'The scientific term for this is bats**t insane': Expert behind popular pandemic homeschool tweet speaks out

Gus Andrews explains how homeschooling during the pandemic has allowed parents to appreciate teachers more than ever. (Design: Nathalie Cruz for Yahoo Life)
Gus Andrews explains how homeschooling during the pandemic has allowed parents to appreciate teachers more than ever. (Design: Nathalie Cruz for Yahoo Life)

Homeschooling, virtual learning and the future of education have all been topics of conversation amid the coronavirus pandemic, as schools have shuttered their doors and entrusted parents and technology to teach students young and old. But while many parents of young children are trying to adapt to the new role of educator while simultaneously working their separate full-time jobs, one woman is pointing out that it’s simply not possible, nor was it ever anticipated, for parents to take on the invaluable role of a teacher.

“I want all you parents to know that *literally no human beings ever in history* have been asked to educate kids & do adult work simultaneously the way you are now,” Gus Andrews, who received both her doctorate and master’s degrees in communications technology and education at Columbia University, wrote on Twitter. “The scientific term for what you're facing is ‘bats*** insane.’”

The tweet, followed by a thread of 20 others, went viral in late April and was met with responses from parents on the helplessness that they’re feeling in this current situation. Her point in writing it, she reiterates for Yahoo Life, “is that the majority of parents have not been asked to teach children separately from doing their own work at home before.”

Andrews explains that the role parents have played in a child’s education often extends to “adult work,” such as cooking, farming and even the family business, which are learned as parents lead by example. These things, she points out, are activities that children can partake in throughout their lives, taking on more responsibility as they get older and more capable.

What children learn in school and how they do is entirely different, however, which is why schools with workers specifically trained to educate different grade levels and subjects exist.

“The way things have worked in the U.S. since the 1800s has been that school teaches things separately from adult work, in ways scientifically tuned to what kids can do. Reading, writing and math are mostly taught separately from real-world grown-up scenarios,” Andrews explains.

Because of this, parents can’t teach these subjects by simply showing a child how it’s done. They would have to understand how a young person’s brain would approach the subject or interpret a lesson in order for the child to actually learn. This would require an adult to revert to their child’s level of understanding while expecting that the child can somehow advance their level of thinking to meet them halfway.

Still, the role of teachers and schools goes beyond that, allowing students to develop in ways that they couldn’t within the home.

“Schools have also taken on the work of shaping kids into democratic citizens, so that means civics classes that parents may not be able to help with—and that certainly aren't part of most parents' everyday work,” Andrews says. “Another lofty aim is to give all kids the opportunity to become whatever they want, maybe create a better life than their parents had. And that means learning about other people's jobs, outside the family, and particularly being exposed to science and technology, which parents may also not be able to support on their own.”

Where a student is isolating and with whom — whether in a single-family home or with various family members — while in quarantine requires additional consideration, especially for teachers attempting to educate students via Zoom.

Regardless of the technology necessary for virtual learning during this time, and how it might aid the future of education, Andrews is hopeful that this unique time will lend to a deeper understanding of the education system and how it is structured. She even shares her hopes that the impact of the coronavirus will lead to “massive shifts in the pace and structure of how we teach.”

Most importantly, Andrews hopes that this time allows people to recognize and appreciate the vital role of teachers. “I do hope this gives everyone an appreciation of the fact that teachers do hard work. It's not only babysitting—though I think we're also realizing that babysitters do vital work as well,” she says. “Teachers do more preparation than they are ever paid for. They are people-managers at a scope and scale that should be the envy of anyone in business. They give our kids a shot at a better life.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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