It announced that elementary school students would be at school for half a week while middle and high school students will learn from home. The younger kids will rotate with half going Monday, Tuesday and part of Wednesday and the other half Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and Friday. The older ones will Zoom all day.

But I hope there are other ways to think outside the box. Consider all those school buildings that aren’t being put to full use, like our two big high schools, Gunn and Paly, which will remain empty all fall. Can’t some of this school space be used to provide social distancing for smaller classes or for those in middle school? And elementary schools that provide only half-day classes may want to work together and bus kids to emptier classrooms in other elementary schools.

So before we all leap into this new future of at-home schooling and at-home adults relying on telecommunications for their work, let’s really look at what we want to accomplish – and what we need as people.

For me, it’s human contact and personal productivity. The same for our students today.

Can we achieve that? How?







We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

Comments

 +   6 people like this
Posted by Adrian Petrovsky, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jul 7, 2020 at 1:58 pm

Most children and adolescents need some form of in-person structure & supervision when it comes to their schooling.

College-aged students and adult workers should be able to
carry out their responsibilities with minimal supervision but there will always be slackers.

Telecommuting and work at home scenarios are not viable for many types of occupations (i.e. merchants, tradesmen, food service, postal/delivery services etc.).

It really depends on the type of job one one has and the age/maturity level of the student.





 +   4 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 7, 2020 at 1:59 pm

A couple of points not raised in your working from home.

Internet and Security. Firstly a home wifi and internet may not be as secure as the office system. Anyone who is doing financial or designing the latest Apple, etc. products, have dangers of being hacked or having a guest to the home having access to the work. I am sure there are other concerns along similar lines. Also, home internet providers are slower and more prone to outages.

Work space/air conditioning. In a family home, there may be very little space to set up a work station. Some may have made space in a garage or garden shed, not the best places to work on very hot days. Some may have a guest bedroom, but some may have to share the kitchen table with others trying to work.

Noise and other distractions. Apart from noisy people in the house, distractions from family members, the kitchen being used to prepare and cook food, and the lure of the refrigerator and snacks. Some may work sitting on a bed, a double distraction as during the day sleep may distract from work, and during the night work may distract from sleep.

Work space. A chair designed for dining, is not the same as a chair designed for work. Lighting, screen space, desk space, can all make the work space much more difficult to use.

Commute. Yes, not having a commute sounds idea. But there is an argument for the actual time being used to refocus and transition from home to work, and from work to home, as being a very necessary aid to productivity at work, and relaxation at home.

For all those who like to work at home, there are many more who are anxious to return to the office.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Adrian Petrovsky, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jul 7, 2020 at 2:55 pm

> For all those who like to work at home, there are many more who are anxious to return to the office.

^^^ Several of my colleagues enjoy working at home in their pajamas and/or bathrobes.

One employee is rumored to be working in the nude.

These fashion statements would not be acceptable in a conventional workplace and as a result, there are some workers who now prefer working at home.

Children should probably remain clothed even if they are being instructed online.


 +   18 people like this
Posted by Silver Linings, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 7, 2020 at 5:40 pm

Hi Diana,
I'd like to suggest that people stop looking at the coming semester or year like it's forever, and start thinking creatively about what school and/or work would look like this year if everyone suddenly CHOSE to stay at home.

You wrote "From all evidence I've read, kids don't learn at home as well as they do in a classroom." This is true, if people are trying to reproduce the classroom at home.

But we both schooled and homeschooled in Palo Alto, and I can tell you that the vast majority of kids who homeschool by choice learn a LOT more than they did in school. Most homeschool kids describe being able to learn what they did in school within the first hour or two of the day. Most discover that learning the way they did in school is slow and ineffective. Most learn to be independent in a way that kids in school don't. (It takes about 220 credits to graduate from Gunn, my students graduated high school with almost 500 credits, including college classes, APs, mostly honors work, major multi-year projects school would never allow for more advanced than most college students as one recommender said, etc., and with way more spare time and time to pursue passions, see friends, and even work than in school. And got to learn important life lessons like self care, e.g., just getting up and getting dressed every day with no bell to chase, cooking, doing chores, etc. Plus family relationships were WAY better, also something that homeschoolers frequently describe. I think my child would have been better off being able to attend some classes at Gunn while still having the independence and flexibility, but the school district told us they couldn't let us do that because everyone else would want to.)

Don't make the mistake of assuming homeschooled kids do all their learning at home, if anything they have more time and flexibility to be out in the world and having real-world learning experiences. Marie Curie homeschooled her daughters (including the one who won a Nobel Prize) and did all "classes" before noon and sent them into Paris to visit museums, etc, in the afternoons. The loss of such opportunities from the pandemic, if anything, hurt homeschoolers even more.

That said, we could learn a lot from homeschoolers to make this year even better than it would have been if there had been no pandemic. It starts with each family assessing what they need and want, under the constraints of the pandemic.

