As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rattle the world, quarantining and social distancing no longer seem like precautions; they’ve become necessary measures. In this context, this post aims to discuss how parents and students can make learning—and life, in general—under quarantine a less stressful experience. To this end, I’d like to draw from my experience as a homeschooler.

Although learning in quarantine is similar to the homeschooling experience, it must be said that the latter does not at all involve the pressure of an emergency situation. Nonetheless, a number of best homeschooling practices are applicable and potentially rewarding when it comes to managing learning in quarantine.

Why Draw from Homeschooling?

Let’s begin with what is perhaps the biggest advantage of homeschooling, at least as far as I am concerned: that it affords learners a unique opportunity and perspective. When students enjoy being homeschooled, when they don’t always feel like they’re being deprived of opportunities to socialize with children their age, they can sometimes startle us with their insights on and assessment of things other kids and adults might take for granted. For example, a homeschooled student might regard what happens during a lunch break or recess differently than a student who goes to school.

This is certainly not to say that their assessments are always deeply insightful, but it must be recognized that homeschooling remains a non-mainstream experience that aims to equip students with the know-how to succeed in the mainstream world. This can be an advantage and a disadvantage, but for the purpose of this post let’s focus on the advantages. We are after all trying to apply some best homeschooling practices to learning and living in quarantine, an unprecedented public effort.

Working parents are doubly burdened: they not only have to work from home but must also ensure their children’s wellbeing—and of course, their own. Not to mention the effort it requires to manage their anxiety and their children’s. What’s more, several parents have now expressed concerns about the online study materials issued by districts. Most concerns have to do with the fact that online study materials do not really align with students’ individualized education plans. This is, to be sure, a heavy workload for working parents. At the same time, it would be futile and unfair to blame school authorities. The pandemic was unforeseen, and everyone is doing their best.

However, this intersection of events presents a rather unique opportunity. In other words, we still can, with some effort, make learning in quarantine fruitful by making it less stressful and less formal. In what follows one can find a short list of things parents can encourage their children to do. The list is applicable to both sets of parents and students—those with customized learning plans and those without—and draws largely from the fact that the best homeschooling experience results from a combination of structure and improvisation.

  1.   The pandemic and the measures it has necessitated are great lessons in themselves. For instance, nothing illustrates the importance of civic duty and public concern more than social distancing and quarantining. These measures after all involve more than self-interest; they serve national and global interest. Social distancing is being advocated, if not practiced, globally on an unprecedented scale. It is also being hailed as one of the biggest public health experiments of all time.

    Reminding our children—and ourselves—of this is a great way to make the quarantine experience itself a deeply educative one: “Weathering a pandemic together” is no longer merely a sentence in a textbook. It is our reality now, and this means we can find out firsthand what it means to “weather” and “be together.” This is an incredible opportunity to go beyond the confines of formal education.
  2. As Diana Kendall argues in her work on contemporary sociology, we can no longer encourage a one-dimensional approach to social phenomena. For instance, poverty is no longer seen as an exclusively economic condition. It is now regarded as a complex condition influenced by a number of social, political, and cultural factors. Indeed, a distinct aspect of contemporary sociology is its focus on the political economy (a composite of social, cultural, political, and legal aspects) of things.

    Life in quarantine is a great example of why we need to consider a multi-dimensional or multi-disciplinary approach. The epidemiological perspective informs us of the extent of the pandemic, as well as the measures necessary to keep it in check. The economic perspective helps us predict how the pandemic and lockdown might affect growth and development. In fact, some countries might prefer to avoid a lockdown to prevent economic collapse, and in these cases the sociological perspective might help us understand this decision.
  3. Finally, advanced students can simply explore new learning resources online. JSTOR, for instance, might be a great place to start. It features a large number of journal articles and research papers, with topics ranging from Mathematics to Epidemiology. The articles also range from the easily readable to the deeply academic, so students will have to find what works for them. Nonetheless, this can be both educative and potentially stress-relieving.

Author Bio: Dennis Wesley is an independent educational researcher and blogger. His interests include the Humanities and STEM, especially interdisciplinary practices and methods. He also writes about mental health and sustainability. You can check his personal blog here.