Friday, March 27, 2020

Home Schooling Encouragement for the Reluctant, Unprepared, and Overwhelmed

Today's post is for the mom or dad who was happily sending their kids off to elementary school every day and now find themselves in the challenging position of being responsible for their child's education while either coping with the stress of not having a job to go to or working from home. I taught both my kids at home from preschool through the 8th grade.

I'm seeing some of your Facebook posts and a few of you are disheartened at home school moms acting like it's no big deal. Let's get that out of the way first. If you had no desire to be your child's sole educator, it's a really big deal. Add to that the fact that you can't take your kids out to do any of the normal things that parents regularly rely on like museums, group activities, sports, or co-ops and the challenge is heightened. Let's throw in the fact that you had no time to prepare or wrap your brain around it. If you are also trying to work from home or figure out how to pay your bills then God bless you.

This feels like a very big deal.

It seemed like fun the first week, right? But I'm guessing this week feels different and now that many schools are saying this is it for the school year, you may be super discouraged and worried that your child's education is going to suffer.

The truth is that this event isn't going to affect your child's ACT score or keep them out of the college they hope to go to. So take a breath. It's going to be fine. 

Main Priority

We are having the ultimate teachable moment about being a good citizen of the planet, country, and community. Now is the time to reinforce the idea that when bad things happen people pull together and that good things still happen. Sometimes we have to sacrifice. We can do hard things.

If that was the only lesson your child learned during this time, one of grit and being able to pivot in a crisis, that alone would be a priceless life lesson.

You are probably already instilling the concept that all work is important a lesson we're all learning together.

Point out to your child that mom and dad are learning new skills and new ways to get their work done. This is a great time to show your child that learning and educating yourself is something that never ends. We want to create life long learners. This is a great opportunity.

We want our kids to have positive memories of this time. 


If mom or dad are working at home it's going to be a challenge. But here's the thing, please do not try to recreate the school schedule at home. Every family has a different energy level in their home and then every family member has a different personality type. All kids have different learning styles.

Set aside an hour. Yes. ONE hour for formal learning, workbooks, etc. If you and your kids want to do more, of course, do that, but this isn't a time for raising the bar too high.

Parents working from home need to prioritize work, but I would say the sooner in the day that the schoolwork gets completed the easier the day will go. Win the morning and win the day. 

You can give them extra screen time (thus making it easier to get your work done) for completing their work early. This probably isn't the time to be too hard on yourself about how much screen time they have. Remember, we're in survival mode here.

Don't be afraid to get creative. 

I said one hour for school work that has been sent home, of course, some kids will be completers who feel the need to do it all and others may struggle a lot. Trust your instincts about how much is enough.

Plant some seeds.

Have them act out their favorite story, make sets, costumes, etc. (THEM. Not you) Share. This is a way they can communicate with and entertain older relatives who are stuck at home.

Let them take apart an old appliance if they're old enough.

Teach them to read a map. A new concept if they've only ever seen you use GPS.

Give them a tape measurer and let them measure things to get a sense of the size of things related to a number.

This is a great time to read that classic novel you've always wanted to read but never got around to. Read it aloud to your child. Don't underestimate your child's ability to understand complex sentence structure and unusual vocabulary. They can draw, color, or play with Legos while you read.

Use classic movies for discussion starters. If you have a favorite childhood movie they haven't seen yet. Now's the time!

All the helping activities they could be doing right now, like writing notes to people in nursing homes, or thinking of how they can help people are useful.

Have them journal about what's happening now for the future.

Unit Study

One of our favorite ways to learn was a unit study. This means that everything being learned relates to something that the child chooses to learn about. For example if they are interested in dinosaurs, then all the books, vocabulary, writing activities, geography, etc. would relate to that. Letting them do a deep dive into something they select themselves helps keep their attention longer and makes teaching easier.

Don't forget what they are already learning during this crisis. The importance of good hygiene and a clean environment. There are so many new vocabulary words. There's also the idea of invisible microscopic organisms.  It's a great time to talk about where our food comes from and transportation.

This style of learning provides an endless supply of areas of interest and activities that will hold a child's attention and give them a feeling of ownership over their education.

You are more than qualified to do this! 

As a parent, you are your child's first teacher. You know them better than anyone and have knowledge of everything they are doing, watching, reading. That information allows you to casually teach vocabulary or geography which you are likely already doing but underestimating the importance of.

Hang in there! You are doing great! Has anyone told you that?