Do the children need more time to sit and just read? Are they too dependent on external direction and could stand to learn to be independent? Has school been so intense that families feel like strangers under one roof and want to become closer? Is a kid stressed by school and performing poorly yet clearly very smart? Does a child have a learning disability that hasn't been well supported in school? Is the child very creative and lacks time, flexibility and support to pursue projects? If the child is left alone, is it more likely that they will be "bored" and do nothing but video games, or go do something they and you consider more real world and redeeming? Does the child need more advanced work yet struggle doing school homework?

We get so caught up in the idea that kids will be "behind" if they don't climb the same ladders in the same way at any given time. But I can tell you from personal experience and watching lots of other people do the same, that getting off the track and paying attention to addressing a need at any given time not only doesn't leave kids behind, it allows them to excel. Here are three videos to get you thinking about how the educational model plays a role in all of this, so that you understand that the educational model doesn't have to be the thing we keep constant:

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

It makes no sense, if distance learning is happening, for every teacher to try to recreate their classroom online. It's far better if teachers can become mentors/coaches for both children and parents, in order to identify what would make each child's journey the next year optimal. The teachers would have to have some understanding of independent education and what works.

Homeschoolers have a rule of thumb, when people homeschool, they recommend a period of "deschooling" first -- that is, a month for every year the child has been in traditional school, they aren't required to do anything. This doesn't mean kids sit and play video games or that learning stops, it just means that everyone spends that amount of time focused on learning and doing, and trying to let go of the idea that someone is looking over their shoulder making sure they're running the treadmill. It's actually quite difficult to optimize homeschool if you don't do this. I can only describe it on the other side, like having been let out of a cage and needing to adjust to the freedom in order to be confident in that freedom.

I can also say that most kids in this district are motivated to learn and do well, and those who aren't, could be with a different set of supports and circumstances. This "hiatus" is a chance to find out what would best support every student if they were going to take 6-9 months off on purpose. What do they need? Would their spelling and other English problems evaporate if they just had a supply of good books and permission to do nothing but read for a few months? Would another group of kids be just fine socially if they could spend most of the day creating that animated movie, remotely, that they've always wanted to work on, with a minimum of math sprinkled in? What about a student who wants to spend their days in the kitchen, learning to cook?

When students are allowed to follow a passion, when they're given more flexibility in HOW they learn the required foundations of knowledge, it can be life changing. If we put the energy into individualizing an independent education for as many students that want it this year, it would be easier to help the subset of kids who just want a traditional treadmill education (but even there, homeschool can be all next level).

It's not forever. The way teachers interact changes a lot, and the duties of each teacher can change to what they do best. They're as needed as ever, but they, too, can find meaning and next-level education if we decide to proceed as if this were everyone's choice.

But it can only happen if we give up on the idea that the "widget" model is immutable (watch the three videos above, two from Sir Ken Robinson and one from Sal Khan, to introduce some of the concepts). Have you seen the movie Most Likely to Succeed, which was shown at Gunn to an overflow crowd during the suicide epidemic? It fell on deaf ears in the district administration but was a major reason we opted for independent education. It doesn't require any permission from the state to offer independent education to our students on a broader basis.




 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Kaleb01, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jul 8, 2020 at 5:31 am

Whether we like it or not, the future of work and school is going to shift to remote. Many universities have already announced that they will be conducting their fall semester online but still charging full tuition. Same thing with employers, they will shift a lot of their jobs to remote positions.

The issue as I see it is that universities are still charging the same tuition fees. How are students getting same value for their money with remote classes. The only reprieve right now is the postponed student loan payments thanks to CARES ACT relief program. (Web Link)


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Non homeschooling parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jul 8, 2020 at 7:20 am

Non homeschooling parent is a registered user.

Dear Silver Lining,
While I in general agree there are other models for teaching children that really merit further discussion I would like to make a very serious point.
People who homeschool made a choice to do it. They researched it, figured it out, made major adjustments (such as one parent leaving their outside of the home career), etc.
What happened in the spring is parents who never made a choice, never made a decision to make the switch had to step up and become homeschoolers. In many cases, while also working full time.
I made a choice for my child NOT to homeschool him before he started kindergarten. I did my research and for our family, for our child, homeschooling was not a good model. My child needs the social and emotional aspect of being in school; neither my spouse nor I felt that we would be good teachers. We also have careers we both love and feel that modeling being happy in ones career is also important. We were always very actively involved in our child's school. We also did not school as a babysitting service. No, it was where our child was getting a part of his education. Other parts we were providing outside of schools - museums, art, in depth history etc.
Now, fast forward to April. A remote schooling thing. Amount of technical support we had to provide for our kid was huge. Some websites he was using didn't work on chrome; others refused to work on safari. He was not happy of course, someone - mostly me - had to sit next to him and help with some independent work he was supposed to be doing. Kids were bored and distracting. Then we had to figure out ways to get some physical excercise for him. All the outside schooling went out the window since there was no time or energy left in either one of the parents by the end of the day. Oh, and while my husband was able to go to the designated home office and close the door and actually with, I couldn't since you know, tech support and all. So I ended up working at night instead of sleeping . Sleep deprivation is tough. Causes all sorts of issues.
I am representing a huge portion of parents. Homeschooling is something we chose not to do for many different reasons. It's not the answer.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Non homeschooling parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jul 8, 2020 at 7:20 am

Non homeschooling parent is a registered user.

