We are living through hard times right now. Period. My own struggles around juggling work, homeschooling, self-isolation (once I developed a fever) and taking care of the house is hard, but the pain of the world around me is harder in so many ways. I miss my old life and I miss the peace and stability that my fellow humans had. (Or felt like we had.)
With all that's going on, including the newfound pressure of teaching my children at home amid school closures, I've decided to expand my definition of homeschooling in an effort to make it easier, more enjoyable and definitely useful for all. So, our school now includes a life skills course.
Yes, children need to learn and continue to hit their academic milestones—but there is also a lot more room to involve children in the everyday runnings of a household that will lighten the load on ourselves as parents and will also give our children more to learn beyond their worksheets and Zoom calls. Getting a kindergartner and preschooler to chop vegetables isn't the most efficient way to get dinner ready, sure, but many of us are in a collective season of life where efficiency doesn't necessarily need to be our number one priority of every minute right now.
We can strive to optimize joy, togetherness and potentially an expanded view of what learning and education mean for our families.
Here are a few ideas we are experimenting with:
1. Conflict resolution
I'd be lying if I told you things have been exactly the same between my husband and myself since the outbreak. While we are finding our rhythm, there was definitely a period of adjustment where we were arguing more than usual.
At first, I had a bit of shame around what I was modeling for my kids. But the other day, right before I had to jump on a call, I could sense my kids were on the verge of an argument. And instead of giving them their devices, I said, "Kiddos, remember yesterday when Mom and Dad had an argument, what we did? We didn't hit or call each other names but we took a deep breath, we spoke about our feelings and our needs. Can you both try practicing talking through things if there is a problem?"
Now, I can't tell you that everything worked out perfectly, but it was a great teaching moment to model healthy conflict resolution.
Children can learn to try out new foods, hone their fine motor skills, learn math and patience, understand new cultures and build memories for a lifetime. My kids love olive bread and since we can't get it from our local farmers market right now, we are hoping to bake it next (once I am out of my self-isolation!) where we can discuss all things yeast, including why and how fermentation occurs.
I will be the first to admit that my kids don't like to do chores (and frankly neither do I). But, this season has been a great opportunity to practice "working together" on cleaning up. The other day, they had to do 45 minutes of chores before they could watch their favorite show and voila!—the kids' laundry was all put away.
Give children a chance to pick their chores, freedom in when they get to do it and then try your best to bring humor and fun into the mix hoping that it'll work, and knowing it might not.
4. Car cleaning
I am still fascinated by how much the kids like to clean our cars and the sense of agency and ownership they have over this activity. Maybe your kids would like this one, too! And if not cars, I bet your kids have some other activity that could be a win-win for everyone to practice more of.
5. DIY products
We just ordered bath bomb molds to make bath bombs in our kitchen. In the past, we have made our own body butter and lip balm, too. The kids love the mixing, the pouring and of course—the final products at the end.
6. Giving back
The other day we sat down and made thank you cards and wrote small checks for our cleaning lady and our mother's helper. Next on our list is showing support to our local community by buying gift cards to our favorite local restaurants.
Most importantly, the fact that our kids are around us almost 24/7 right now means that "how" we are living our lives is the most impactful teacher at this time. The way we manage our anxiety and fears will have a bigger impact on what we tell them. Our food and entertainment choices and how we talk about them while we're around them will be teaching our children a lot about living a meaningful life.
I've explained to my kids before that when I take time out of my day to write I often write stories about our lives. Sometimes, I even read my words out loud and explain to them what I have written thus creating a meaningful moment of connection and teaching with them.
So, this weekend, try to sit down for a few minutes and make a list of what truly matters to you as a family. Ask yourself—What are your core values? When your kids are on their first date in college and are talking about their family and childhood, how do you want them to describe it? Then think of actions and activities you can plan that coincide with those values.
We are in a very overwhelming moment in time and most of this likely feels very foreign. We are simply trying to survive. I too, sometimes just want the kids to sleep so I can escape my reality. But then, there are other moments and days, where a little bit of intention and a little bit of planning brings much-needed purpose in an otherwise unpredictable and uncertain world.
Most importantly, remember to model compassion and kindness for yourself. We, and our children, need it more than anything else in the world right now.