Homeschool, Screenschool, Noschool

By Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall (Rated G)

Pat Wheeler: “A game-legged old man and a drunk. Is that all you got?”
Sheriff John T. Chance: “That’s what I’ve got.”

-Rio Bravo

Today’s first lesson is that no such construct as “homeschool” exists, either as a noun or as a verb. When your father taught you hunting safety he did not homeschool you; he taught you. If your sixth-grade teacher taught you not to spit tobacco into the classroom litter basket because your parents failed in their duty of teaching basic hygiene, manners, and dignity, he did not schoolhome you.

And, yes, when I first taught sixth grade, the local customs of chawin’, dippin’, spittin’, and dying from mouth cancer in early adulthood came as a surprise.

We learn in all of life’s situations; we do not home-learn or school-learn. After our first few encounters with our fellow pilgrims we also teach in all of life’s situations; we do not home-teach or school-teach.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Today’s second lesson is about screen-schooling, also known as distance learning or asymmetrical learning.

It’s not much good. That reality should have been learned (or school-schooled) over ten years ago, when the fashion began: students in different towns are clustered before Orwellian telescreens while much time is wasted on several monitors in several different places trying to make all the electronic mummery work.

And yet screen-schooling might be metaphorical manna in the CV desert – it’s not a steak dinner at Delmonico’s, but for a time of wandering it will have to do. As Sheriff Chance says, it’s what you’ve got.

The only way screen-schooling can kinda-sorta work is for parents to be parents, to get the kidlets up on time, feed them breakfast, require them to dress in their school clothes, seat them at the kitchen table (not a couch or bed), and then supervise them while accomplishing other household chores.

And, anyway, aren’t there books and musical instruments and small animals and paper and pens and paintboxes and houseplants and tools and all the other appurtenances of civilization in your home now?

For now your children don’t have access to classrooms, school breakfasts, school lunches, laboratories, gyms, playing fields, structure, expectations, or game-legged old men.

What your children have now is you. Be the parent, not a roommate. To paraphrase Cole Thornton in El Dorado, don’t leave a boy alone at the kitchen table to do a man’s job.

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