Dear Silver Lining,
While I in general agree there are other models for teaching children that really merit further discussion I would like to make a very serious point.
People who homeschool made a choice to do it. They researched it, figured it out, made major adjustments (such as one parent leaving their outside of the home career), etc.
What happened in the spring is parents who never made a choice, never made a decision to make the switch had to step up and become homeschoolers. In many cases, while also working full time.
I made a choice for my child NOT to homeschool him before he started kindergarten. I did my research and for our family, for our child, homeschooling was not a good model. My child needs the social and emotional aspect of being in school; neither my spouse nor I felt that we would be good teachers. We also have careers we both love and feel that modeling being happy in ones career is also important. We were always very actively involved in our child's school. We also did not school as a babysitting service. No, it was where our child was getting a part of his education. Other parts we were providing outside of schools - museums, art, in depth history etc.
Now, fast forward to April. A remote schooling thing. Amount of technical support we had to provide for our kid was huge. Some websites he was using didn't work on chrome; others refused to work on safari. He was not happy of course, someone - mostly me - had to sit next to him and help with some independent work he was supposed to be doing. Kids were bored and distracting. Then we had to figure out ways to get some physical excercise for him. All the outside schooling went out the window since there was no time or energy left in either one of the parents by the end of the day. Oh, and while my husband was able to go to the designated home office and close the door and actually with, I couldn't since you know, tech support and all. So I ended up working at night instead of sleeping . Sleep deprivation is tough. Causes all sorts of issues.
I am representing a huge portion of parents. Homeschooling is something we chose not to do for many different reasons. It's not the answer.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Dan, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 8, 2020 at 9:20 am

>The home environment is quieter

No, it isn't, unless you live alone or in a very large house with room for dedicated home offices for everyone. Try fitting 3 people into a 3 bedroom house with all "working from home", streaming videos , meetings, etc. My "home office" is the 1/2 bathroom as its the quietest room in the house

>Zoom can handle staff meetings

really? how many times has your audio or someone's audio disconnected ... can you hear me now? Can you see my screen / cursor? Is the video choppy for others, or is it just my internet connection?

WFH is a disaster ... can't wait till it ends. Only productive hours I have are between 10pm - 1 am.

distance learning for students ???? call it what it is ... non-learning. Do our kids really need more screen time ?


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Dan, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 8, 2020 at 10:14 am

I can't even imagine how bad working from "home" + "distance-learning" would be if crammed into an apartment like we used to be years ago. The only "silver lining" I have found is that I now appreciate weekends in a way that I was never able to understand before (back when work wasn't such a hassle and there was some degree of separation between work and home.)


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 8, 2020 at 11:04 am

Zoom meetings. I have been watching the channel 2 weatherman work from home. The room he uses is where his cat has dominion and the cat takes to his lap many times when he is presenting the weather. On Sunday when there were still plenty of fireworks in his neighborhood, his dog was shaking and whining beside him, scared silly of the noise. I can't remember what he was saying about the weather, but his pets are a distraction if not for him, but for the viewers of his remote weather forecast. It might be cute to see him with his pets, but he is being paid to present the weather, not show off his cute pets. Zoom meetings and pets are not a good idea either. :)


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Silver Linings, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 8, 2020 at 3:40 pm

@Non homeschooling parent,
"People who homeschool made a choice to do it. They researched it, figured it out, made major adjustments "

Actually, in our case, we didn't make a choice to do it, research it thoroughly, etc. We were on the receiving end of such malice related to violation of students rights and retaliation for standing up. Our "choice" happened on a dime when the machinations got to be too much. So, in many ways, our circumstance was harder than yours, because we didn't have any educational support from the district at all and no funds to pay for homeschooling or what turned out to be major learning disability that the district had deliberately ignored.

A lot of what you say about homeschooling is what I thought, too, and was wrong.
"My child needs the social and emotional aspect of being in school; neither my spouse nor I felt that we would be good teachers."

We thought that, too. It turned out, when you homeschool, your child isn't staying at home all day, and much of the social interaction is with a wider cross section of society, not just the child's exact age peers. Kids in school almost don't even interact with kids one year older or younger. The time homeschooled kids spend with peers is often more high quality.

I honestly know very few homeschoolers who act as their children's teachers. I'm not sure how seriously you investigated homeschooling if you think that's what homeschooling is.

