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Chacos column: How I flunked homeschooling

Andrea Chacos
Enjoy the Ride

My kids have returned to school after the longest spring break in recorded history. They left their lessons last March and finally returned to in-person learning this past week.

During eight savory months at home with my children, I became a homeschool mom multitasking at the kitchen counter, in the car, and worse, while hiding in the bathroom. I spent 243 days baking muffins and filling the pantry with snacks while expertly navigating 5,840 dicey hours weathering the emotional tornado that is three juveniles with nowhere for their hormones to go.

During that time, I’ve come to respect teachers on a whole new level because I discovered two fundamental truths as a pandemic-parent of school-aged children. Most obvious to most everyone on the planet is that common core math is beyond a parent’s skill set. This is definitively a subject best left to professionals or anyone else that likes to take the long way home. Yelling at my teary-eyed middle- schooler to “hurry up and get to the answer already” may not have been my finest parenting moment during quarantine, yet my ninth grader thought the bar was set higher when I told him solving trinomial equations is for nerds and losers.

To keep my children from turning me in or staging a coup after multiple math fails, I went ahead and found someone who actually likes math and understands it well. He’s an actual teacher to supplement my shoddy efforts at home. He’s the real deal, too, because I hear him explain mathematical concepts that sound like hocus pocus and my kids seem to get it. Better yet, they claim to enjoy the subject. When I heard that, I nearly choked on my 5 p.m. cocktail and quickly paid for another tutoring session.

The second lesson I learned during endless pandemic days is that I had been given the bittersweet gift of undivided time and space with my children. Being away from sports, school, socializing and group activities opened the door wide for me to inhabit their daily orbit with hugs, hikes and endless games of backgammon. I worked hard to fill the emotional vacancy usually occupied by their teachers and friends at school.

But after almost a year, even my unique brand couldn’t withstand the test of time. To be fair, I tried to compete with sophomoric gags, adolescent potty humor and yummy homemade food. I swear, I could have ridden in on a unicorn serving homemade cinnamon rolls or sawdust on a stick and they wouldn’t have noticed the difference.

I could never compete with a consistent teaching schedule, an acute command of many subjects and the thrill that comes from being with a gaggle of peers. Seemingly overnight, I became an unwelcome, unfunny squatter in my own home. The time in our lives of what we affectionately label as, “mom’s experiment with being a bad homeschool teacher” was coming to a close.

When the moment came for my children to transition to in-person schooling, I put a smile on my face because I knew they needed this change. In addition to their absent social life, they had been deprived long enough from the vital relationships that teachers develop over time with their students. Nonetheless, I was still sad at having to lose them to school.

And although I feel somewhat sheepish that teachers have the undivided attention, all-out devotion and complete respect from my children right now, I feel pretty confident that my kids rightfully hold them on a pedestal they’ve earned. Somehow teachers can explain quantum physics one moment, remind students to wear deodorant the next, and all without garnering an eye-roll. That’s the triple crown of teaching.

I hope to hang on to some of the lessons COVID-19 taught me about education. Teachers, whether they work in-person or online, are the unsung heroes and backbone of a community. And they need our support now, more than ever.

Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.


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