I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say the events of 2020 shifted roles and responsibilities for most everyone. Many businesses pivoted to accommodate new social needs and trends, and many parents had to do the same! Almost instantaneously moms and dads everywhere had to take much more direct roles in their kids’ academic experiences. I was one of those parents. As a single mom, though, I had to make some necessary choices when it came to what my kids learned. The unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic forced me to incorporate more of what I consider essential learning beyond of the classroom. I wholeheartedly believe my boys are much better for it.

LAUSD and Me

Dealing with life mid-COVID was chaotic, to say the least. And, I can honestly say I’m not the only parent who felt so. In September of 2020, several parents sued the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The class-action lawsuit claimed that the school district offered less instructional time than other California districts. This was detrimental for so many kids because it meant less face time with teachers (as teacher hours were cut, also).

These circumstances meant students in the LAUSD were not getting an adequate amount of learning and experience each day and week. This included my boys. Ultimately, it would mean a delay in their academic trajectory, and that was not an option for me. I say that for two reasons. One, I didn’t want my kids to get behind in their studies. Secondly, less instruction time for them meant more time during my workday that would take away from my business. As the only income earner, if I don’t work, my family is directly impacted. While I was not one of the parents involved in the LAUSD lawsuit, I did empathize with their thoughts and circumstances. So I decided to do something to positively impact my boys’ learning.

My Personal Education Strategy

I never considered (and would never consider) taking my kids out of traditional education completely. However, I did decide to supplement their education my own way. I simply needed to incorporate a system of learning that better facilitated my work schedule and time the boys could be engaged with their studies. When “virtual school” had technical issues and I had meetings to take, I had to make executive decisions regarding the best essential learning for my kids. I had no nanny and no one to help. What did I do? Well, I did what I always do when there’s no way: I made one.

I took my kids’ education into my own hands. I hired a private teacher to facilitate lessons with my kids. She was knowledgeable about their individual courses of study, and she gave them appropriate homework activities to give them independent practice on lessons. Hiring a private tutor gave me peace of mind that they were keeping pace with their grade-level peers. I also invested in Little Passports subscriptions for the boys, which they loved (and so did I)! We enjoyed as a family puzzles and activities that taught them so much about different world cultures, geography, the arts and a ton of other subjects. My boys and I look forward to  Little Passports family time together to this day!

I also did my own research online to find STEM-related activities that would further engage my kids. I learned SO MUCH about my boys with these activities, especially when we created our own crystals. They LOVED that! It made it easy to talk about geodes and rock formations. From magnets and robots to building with K’Nex toys, I felt good about these mini projects and how they enriched my boys’ learning experience. The best part? We could do them whenever it was convenient for us! This is so important to me as a single parent taking care of my family.

Physical and Mental Learning

Because I want to raise boys who are holistically balanced, the mom in me made a decision not to only focus on academics. It was important to me to find ways to use (and expend) the crazy amount of energy they had every day. They’re my little wiggly bears, after all. Teaching them to surf was a great way for our LA family to mesh fun with physical activity. Through surfing, I incorporated learning about the ocean, waves and an appreciation of nature. The boys also learned about how to control their muscles to master their bodies on the boards and in the water. Surfing helps build patience and confidence, traits that are essential learning skills in and beyond the traditional classroom.

Another strategy I used was introducing my boys to board games that would enhance their awareness of world cultures. They really enjoyed learning Mahjong, a game derived from Chinese culture. I showed them books and watched videos before we began, and they caught on quickly. The boys loved learning the characters and figuring out various ways to win. They also enjoyed learning chess, though that took a little longer to fully grasp. Incorporating board games helped me teach my boys good sportsmanship. Because I’m not a parent who believes in participation trophies, I want them to learn to be humble winners and gracious losers. This type of character development is as important to me as anything that comes out of a textbook.

The Lesson for Parents

I learned a great deal last year regarding myself and how I feel about my kids’ education. For us, traditional, in-classroom learning will likely always be a part of my kids’ education in some way. However, the amount may vary depending on the world around us and our specific lifestyle. One thing is for sure; I will always supplement essential learning with beyond-the-classroom activities.

And you should consider doing the same, parents. There’s no one “right” way to facilitate and oversee what and how your kids learn. Make decisions based on your child’s needs, and allow other parents to do the same. No, we won’t all do the same thing, but we all need to have and show compassion and empathy for each other’s decisions regarding our kids’ needs. We’re all responsible for preparing our kids for the brightest futures they can have. As long as that remains the priority, we will continue to ensure all that we teach our children is essential learning.

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