I know people, both of whom work, who homeschool. It can be done (usually in that case, it's ala carte schooling). The goal is to have more freedom as a family and give the child a better learning and social environment.

One of the things that homeschooling did was help my child become more independent. Independence is not a trait like blue eyes, it's learned. What you witnessed with your child is the fact that our local education model teaches kids to be dependent on external direction. They are not alone -- when school stopped, the College Board changed the tests in a way that made things harder for kids like mine in order to accommodate the fact that the majority of kids couldn't just learn on their own when school stopped. I find this really frightening when it comes to high school students.

The homeschoolers I know lost their beloved in-person classes, activities, and work, too, but transitioned seamlessly to online learning. (Both my child's APs were already live online.) I heard no complaints like I heard from districts.

My point is not that you are choosing this, I never said that. We didn't choose our homeschooling at first either. But experienced homeschoolers who raised really smart, accomplished kids told us we couldn't be successful if we were stuck in the past, angry about the circumstances, that we really needed to move forward as if we has CHOSEN the circumstances. And my reaction to that was more akin to yours initially than to appreciating the wisdom of it. But luckily, I did decide (because so many people told us that) to take the advice.

And again, we had to homeschool with ZERO support from the school district (in fact, we were all still licking our wounds and pulling knives out of our backs). My child had a major learning disability that it took time for us to evaluate, and that we never did have the money to evaluate fully or help our child with adaptive tech that would otherwise be provided in school. The flexibility of homeschool STILL meant a better quality of life and learning.

You don't really have a choice about Covid, just as we never had a choice about keeping our child in school and our child getting an education and being safe/healthy. But luckily, you are in this with a lot of other people, and you have the resources of the district behind you, unlike us. You DO have a choice to move forward AS IF you chose this. IF you DID, what would your child's best education look like? That is an infinitely more positive way to move forward than to be constantly stuck in believing (in a self-fulfilling prophecy) that the situation condemns your child to an inferior life and education.

And by the way, our internet sucks, too. Our child didn't have a personal computer, smart phone, or fast internet because we couldn't afford it. Our internet service was often no better than dialup speeds. And yet, it is possible to get good online instruction. From everything I know, having every teacher try to reproduce their in-school experience online is NOT going to do that.




 +   8 people like this
Posted by Silver Linings, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 8, 2020 at 3:50 pm

@Dan
">The home environment is quieter
No, it isn't, unless you live alone or in a very large house with room for dedicated home offices for everyone. Try fitting 3 people into a 3 bedroom house with all "working from home", streaming videos , meetings,"

Um, sounds like we have less space than you do. My kid (with attention and EF challenges) worked most of the time wherever there was space, usually on a small table in the living room which everyone else treats as the home office, dining room, TV blaring, etc. It would really never have worked running the school treadmill (we know because it didn't), but thankfully the flexibility of homeschool allowed all of us to do our best under suboptimal circumstances and get better results.

Again, you can choose to have that, or you can choose to believe you can't because things aren't perfect. One of the principles we espoused when we began was to embrace the imperfection, because that's life and you learn by overcoming that to reach your goals. What else could we do?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Non homeschooling parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jul 8, 2020 at 8:29 pm

Non homeschooling parent is a registered user.

Silver lining - do both you and your spouse work outside the home?
I have a number of homeschooling friends. They are all sort of different families. Only thing that is consistent is they have one stay at home parent that made a choice to be a stay at home parent.
I am very, very sorry you had such an awful experience at the school district. I wish that did not happen . But at some point you made a decision that staying at home with your child go assists in their education is the right thing. I'm happy for you and would support you whole heartedly. This is not a choice majority of parents are able or willing to make. Please don't dismiss our experience.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Diana Diamond, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jul 9, 2020 at 11:32 am

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

Please let's get back to the topic of this column -- it's not a debate about homeschooling, but rather a look at what are the outcomes of a society that has turned away from working at an office to working at home -- and not sending our children off to school each day. There are severe consequences in these new approaches, I suggest, that need to be thoroughly examined. We're talking about our collective future. Sure, COVID will be the determinant for a while, but our new ways of working and schooling are likely to spill over into our future. Good or bad?

Your thoughts?

Diana


 +   3 people like this
Posted by homeschoolIsGood, a resident of Castro City,
on Jul 9, 2020 at 12:00 pm

Diana, how is discussion on homechooling off topic? In your comment you write, "and not sending our children off to school each day" That is precisely what homeschooling is. People are disagreeing with you and some commenters that sending children off to government schools is necessary. Why don't you tell us why the homeschooling supporters are wrong?


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Silver Linings, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 9, 2020 at 12:46 pm

@ Non homeschooling parent,
" This is not a choice majority of parents are able or willing to make. Please don't dismiss our experience."

I'm absolutely not. Believe me, I know this is not an easy situation to be in. I'm making that point that you may not have a choice this year, just like we didn't have that choice. Given that, I am sharing that the best way to move forward, that I was advised by many other homeschool parents, is to basically adopt the attitude to proceed as if it were a choice. It's very freeing. If you do that, what does education look like?

