As this historical and collectively depressing year comes to an end, I feel the need to reflect on the highlights that defined my 2020 (both good and bad). I know we all want to say good riddance and move on as quickly as possible, but this is a historical moment. Lessons are ripe to be found.
In 2020, I officially became a homeschool mom (and Auntie) of four. I homeschool my two little poppies and my sister’s two boys. My sister and I made the homeschool decision before summer break, well before “Homeschool Pods” became a buzz word. I would be responsible for the homeschooling and she would move her remote work station to my house and pop in to help when she could. Remote learning was not a good educational fit for us. Trying to plan work schedules around an uncertain school schedule was a nightmare waiting to be relived.
In the spring, like most schools, fall reopening was unclear. School districts were awaiting guideline from the CDC and the state. School districts trudged on, building three plans simultaneously: 1) continue online remote learning, 2) hybrid learning (a mix of online and in person), or 3) fully in person with new precautions for COVID-19. These were big decisions for school districts and parents. A few summer months was not adequate time to figure it all out with no clear direction from the CDC, state officials, or school administrators.
I was enjoying my intro to Homeschooling, a spark lit. My kids were happier, I was happier, my husband was happier. There was still a chance the virus would peak in the fall and winter. The school districts worked diligently to inform parents what to expect, but the plan was not solid in August with just weeks to opening. Parents and employers busily made plans A, B, and C, not knowing when the schedule could change. I had started researching, planning, and scheduling months before. I was ready to move our children’s educational journey forward. I was confident we made the right decision for our family.
In order to focus my efforts on homeschool research and planning for a third grader, second grader, first grader, and preschooler, I had to leave the career that had defined my adult life. I had spent over 15 years in College Admission. I had started as an entry level Admissions Counselor and finished my career Directing a small college Admissions Office. My love for education has not stopped, and 2020 gave me the time to step back from tinkering on the big problems of higher education. I have long been aware of higher education’s significant faults, particularly those related to college admission. The 2020 Operation Varsity Blues scandal brought the ugly deep flaws into America’s living room.
I know you’re thinking … “Why did she stay for so long if higher ed is flawed, and she could see it?” It was a problem I felt needed to be fought from the inside.
This was a lesson I learned from Sr. Sylvia Comer. Check out the video below to see the amazingly gentle and loving women who gave me the following life lesson. When asked how she grapples with the Catholic Church’s oppression of women, she responded, “If there are things that need to be changed in the Catholic Church, it has to be changed from within the Church.” If you want to change big institutions, it has to be done from within. Outside forces have no chance in penetrating a historical institution’s hardcore labyrinth. Change is reliant on the people within the labyrinth.
I made the connection to the historical institution of higher education that intimidated me as a first generation college student. But higher education also brought me a life changing joy for learning and a career I couldn’t have without it. I see Higher Education as the mechanism for educating young adults in an organized and thoughtful community of learners, thus creating an inspired generation of ethical leaders for our collective future.
I was honored to wage little battles from the inside.
My goal is to keep working at my niche in the world. I was assigned homeschool students in my first admissions job right out of college. We were an office of newbies. Homeschool application reading skills were not on my resume, nor any other newbie in the office. My manager had the knowledge base, but homeschool application reviews are time consuming. Time is precious for a manager with an office of newbies. My manager threw work load spaghetti at the wall and I caught, homeschool students (as well as a stack of other tasks, ha!).
It turned out to be a good fit. My analytical side liked taking the time to learn the individualized curriculum, evaluation styles, and achievements for each homeschool student. It took more time, but I came away from an application review feeling like I knew more about the applicant.
So along with everyone else, I am ready to say goodbye to 2020, BUT I’ll continue to be grateful for the lessons learned. I’m entering 2021 ready to shepherd homeschool families to an educational community that will allow the student to continue pursuing the joy of learning, instilled by family.