Like most teachers, I've had those student requests. End of the period, usually, they stop by the desk, usually looking downhearted. "Could I have the assignments for the next week or so," they ask. And then the cause. Death of a relative. Family emergency. A non-elective operation. A family tragedy. Some sort of unavoidable crisis that would take them away from school.
My answer was usually something along the lines of, "Just worry about taking care of yourself. We can sort out the work when you get back." On the occasions when the absence might cause extra falling-behind stress, I would offer some general direction ("We're going to be finishing the novel, wrapping up the rough draft, working in groups for the project"), but always with the same caveat-- take care of yourself first.
My actual first thought was--well, I don't remember ever seeing this level of freaking out over summer vacation. On the one hand, the concern is understandable; on the other hand, you would think some of these families had never been through summer vacation before.
But my second thought was this--
This is a weird, scary, stressful time. If you want to create some structure and sense of forward movement by doing your version of ad hoc homeschooling, that's certainly okay. But if you'd rather not, that's okay, too.
Know that this is not like having a kid out sick, laid up at home on the sidelines while the big education train barrels on without her. The train has stopped. When it's time to get back on board, it will be more or less right where you left it.
In the meantime, depending on their age, sophistication, and personal situation, US students are living through the coronavirus scare, too. They may be sad about not getting to see their friends. They may be sick, know someone who's sick, be worried about getting sick. Their parents may be among the many who, despite DC's half-assed efforts, can't afford to take time off; they might even be among those who have lost a big chunk of income entirely. The students might be home alone, or shipped out to someplace-not-home while the parents are working. A big chunk of their day may be taken up with getting to food for breakfast and lunch.
It may be that some sort of regular daily "lesson," or school-like activity will be the thing to help them calm and center, and that's okay. But it may be that they've got too much going on to focus on or care about schooly stuff. This is, after all, one of the reasons we have actual schools as places where students can, if need be, leave behind that chaos of the world.
There are going to be some interesting side effects to this coronaviral Grand Pause, lots of chances to say, "So if we can suspend that rule for a pandemic, why are we bothering with it the rest of the time?" I think it also gives us a chance to question the all-American focus on frantic balls-to-the-wall forward motion, the notion that if we aren't Doing Something Right This Second, then we're screwing up and life is leaving us behind. Would it really hurt to pause and reflect a bit more often? Now we have a chance to try it out.
Yes, some schools are going to try to remotely educate their students. I hope they aren't going to try to hard, and I hope their students' families aren't going to feel too much pressure to keep up. I hope that parents spend some time with their children, that children slow down enough to do things they enjoy. I hope they read a book. I hope they grab onto the space and time and strength they need to deal with whatever they're feeling and wrestling with in the midst of all this.
And I hope that those of you who are parents can turn off the voice in your head that keeps telling you you'd better get that kid in front of some sort of educational something right away or something terrible will happen. If it's taking most of what you've got to help your kids keep it together, then know that you're doing the important stuff, and your big color-coded home curriculum design plan can just wait.