I'm not at all saying that you are doing what you wanted as your first choice. We weren't, either. But because we adopted that attitude, it became an exercise in creativity that resulted in an education, life, series of accomplishments and learning successes for our child, relationships, independence, and growth, beyond anything we imagined when this began.

Without oversharing, in our situation, we did not have a full-time parent available to our child at home either. But our child was homeschooled for high school, and, most importantly, most homeschooled students do not spend all their time at home with a parent teacher.

As part of larger homeschool communities, I can tell you that I know quite a few parents who both worked outside the home and homeschooled their children, even younger children (I know one couple who did this with 4, and no nanny). Again, this was more ala carte schooling, so it may not be available to you now, most of those educational providers have had to go online, too. But even in pandemic mode, if you get together with one or two other families or a co-op, you can ensure your child has in-person time that is one-on-one or very small group, outside, with proper hygiene, with a responsible adult at least for chunk of the time your child would otherwise have been school but your child has more control over following a passion or learning in a more organic way or developing a better relationship with another child. And you may find you have more flexibility to make your child's situation work with your work. There is an overhead associated with going to school that you don't have when you homeschool, and again, it can be hard to see that when you're in it.

@Diana,
With all due respect, you began with the premise that people learn less well "at home". I'm here to tell you that's only true if you choose it to be, if the thing you hold constant is the WAY of school. A lot about the WAY of school is overhead in order to wrangle that many students in the physical space in the way of the Prussian model of education. It's hard to see that unless you try something else. Trying to reproduce the WAY of school by distance is even according to homeschoolers I know, before the pandemic, a bad way to learn.

As I said, homeschoolers, if anything, spend way more time outside in the world and in contact with society than kids sequestered in school who learn to have difficulty interacting even with students a grade or two above or below, much less with adults. I am constantly told how mature/personable etc, my teen is, because homeschooled students don't develop that invisible screen between them and everyone who isn't that same exact age, they learn to interact with everyone (are far better socialized in that way). So they were if anything more impacted by the pandemic. We have our own issues of being disrupted. On the other hand, part of homeschooling is being entrepreneurial about education, and making things work under whatever conditions you find yourself, and we know the best online providers, frankly, and share best practices.

This time could be a way for people in school to see how education could be different and better customized to their child, AND carry that back with them when they go back to school. It could be a time in which schools see the advantage of doing more learning outside, or ensuring that students have more time to foster positive interpersonal relationships, as many homeschoolers realize. It could be a time in which kids get to deeply pursue a passion like an instrument or writing or research or building a business or collaborating on any number of computer or media projects online, and the daily grind of school can be dropped. In the grand scheme of education, they will not get behind, and they will gain something they never could have otherwise.

Or it can be a suboptimal time that people gripe about how their kids got behind. I'm here as someone who has done both local schools and homeschool, who homeschooled with minimal resources when we didn't plan to, to tell you that which way it goes is a CHOICE. It may not be an easy choice, or the one we would have made (just like it wasn't for us, only we didn't have school resources behind us), but choosing to look at it as an opportunity opens up possibilities that do exist for something even better THAT WILL INFORM EVERYONE WHEN THINGS RETURN TO NORMAL ABOUT HOW TO IMPROVE THE SCHOOLS IN WAYS THEY CAN'T EVEN IMAGINE NOW.

@Non homeschooling parent, I am not minimizing your situation, and I respect your choice. But the pandemic is making your choice about normal school for everyone. There are people who work in jobs where it's simply NOT possible to do what I have suggested above, and I realize that, too. What have they been doing since the pandemic started? Child care? Child at home? In either scenario, it can be possible to turn this time into an unexpected benefit.




 +   3 people like this
Posted by Silver Linings, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 9, 2020 at 12:59 pm

@Diana,
"Sure, COVID will be the determinant for a while, but our new ways of working and schooling are likely to spill over into our future. "

But that's just it. I don't see people doing a "new way" of schooling that will spill over into the future. Locally (and a lot nationally), I saw a lot of griping about how everything wasn't the way it was or the way people would have wanted. And trying to "do" school at home, with months of opportunity lost for them. With all due respect to the poster above, homeschooling isn't defined by keeping students at home. I am trying to suggest that people actually aim for a "new way" of schooling that lots of people have found to be surprisingly effective and beneficial, in ways that solve perennial problems in school. If people actual are willing to do that, they just might learn positive things that spill over into the future.

Take for example the expectation that a student should sit and do worksheets for a certain amount of time every day or they must be getting behind. If people believe that, it becomes very hard to optimize "home" education.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 9, 2020 at 1:20 pm

Our kids need to interact with other kids.

Kindergarten is all about learning to share, take turns, socialize, learn how to get on with people who are different, overcoming dislikes, make new friends, obey the classroom rules, follow a daily schedule, time to play, time to sit still and listen, touch, see, smell, through learning. Of course there are some academics too, but classrooms teach more than just academics.

