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One family's Covid homeschool experiment: kids choose the curriculum | Pandemic Elementary

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Published 1 year ago

What if kids chose their own curriculum? In the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, a British Columbia family tries out a radical version of homeschooling. #CBCShortDocs

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Roanne Kosokowsky, a mother of three, drives down the Sea to Sky highway. On one side of the road is the ocean and on the other lies the Garibaldi mountain range. As her children play in the back seat, the B.C. highways sign flashes, "COVID-19, 2 metres social distance - wash your hands." A lot has changed in the last month since the pandemic broke out in Canada.

Inside the home, there are random sounds coming from a laptop and iPad, being watched by Aurelia and Tashi, aged eight and six. The camera follows a one-year-old baby through the house towards the kitchen where mom and dad are discussing the best course of action to take during the pandemic. Since industries across the country have shut down, the Trifa family's production company has also been forced to take a pause, and with the closure of schools in British Columbia, they decide to "unschool" their children.

"Unschooling" means education without curriculum, structure or institution, a radical form of homeschooling that allows children to take the lead in their own education, focusing on their passions and strengths. This was an idea the family had floated around for a few years but had never acted on. For Aurelia, an eight-year-old about to enter the third grade, this meant music, dance, art and performing and for Tashi, 6, this meant animals, nature and science.

To pull this off during a pandemic, parents Geordie and Roanne use their home, the forest and the ocean that surrounds them to build a new educational experience for their kids.

Reaching out to their friends for ideas and inspiration, they sought to craft a new kind of curriculum. Dr. William Atlas, a salmon biologist, would provide ocean experiments. Internationally-renowned author and scientist Anat Baniel helped with teaching children from the perspective of the brain. And social distance music lessons would come from teacher Josh Zubot. On paper, to mom and dad, this all sounded like a dream — surely it had to work.

Pandemic Elementary is a film about families trying to figure life out in unprecedented times. It’s an ode to childhood and the resilience of children. The educational experiment may be a success or a total failure but in the midst of trying to connect with children during a time when the entire world has slowed down, we may find that the time together is the real thing they’ve been missing all along.

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