The Covid-19 pandemic changed my lifestyle for the better. Finally I don't need to drive 25 miles to the office every day (and 25 miles back), instead I can work from home. Technically, I always could, but the managers wanted to see people in the office. Now they not only allowed working from home, they requested everyone to do it.
Being at home, I can better monitor what and how my son is learning. I have never been a huge fan of American public schools. Just think about it: thirteen years spent in a fenced compound not unlike a prison. Low ceilings, round-the-clock artificial lightning, windows permanently covered with "teaching material" to prevent distractions (what if kids see a bird or a cat outside, this can disrupt the "learning process" for a whole minute), horrible furniture with chairs permanently bolted to desks with the backs angled as if to intentionally cause permanent spine damage. Have I mentioned four-minute breaks? How one can move from one end of this compound to another in four minutes AND be able to visit a restroom? This is a place of torture, not nurture.
And what do students learn during these thirteen years? It is considered completely normal to spend three years to learn how to read! Just think about it. Some states hold back third-graders from promotion if they cannot read, but this should not take this long! What this points to, is these schools still use inefficient method that teaches reading as if English were Chinese, and encourages guessing instead of teaching decoding techniques. English is not a 100% phonetic language, but it is about 80% phonetic, and this is large enough percentage for phonetic method to be successful. Luckily, when my son went to first grade, there were many Filipino, Thai, and other Asian kids in class who did not speak English, so the teacher had to fall back to phonics to efficiently teach English. It is appalling that phonics is used only as a the last ditch effort, but also confirms that it works.
Because kids "learn" how to read for the first three years, they are missing a lot of other stuff. The whole school schedule is top-heavy, with anything of interest starting in high school, and even in this case it is not mandatory and very abridged. Do American public schools teach geography? Astronomy? Is foreign language mandatory? How long do physics, chemistry, biology, foreign language classes take? In many other countries subjects like algebra, geometry, physics are taught from middle school and take three, four, five years, not just one year. How much physics is covered in American high school course? Mostly mechanics and E&M. What about thermodynamics? What about optics? Nuclear physics? Do you know that in some districts about a third of high schools do not offer physics or chemistry at all?
Because of ineffective method of teaching reading American kids get at most 8-9 years worth of knowledge compared to kids in other countries, unless they take honors and AP classes in high school. Is it a good system to basically slack for nine years only to jump into high gear for the last four years in a pathetic attempt to get something from the "free" school system?
Thus, I was happy to stay at home myself and to have my son at home with me. He is in middle school now. I checked his math homework. Not in a single year did I see a math textbook provided to him, so I went out and bought a complete set of math textbooks from elementary to high school, physics textbook, chemistry textbook. He reads real literary books, not hollowed-out Scholastic ones. I do dictations with him. I do retellings, that is, he reads a book or an article or watches a video then writes about what he read or saw, adding his opinion on the topic. We do some poetry. Writing this I realize we need to do more.
My son aces all the district's tests, being at least two years ahead, not because he is gifted or a genius, but because I work with him, I teach him at home, and have been doing it even before Covid-19 shutdown, I've been doing this since day one. One may wonder, why I have't switched to homeschooling. Well, I am disorganized, my son is disorganized. The military-like structure of public school has one positive aspect of keeping him in line, he respects his teachers and always completes homework, much less so when I give it to him. Forget all these fluffy words about caring and nurturing and bringing the best out of every student, this is just propaganda. Public school is like a military camp, and teachers have very specific commands that work with kids. You will never see these commands in any literature on pedagogy. I am not able to commandeer him like his teachers can, and I haven't tried to build a rigid schedule for him to follow, heck, I cannot even do one for myself.
So, I've been enriching his school program with some of my own. If he were outdoorsy type, this would severely impact him, but he likes to stay at home, and — sadly — he does not have many friends, and no friends at all among the close neighbors. He says his schoolmates don't like to hang out with him because he is a geek and is too smart. Kind of gives a perspective, considering that he is not too smart, he is completely normal, from my point of view.
All in all, the Covid-19 shutdown gave every parent an option to do proper schooling at home, to repair damage public school did to their children. It is sad that kids with disabilities can have individual learning plans, they can have some days at school and some days at home, but normal kids cannot have that. I will try setting one up the next year for my son. Also, there is an option of early graduation, three years of high school instead of four. I am going to look into that too.