Older elementary kids learn how to be best friends with some and just friends with others. Learn how to visit with a school friend as a guest and be a host when when a school friend comes for a playdate. How to safely navigate the commute to school and home. How to arrive at school on time, how to be dressed appropriately, how to act with peers and adults.

Middle and high school children learn to be independent, obviously at grade appropriate levels. They need to be able to make comparisons with others and to accept differences as being normal. It is important for them to see other points of view, not just from teachers and adults, but also from peers. If they are not mixing with others of their own age then how will they learn the important skills of mixing with others later in life.

When we see child development, so many skills have certain windows in which they can be learned without causing emotional and psychological harm. If young children are not learning to share or take turns, it will lead them to being selfish older children. If older children are not learning how to get on with others, they will not learn how to deal with people they have to work with in the adult world. If adolescents are not being able to mix with other adolescents, then when they start out trying to find a romantic partner at a big disadvantage. If adolescents are protected from every perceived risk, they will be afraid to do so as adults, and may want to be protected from risk by government decree rather than common sense or trial and error.

School is much more than academic education. Even those who I know who have successfully been homeschooled, still have plenty of opportunities to mix with others through sports, music, drama, etc. Very few children are raised successfully while being kept away from the real world.

This is not a conversation about homeschooling as far as I can see. It is much more a discussion about preventing children from learning all the skills they need to grow into well rounded adults. A few months of staying at home is one thing. A year is probably too much particularly for a pre-teen.

As a parent, I have seen what happens after something like a prolonged illness or recovery from something like appendicitis. When these things happen it is sad, not only for the medical situation, but also seeing how much the child is being protected from normal developmental situations.

We should be very wary about keeping children from mixing with others.

Just my opinion, of course.


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Posted by Silver Linings, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 9, 2020 at 3:28 pm

@Resident,
Well, it is kind of a discussion about homeschooling, and you're right, as I said before, if anything, homeschoolers get a much more normal socialization with people of all ages in the world rather than be sequestered with the same age group their entire development.

In contrast to what you believe produces those behaviors, there is ample evidence that when behaviors are enforced externally through simple carrots and sticks, that children are less likely to do those on their own. Take, for example, getting up and getting dressed when students don't have a bell. If the bell were such a great teacher of that, then there wouldn't be so many stories of teens who don't get out of bed over the summer or do all the self-care things when they go to college.

The bell is for the convenience of the school, not because it imparts anything great to the kids. They learn to take external direction, not to be independent. That was the whole idea of the Prussian model (watch those videos I shared, one is a TED talk.) Again, there is a huge amount of overhead in school, and rats-in-the-maze conditioning. Sorry to say that, but when you get away from it, there is really an adjustment period, almost like being let out of a prison. But just getting away from the physical location doesn't free you from it.

Learning how to do and turn in worksheets is not the be all and end all of independence, or we wouldn't be hearing such a drumbeat from employers and colleges about how kids getting out of high school these days can't do anything for themselves. I remember having a conversation with a college administrator that started out with the usual "you wouldn't go to your kid's job interview" (a kind of tack that is deeply insulting to homeschool families whose kids are in a completely different space in regards to independence) but when she found out about the homeschooling, she apologized and said that their homeschool kids are usually pretty independent, but they get a lot of kids who get out of school without knowing how to do anything for themselves. I saw a cartoon in which a college student is sitting in front of an employer saying something like, "Well, I take tests really well, I'm great at doing worksheets" etc.

You know, school this way is only about 150 years old, and I hope you realize that this did not mean some kind of evolutionary deficit in humans was just never addressed and that kids could never develop properly until we invented Prussian model schooling. Kids don't need school to learn most of the things you mentioned, and they don't even need to be in Prussian model schooling.

I agree with you that kids need to form relationships and get support to hit developmental milestones. But I'm the one here who has seen how they can do that outside of school, get a better more customized education, have higher quality interpersonal relationships (that DON'T shelter them from "the real world" or from learning anything you have listed, quite the contrary), get more real-world learning, have better family relationships, practice better self-care, etc, etc.

I'm not trying to say school is bad (though I do disagree with the strictly sequestered age-matched peers, I think you can draw a line between that and agism and the dreadful economic circumstances of older women in our society, and many if not most students learn to develop almost a deafness to anyone who isn't their own age), I'm trying to say that some things about school aren't necessary or even positive to providing a good education and this pandemic experience can be a way people break out of that. Can, it reminds to be seen if they will.

A prolonged illness isn't equivalent to this situation or homeschooling. The children are not sick. They will still have opportunities for contact with other students online, and in person, just not in gaggles of exactly the same age at school (which they never did for many thousands of years of human history anyway, how bad could it be for them to try it differently?).