Please feel free to ask questions and I'll do my best to answer them. 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Is This Helping? A Question for Uncertain Times

Wow. Y'all. I mean. Wow. 

A few years ago I was sitting in a hot tub sailing on a cruise ship off the coast of Scotland with a professor of epidemiology from Brazil and his wife while he outlined the next pandemic, and explained that we are way overdue for one. The picture he painted was dismal. At the time I thought he sounded alarmist but here we are.

This post isn't about things we can't control but the things we can. What we can control right now is what we say, post, like, share, and comment on in real-life interactions and on social media. Now that we are all about to have a lot of time on our hands we're seeing more and more blaming those in charge of decision making. Of course, the president is a favorite target for some but so is the CDC, WHO, the medical establishment, vaccine makers, scientists, capitalism, previous administrations, the media, and the financial sector. Pick who or what people already demonize in their normal lives and that's who or what they're angry at right now.

Guess what. There's going to plenty of time for that. Now is not the time. 

There is going to be plenty of time to Monday morning quarterback this event and every decision being made for the next hundred years. And politically there's going to be plenty of time for both sides to slam each other and point out who did what before November. And the elaborate conspiracy theories about what's "really" going on?  Those will be conceived forever after.

Now. is. not. the. time.

So what can we do? I have two suggestions.

1. Before you post an article, share, like, comment, or even say anything in real person to person conversation, ask yourself this question:

Is this helping? 

If it's a negative news item or anything not from an official source you might ask: 

How is this helping? 

An intellectually honest adult should be able to tell the difference. Here's a clue: being right doesn't mean you are helping. 

Please share funny memes, make fun of our dismal situation, check on people, share hacks you've got, or the best book, movie, or series we can all binge on while we're at home. Share pictures of your clean closets and organized garages! Make some art and share it. Post some old family photos on Facebook. Give us a tour of your garden. Do those projects around the house you've been putting off. Start your novel. Tip the delivery guy extra. You know what helped this week? Videos of people in Italy singing from their balconies while quarantined. 

One more thing. 

When you see the people in charge trying to make these massive gut-wrenching decisions remind yourself that they are doing the best they can. Even if you don't like them. Even if you normally don't trust them. Even if you can outline all the mistakes that have already been made. Believing those in charge are doing the best they can will make you feel better if nothing else. 

Everyone is doing the best they can with the information they have and remember even the people with the most information, don't have all the information. 

Now let's all go wash our hands. 

XOXO y'all

Monday, March 2, 2020

March Madness: A Month of Personal Challenges

I did a dry December. I've had a Fix-it February. I've walked 90 miles in November and written a blog post every day in January. I like little challenges to work on to improve my health or productivity.

So what's March Madness 2020? Doing several challenges at once. Here's what's on the agenda.

1. Zero spending. I probably have enough right? I mean we all do. So this month there won't be any new clothing items (even from Goodwill) or shoes. Nothing new for the house. No new books, or magazines, or makeup or perfume.

2. Use up what I already have. This goes with #1. If I'm not buying anything new I'll be forced to use up what I already own. And looking around I can see I could go a long time without buying any books, makeup, or craft supplies.

3. Finish projects. I have some projects I've been talking about for a couple of years like painting the kitchen cabinets, and redoing a piece of fun art over my stove that got ruined. At the end of the month I should be a lot happier with the house.

4. Cash only. If I do have to purchase anything (like something I need to finish up a project because finishing my house goals is a bigger priority for me than zero spending ) I'll be paying cash for it.

5. Do some things I've been putting off like changing cell phone plans to cut my monthly cost and scheduling a colonoscopy.

6. Not accumulating stuff even if it's free. I'm not downloading any more free books or getting library books (Look at this list, y'all, when am I going to have time to read?) because my Kindle is full of books I haven't opened yet.

7. Organize closets and cabinets.

8. Walk every day. No specific length of time or distance just building the habit again after a rainy winter.

9. No alcohol. Because a dry March just sounds so catchy, right? 

10. Zero sugary treats. 

If you didn't understand why I was calling it March Madness, now you know! Want to join me? Make a list or just choose a couple of things you want to work on this month. No sitting down to watch TV unless you know exactly what you'll be watching or no drive-through food. Journaling every day or doing a morning stretch. Just pick something and let's get started!

It's almost spring y'all and that's a great time to have a jumpstart if your resolutions bit the dust somewhere in February.

What could we have accomplished 30 days from now?