The Coronavirus has changed so many aspects of our lives. For many families, one of the most disruptive changes has been the shift to schooling at home. This is not something most families have ever considered, much less needed to implement within a few weeks.
These large shifts in the daily routine can bring with them enormous amounts of stress and anxiety for everyone in the family. In this e-book, I will outline 7 steps that will make it more likely for you and your family to not only survive the shift to schooling at home, but thrive in it.
How I start the morning is very important on any normal day, but it is especially important when taking on a new challenge. Being ready for the day begins the night before by going to bed and getting a good night’s sleep.
When I wake up, I want to be intentional about helping relax both my mind and body. I like to begin the day with some coffee, prayer, and then reading for a bit. My wife Sara prefers to begin her day with some meditation, which really guides her into a peaceful state and prepares her for the day.
set the tone
I would encourage staying away from watching TV or reading the news as much as possible. I don’t want to add more stress or distraction to my already anxious mind. This is also where cultivating gratitude is really helpful.
When everything is dark, overwhelming, and seems too much, I need to take a moment and journal or meditate on all I have here in this life right now. When I do this, it begins to subtly shift my attention from all that is lacking in this moment, in my day, and in myself, to noticing all that I have and all that is available to me in this moment, in this day, and in myself.
Once my children begin to get up, I want to immediately begin the day by hugging them and soaking them in. This practice is just as much for me as it is for them. I see it as an opportunity to fill my cup and theirs.
In banking terms, these moments are about depositing a bunch of “money” in the relational bank so I am in the black with them instead of in the red. These important connection times are so vital in helping me shift towards seeing this time with my kids as more of a blessing than a curse. If our cups are full, then this is a better chance for cooperation with each other throughout the day.
Connection can be accomplished through some physical contact, but it can also be achieved by going on a walk, having a dance party, doing some roughhousing, or eating breakfast together. I just make sure it’s time I’m spending focused on enjoying and loving my kids. Remember, connection is as much for us parents as it is for the kids.
co-create a schedule
Put together a schedule to establish routine and security, but be sure to include their input. If kids are a part of choosing how the school schedule is formed, then they are more likely to commit to it.
When I have been helping families with this transition, some of the biggest conflicts have come from the kids (especially teenagers) feeling like the new school schedule or routine is being imposed upon them.
I would approach the schedule as a collaborative activity to which the whole family can commit. I would suggest having some boundaries (such as how much school I would like to be completed each day), but be flexible within those boundaries (if they want to sleep in and start at 10, then that just means they aren’t finished as early as the other kids that start earlier). Also, remember to schedule in breaks and fun together!
don't be surprised by conflict
Remember, conflict will arise throughout the schooling process and it doesn’t mean failure. Children (like all of us) may complain, and they might even whine. Don’t be shocked by this, but be prepared for it. This is a new experience for both the parent and the child.
Consider seeing conflict not as something to stop or avoid, but something to learn from. If a parent is hoping for a day with no conflict, then the parent will probably end up disappointed and annoyed at the child that started the conflict.
When conflict arises, I want to lean into the situation. What I mean is that I want to approach it with kindness and curiosity. Maybe the work is harder than the child expected or maybe they are feeling helpless because their normal resources (such as their teacher and classmates) aren’t there to help them or answer their questions. A lot is being asked of everyone involved in these circumstances. What is needed in these moments is patience, kindness, and grace. In this way, conflict can bring a family closer together rather than pulling them apart.
When we first started homeschooling our kids a few years ago, I was triggered by little things my kids said or did. I was triggered when they complained, when they weren’t sitting up and doing their work, when they sighed if I suggested they do their work, and the list goes on and on.
I also noticed I was getting triggered more because I wasn’t looking forward to doing some of the homeschooling since I had never homeschooled. I wanted my kids to make it super easy on me so I didn’t end up feeling like I was failing or messing up their education for the rest of their lives.
I then shifted to be more intentional when I got frustrated or irritated. I would pause for a moment, take a deep breathe, and say something like,
“This is not an emergency.”
“This too shall pass.”
“This moment is as it is.”
This would help me physiologically relax and then I could be more helpful, or at least approach them with less anger. I encourage parents to create a mantra they can say to themselves in order to be more responsive and less reactive.
Another practice that helps our day is to purposefully encourage our children, especially when we see them cooperating and learning. The goal in this endeavor is not perfection. I want to be intentional about noticing when they are learning, helpful, or kind. Then, I take a moment to point it out to them and tell them how much I appreciate it.
As parents, we can get really upset and spend a lot of time describing to a child all the ways they are failing or being a disappointment, but when a child is doing what we’ve asked, there is very little said to them, or it isn’t even acknowledged. It’s encouraging to me to take little moments throughout the day to just watch as my children are doing their work.
I try and take a moment to just breathe it in and then I might walk over to them and just let them know how much I enjoy them. This goes a long way to helping a child be able to overcome challenges they will face throughout the day.
end the day with
One of the most important tools in this process is reconnecting at the end of the evening. Whether the day has been a breeze, completely frustrating, or by all appearances a total failure, reconnection is vital to helping my kids and I learn and grow from the day. It is a reminder to all of us that no matter how the day went, we are still loved and accepted in this family.
Reconnection helps us remember that we are for each other and not against each other. It is going to make the next day start off in a more positive way. This time at night is going fill our cups to the brim. If possible, I might even ask what they felt worked and what didn’t. Then I can use this information to help plan for a new day tomorrow.
This is a new and often stressful time for many of us. However, we can thrive in this time and grow together as a family. I believe these seven steps will go a long way to helping every family have a more successful and fulfilling schooling at home experience.
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