And, most importantly, this is not forever. If you are putting the kids in a box, sure, a year or any stretch is too long. But if you are approaching it as a choice, and you can look at what different kids would most benefit from (with the constraints of the pandemic), with the kids in the decision loop, and the opportunity to do things they never thought they could do under the constraints of school, suddenly everything changes. Kids have an opportunity to develop emotionally and educationally in ways they COULDN'T in school, that school may have been depriving them of. This can be viewed as their sabbatical. What would that look like if it were their choice?

We had a great experience in Palo Alto elementary. Not perfect, lots or problems, especially the math education (which got worse in middle school). Not even perfect emotionally. But on balance, we felt there were many redeeming aspects to it. Homeschool with lots of money could have been better, but so would expensive, better-match private school. Homeschool with the financial and other constraints we had wouldn't have been better, give our goals. At least probably through 4th grade. At that point, even shoe-string budget homeschool would have been better until 9th or 10th. High school would have been better if we could have had homeschool/school hybrid or enough funding.

I can tell you that it's very different in hindsight than if you don't have the experience of letting a child organically learn to take charge of their life and learning, which was impossible in the maze-running setup of school.

Through no one's fault, everyone's education has been disrupted. I do not think it's worth putting a lot of energy into counting on going back as normal only to be disrupted. There are huge benefits that most children can realize from this "hiatus" IF it's viewed as an opportunity for them -- what do each of them need in order to optimize that opportunity?

Diana, if people understood what was possible in that regard, and many of them tried, THEN they would learn new things that they could carry back with them to school and work when this is over.



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Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 9, 2020 at 5:31 pm

Silver Linings.

Contrary to what you seem to think about my comment, I am not disagreeing with you, but I am answering Diana's point about schooling from home (as opposed to the organized homeschooling that many have been doing for some time). If you read what I said about those homeschooled I have had experience with I support a lot of what you are saying as these individuals are generally well educated and well rounded in many areas. They are not isolated from others either their own age or within their age brackets. They meet together with other families, work in groups across ages and across families.

What has been happening though is that many parents now are not just hoping to school from home as a means of quarantine against illness. I have seen some children completely cut off from their friends because their parents are too concerned about bringing home the virus. These children are all ages and all stages. Not only do they want to school from home, but they want to keep their children out of all the other outlets where they may contact other children (of any age) and bring the virus home.

I have seen or rather not seen these families because the children are not being allowed to mix. These families are neighbors, are in the communities in which I would normally be mixing, their parents are commenting and have been commenting here from the very beginning of all this demanding that the schools be closed, preventing their children from mixing with others long before the Shelter In Place, because they are worried about children bringing home the virus to the parents and the grandparents who live in the same home. We have an abundance of 3 generational families in Palo Alto. These are the ones who not just sheltering in place, but living in isolation, having everything delivered from groceries and cooked meals, to education not only from PAUSD but every type of tutoring service imaginable. These children are adept at zoom and google classroom, as well as college prep, online yoga classes, and know their personal best for push-ups, crunches, and whatever machine the family has invested in for online physical wellness gadgetry.

This is not homeschooling v going to school. It is school from home v mixing with society.


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Posted by Silver Linings, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 10, 2020 at 2:34 am

@Resident,
Thank you for clarifying your point. How much of the student population are we talking about? Your criticism is awefully specific.

The trouble is that our national response to this pandemic has been chaotic, I am loathe to criticize anyone else's response. Tonight I spoke with a friend who we saw at a gathering just before the lockdown, and then the friend thought the precautions were silly, but over time has completely isolated more than anyone we know (because of immune suppressants and other risks). One thing we have to be careful not to do is presume we know where the guardrails are on this thing or where others' necessary boundaries are. I read that the 1918 pandemic supposedly hit people in the prime of life suddenly and viciously, because something had gone through the year prior and hit the elderly, people in prisons, etc, especially hard, and the survivors had more immunity. Now that the virus is infecting more younger and active people, I'm very concerned that something similar is at least possible.

I think it's also really important to reach people where they are. Someone who is isolating more than you think is necessary may have had really bad experiences with other people not understanding and thus not respecting where their boundaries are. People who have never lived in parts of the world with serious hygiene problems may seem lax about hygiene when there is a serious threat from their perspective. Obviously, I have no idea, since I don't know the situation. But you know, there are people in rural areas who teach their kids at home and they grow up just fine. One more semester or who, in a loving household, isn't going to hurt anyone, especially with all the online connections people can make.

I participated in a gathering recently that used to be annually in person, and the way they planned and handled it, it was hands down the best online gathering I've ever taken part of, and many participants felt that in some ways they connected with others in the community better than in person. (Some ways not, but the point was, this isn't forever, and there were some benefits, and elderly and disabled members asked if some of those could be carried forward so that they could continue to participate when things go back to in person.)

I think that speaks a lot to Diana's point. People who were shut in their homes prior to this because of health reasons suddenly find the world more open to them. Are we just going to go back and abandon them, or are we going to make it possible for them to continue the benefits?

