We are in a season that none of us could have anticipated. Every one of us has been thrust into new daily rhythms as our nation is combating a global crisis. We are bombarded with media, and faced with daily, sometimes hourly, information that impacts the way we do life.
Homeschooling and virtual online learning are the buzz words among families as we begin sorting out how to navigate this new normal of educating our children at home. What began with temporary school closures rapidly moved to extended closures, or if you’re like me, mandated closures for academic school year. Moms and dads are scrambling to figure out new rhythms of normal in an upside down world.
Grit and resilience are key components of life. Disappointment, change, things outside our control, even crisis, are a part of real life. Our children are resilient. Grit is required to bounce back from adversity. As parents, we have the opportunity to use this global crisis to teach and instill in our children the capability to adjust to change and come out the other side stronger. Today’s crisis is an opportunity for grit and resilience to become the backbone of today’s youth.
Parents, you can do this! We are in this together. Our society is only as strong as the family. Moms and dads, you have been given a gift--a gift of time with your children; a gift of gratitude as you teach your children to be grateful and find the good in the midst of sorrow; a gift of grit as you equip your children with the tools to begin new normals; and the gift of resilience as you help your children navigate looking crisis in the face, and waking up each morning with joy.
Here are 10 practical tips for having a successful and fun remainder of the year!
1. Mourn the Loss: Grieve what is lost. It was only a week and a half ago that school districts began to close their doors. We have experienced the loss of our school year, and taking time to mourn that loss and acknowledge disappointment is important. We have rapidly had to say goodbye to schools we love, teachers, friends, activities, sports seasons, proms, and graduations.
As with any loss, it is important to recognize we all grieve differently. There are stages to grief. Allow space for you and your child to be sad and grieve. Depending upon the age of your child and the need, I would suggest taking a couple days off of your new homeschool schedule to create space to grieve the loss while celebrating what you loved and will miss. Giving our children (and ourselves) the time to mourn while celebrating the good things that we miss will provide a concrete transition into this new season of homeschooling.
2. Create Structure: Children feel safe when they know what to expect and have a routine to follow. Having a structure to your day will help your child with the unknown. Everything your child has known and come to love about their school routine has been uprooted and thrown out the door. Creating new normals will help your child adjust to the new normal of homeschooling. A daily schedule will allow your child to adjust. Getting up at the same time each day, creating a routine for education, and time to play will allow your child to thrive and feel safe. Your daily schedule does not have to look like everyone else. Enjoy the freedom and creativity that works for your family. If you have kids that sleep later, start your day a little later. Do what works for your family.
3. Stop Comparing: If you are like me, it has been a bit overwhelming with all the ideas posted on social media from online resources to geometrical chalk art on fences and sidewalks, to entire homes being turned into “theme parks” for entertainment. As moms, we already have a natural tendency to compare, struggling with our identity being wrapped up in our children. We see moms posting on social media all their amazing art projects, organization skills, and creative ideas. Meanwhile, we already may feel overwhelmed just being thrust into homeschooling and now feel even more inadequate because of comparison. Social media is an incredible resource, but it feeds comparison which breeds insecurity.
Stay in your lane. Get some ideas, but don’t fall into the trap that you need to look like everyone else. All of us have different gifts and abilities and you are not called to do it all. I am never going to be the arts and crafts guru, I’m just not!
4. Think Outside the Box: Be Creative. We are in unique times. Your homeschool experience is going to be unique. There is no cookie cutter formula. Allow the creativity of who your family is to be expressed over these next few months. There are a plethora of ideas, free resources, and creative activities available. From live streaming zoos, to celebrity story time, to art projects, to musicians serenading us—there is no shortage of resources and opportunities because of modern technology. The days inside can be long, but resources are limitless. Adding in a “surprise activity” to your daily schedule gives room for a new activity each day to avoid monotony and boredom.
5. Carve Out Time for Friends: Friendships are a vital part of the school experience. Create time and space for your children to FaceTime, write letters, and talk to their friends. Extroverts and introverts both need time and space to connect with friends and have a place to talk, laugh, and process life. We are created for community and friendships are vital for our mental health and well-being.
6. Limit Technology: There is a temptation to let technology eat away at the hours of our day. It quickly becomes a crutch and “babysitter” occupying our time. Limit your child’s time on technology and replace it with exercise. Exercise is vital to our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Taking a walk, riding a bike, throwing the ball, inside work-out routines, any kind of movement is important to our health!
7. Talk about Feelings: Make time each day to communicate with your children and talk about their feelings. Your children are processing the coronavirus pandemic just like you are. They have been uprooted from their friends, their routine, their school, their playgrounds, their sports teams and it is important to give them a place to process their feelings and fears. Family dinners are a fantastic way to have these conversations. Ask open ended questions and allow them to just talk. Bedtime is also a window into our child’s heart. Saying prayers together and talking about the day’s “highs and lows” allows them to get things off their chest before falling asleep. Your child needs the freedom to process their feelings and ask questions. Be available.
8. Give Yourself Grace: This is not how you thought your year would go. You had teachers and a school that you and your kids loved. Now you have added the title “Teacher” to your name whether you like it or not. Grace. You aren’t going to get it right all the time. Grace. You aren’t going to be the best in every subject. Grace. You and your child are in this together and have the opportunity to create memories over accuracy. Grace. Your children will not look back and remember how well you knew math or science, but they will remember the time you had together. Grace!
9. Read: Reading is critical as it expands our minds and how we understand the world around us. This season at home is a beautiful opportunity to read together. If you are able to read outside in the sunlight, or snuggle up on the couch, read together. Bond over books. Listen to audio-books. Maybe everyone can read the same book and discuss it. Read aloud to your children. Reading takes us on journeys and to worlds we can visit and explore in our minds. Creativity is explored as we imagine places and characters coming to life as we walk through the pages of books. Read!
10. Have FUN: None of us thought this is what our 2020 would look like. We are all making sacrifices. We are all mourning losses. But our outlook on a crisis reveals the core of who we are. A slower pace of life, family dinners, time together playing board games, doing puzzles, going on hikes, and riding bikes together all reminds us of the value and blessing of family. Let’s all consider these days together with our children as a blessing rather than a burden. May we enjoy the time we have together knowing we will never get this time back with our children. In the midst of crisis it can be hard to find the silver-lining, but each of us have the opportunity to choose gratitude in the midst of pain.
Your children will not look back and remember your art skills or math abilities. What they will remember is if you made them feel safe and had fun. Hug your kids tight. Talk to your kids. Laugh with your kids. Read with your kids. Create memories together. Most of all, have FUN!