For many, the quarantine has felt like a season of fifty consecutive Sundays. Without the reliable structure of school, the days are jelly—occasionally blessed with surges of creative fervor, but mostly just lacking grip.
I’m no stranger to this feeling. From the ages of three to fifteen, I was homeschooled. Not counting leisurely outings, I only really left home once or twice a week for extra-curricular activities, where I got to meet with other homeschoolers. Otherwise, I was at home at all times, which might be the reason why I’m holding up rather well now, amid the quarantine.
I’m seeing that, in many ways, students far and wide are experiencing a time of immobility and seeming isolation that mirrors what I went through. I’ve been thinking a lot about how the quarantine has jarred students, especially those in transition. My siblings are freshly out of Grade 10, and are rather restless over the indefiniteness of their status as soon-to-be senior high-schoolers. Along with many others who’ve been left logistically afloat by the disruptions, they’ve adopted a sustained mood of I guess I’ll deal with this after the quarantine. For some, classes will be done online until further notice, possibly even stretching beyond the ECQ lift.
As someone who’s lived through a similar educational set up (at least in the physical sense), I can say it’s not all that bad! Here’s why.
You can fix your relationship with time.
Those hours allotted for transportation and getting ready? They’re now yours to reallocate. Routines have collapsed, giving way to pure possibility. Not counting the handful of hours in a day your presence is required during online classes, (if any), the day is spread wide open for you.
My homeschooling experience was rather integrative and self-curated: Past sixth grade, I wasn’t hounded by rigorous schedules that dictated when I had to focus on certain subjects. It wasn’t always easy being twelve and having to helm your own study schedule, especially when you could just choose not to study altogether. Without any enforcement, time will slip out of your hands. This abundance of free time will, paradoxically, shed some light on the importance of limiting the time you spend on certain things. Time really is a resource!
You can control your vibe intake.
Oh, I loved college. Being in the midst of a sea of people was a far cry from my homeschooling experience. On campus, I was constantly surrounded by hundreds of auras and voices, and it was possible to make a new friend every ten minutes, if only I were confident enough to introduce myself to every fifth person I saw walking down the campus thoroughfares.
It’s definitely a joy to be part of a community like that. But, now that you’re mainly chilling in relative isolation, you can take time to curate the vibes you take in. You have an opportunity to clear your head and maybe rebrand, treating yourself to an overdue break from information overloading, as well as the self-clouding that sometimes comes from a surplus of external influence. Codify yourself using playlists, Pinterest boards, and other fun methods of self-expression.
You can be more hands-on at home.
You’ll be surprised at what you can learn from being fully present in your home, both physically and mentally. While I was homeschooling, I had to be fine with spending time with myself. From that, I learned that my physical space and how I interacted with it deeply mattered. Retreating from a public space (school) into a private space (your home) might turn out to be an immensely confrontational experience. You can scrutinize the relationship you have with your space, and even make changes to it if need be.
I redecorated my room quite often, and found myself feeling more motivated to do things if I liked my space and thought that it was representative of my current life season. Doing chores and cooking also function similarly. Completing those menial tasks, however small, are whole successes in and of themselves, and I’ve always found them to be meaningful and rewarding.
You can break away from the framework you didn’t like, and restore what learning really means to you.
Growing up, there was a quote that floated around, justifying why we homeschooled—paraphrased, it goes something like this: “If you were to build— from the ground up— a school where learners would flourish, you’d build a home.”
From that quote, you can see one of homeschooling’s key tenets: In homeschooling, you don’t implant the strictures of conventional schooling into your house. It’s not a haphazard localization of a system meant for a real school. It’s not a stripped down, lite version; not a fallback, nor a peripheral arrangement. It never felt that way to me. It was just a different approach to school, all the while upholding similar ideals and virtues. Just like other kids, I was studying, albeit in a different setup— one that suited my family perfectly.
Maybe years of unyielding routineliness have pressed you into a shape that you haven't probed in a while. Now that you've been allowed breathing space from a years-worn routine, you can confront what's left beneath all those structures, and revitalize them with meaning and excitement. Instead of just re-installing your old routines when this is all over, you can rework them into frameworks that will better you.
For all the chaos brought by the pandemic, there are also built-in entryways for change. What’s waiting for us post-quarantine? The notion of a “new normal” is simultaneously ominous and energizing, in that it holds a promise of something very different. And that “different” can be for the better!