I lost a dear friend to a serious neurological disease. I read her medical chart (during the time that it was misdiagnosed as something else) and to be frank, it read like they were detailing some insect specimen, they were just descriptions with no hope or problem solving. Very little about those interactions helped my friend, they were enormously stressful, I mean, I doubt the doctors had any idea just how mindnumbingly difficult it was for my friend and everyone who loved her to get her to an appointment. Zoom appointments or, even better, a mobile unit in which doctors could even do telehealth while en route from one patient to another, would have allowed my friend and people with similar disability to have so much more of a life. A visit to the doctor could sap away all focus and energy from ordinary life for weeks, and being able to get care and get back to life would be so life changing.

I wonder if young doctors in the Bay Area would consider this -- practicing from specially outfitted vans to make house calls, also so they don't have to rent an expensive office? This would only work if insurers pay for telehealth and house calls. It could make such a difference in the lives of patients.

My main point, again, is that it really helps to look at the situation as if one CHOSE the hiatus, and if that is the case, what can school look like for each child to best take advantage of the disruption? As in the case of my friend who was sick, how can educational institutions that have lots of well-established ways of doing things change in order to overcome the disruption and maybe even make things better for the students for the coming year? I think if people do that, THEN they have the possibility of looking back and seeing all the unexpected benefits rather than just having regrets. When my friend was going through all that, I remember wondering why no one could see the devastation caused by, basically, a lack of knowing the extreme burden of the usual processes on the life of someone with those kinds of disabilities.

In homeschooling, in a sense, we felt like we had escaped a peril we didn't fully realize was there until we had some perspective, but we've known many students who DIDN'T thrive at our local high schools and who really should have been able to if some of the usual processes were less rigid and less mismatched to their learning styles, personalities, and individual needs. This situation represents a really unique opportunity to individualize the educational approach and for many teachers to be able to take a step back from certain kinds of teaching duties to instead become more personal mentors and tutors (which is possible in an independent study/homeschool approach). Why not take the best teachers across the district to develop the onlline curricula that all the teachers can use, or have teachers collaborate, so they can then focus mainly on their relationships with students and the students relationships with each other?

We've always done it this way just isn't appropriate for this moment in time.


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Posted by Adrian Petrovsky, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jul 10, 2020 at 7:46 am

Quote: "the vast majority of kids who homeschool by choice learn a LOT more than they did in school."

^ This depends on the teaching format along with the imagination and creativity of the teacher(s).

I was raised in a commune during the 1970s by Deadhead parents and others from a variety of occupations including artists, musicians, physicists, playwrites, chefs, and other tradesmen.

As a result, I learned a lot...more than I ever would have in a public school environment. We had many teachers...specialists in their chosen fields.

Schooling was unstructured yet focused. Recess and school were reciprocical with a 50-50 balance in time spent.

Homeschooling can provide a balanced and rewarding education providing the teachers are legitimately skilled in their craft and have a genuine interest in sharing their skills/knowledge.

Today I could never even imagine working in a cubicle like a caged animal and public school is little more than a zoo for minors and the symbolic zookeeper is the school district with it's state mandated curriculum.

The Covid-19 pandemic is an eye-opener of sorts as it will force the typically unimaginative public school administrators to retool their thinking.

And employers will now be forced to ensure off-site work productivity by identifying and firing the slackers.

This is an important consideration, especially in the civil service sector where slacking is part of the job description and fiscal constraints will require better returns from taxpayer dollars.

The only workers who require regimented work roles are those in the military, the dull-witted, and ones with task oriented rather than project oriented jobs.

There is an old Buddhist proverb..."Out of the mud grows the lotus".

So instead of bemoaning the changes and restrictions Covid-19 has brought about, embrace them and work towards building an even better world!

It doesn't matter WHERE the blueprints are being envisioned...take your pick.










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Posted by parent, a resident of Community Center,
on Jul 12, 2020 at 9:47 am

The best thing we can do for our students and workforce is to end the pandemic. Reopening businesses too early and without aggressive social distancing and mask wearing has proven in many parts of the USA to extend the pandemic as well as cause many more deaths. Reopening schools and jobs does not do anyone any good if social distancing breaks down and extends the pandemic by many months.


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Posted by homeschoolIsGood, a resident of Castro City,
on Jul 14, 2020 at 10:19 am

Silver Linings, your discussion of homeschooling is articulate and convincing. I suggest writing an editorial and submitting it to the Voice or other news outlets. I will be quoting you in my blog.


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Posted by John Cenda, a resident of Cuesta Park,
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I don't mind working from home. Getting kinda stir crazy though

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Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 23, 2020 at 9:10 am

Pods are forming all over Palo Alto. Those who can afford to hire a teacher for a group of children studying in home and splitting the cost are doing so.

Those who can't afford to do so, are going to be at a disadvantage.


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