When the barrage of emails, worksheets and instructions began pouring in from well-meaning teachers recently, mothers everywhere despaired. Most of us have no teaching experience or relevant skills to be a homeschooler. Truth be told, most moms I know are currently freaking out because they have:
1. No math skills
2. No geography skills
3. No science skills
4. No art supplies
5. No curriculum experience
6. No time to learn any of the above because of the below
7. No ability to focus
8. No ability to make our kids focus
9. No patience
10. No brain space
11. No room to juggle work from home responsibilities
12. No place to hide
13. No idea what to make for supper (again!)
And yet, parents are in the difficult position of making sure their kids are learning at home. Here’s my (probably irresponsible, but WTF it’s a pandemic) perspective on ensuring our kids are educated these days.
First, we need to cut ourselves slack and reframe our expectations. Psychologists, social workers and anyone with their head on straight is acknowledging that all of us are under incredible stress. There’s no way that our brains or our kids’ brains are working at normal capacity. So, our idea of traditional teaching and learning needs to shift while kids are home.
For those parents worried their kids are going to fall behind, the truth is they might. Through no fault of schools or teachers, your child’s mainstream education may very well suffer. Take comfort knowing that you and the majority of the population are in the same boat. Relax. Expectations are different.
In my opinion, this is a great time to put the standard curriculum on hold and teach our kids all soft skills they probably aren’t learning at school or at home between racing to extra-curricular activities. It’s my belief that our educational system is outdated. Teaching kids to memorize information and learn compliance is no longer relevant. There are some alternatives like the Infinity School that has turned the educational model on its head. But for the most part, what’s being taught in classrooms is not necessarily in tune with what students will need to compete in workforces of the future requiring critical thinking and out of the box problem-solving.
This is your chance, as a new COVID-era educator, to encourage your kids to ask questions, think differently, and learn to question what’s going on in the world.
Here are a few suggestions on how to give your kids a realistic and relevant COVID -era education.
1. Teach your kids (how) to cook. (In my case, teach yourself and your kids to cook) Cooking is an art. Let them play with spices and herbs. Learn their flavours. Expand their palettes. Follow recipes together. Experiment with taste and invent your own recipes. Let kids learn how to put together an entire meal. Your kid may discover her inner chef, restauranteur, or food blogger.
2. Teach your kids to bake (In my case, teach yourself and your kids to bake). Baking is a science. Measurements need to be exact. Chemical reactions occur when ingredients are combined. How cool to watch bread rise when done properly. Teach kids about fractions when you double a recipe. Discuss nutrition when you add ingredients. And then eat everything you bake, especially if it includes chocolate. (Just me?)
3. Teach your kids to talk about their feelings. Their mental well-being (and yours) is a top priority in these incredibly stressful times. Rather than sweating the small stuff like worksheets and homework, hang out with them with no agenda other than talking. For younger kids, these Feelings Flashcards are great for kids to learn emotional language. For older kids, tweens and teens find an activity where you’re side-by-side. Teenagers prefer not having someone staring at them. Ever. Go for a walk. Fold laundry together. Text them while they barricade themselves in their rooms. Keep the communication open and validate every emotion they’re experiencing.
4. Teach your kids to do their laundry. They will move out one day and this skill will serve them well. Feel free to steal my friend’s idea. Each of her four kids has their own laundry day in which they are required to wash, dry, fold and put away their clothes. She started doing this when her kids were young. It’s now ingrained in their lives and being responsible for their laundry day makes them very proud. It will also be an eye-opener for your kids to understand how hard domestic work is and help them appreciate all the work you do behind the scenes for them.
5. Teach your kids to be entrepreneurs. I’m not usually a fan of paying kids for chores. But we are living in a pandemic with no immediate end in sight. Be flexible. You’re all bored. Pay your kids to do age-appropriate chores and teach them about the value of work for pay. Plus, when they earn money, they will have to learn how to add up their savings using math skills. And, when they buy something on Amazon with the money they’ve earned, they will feel the pain of subtraction.
6. Teach them about current events. Sit with your kids in front of the TV or computer and find age-appropriate news. Source fascinating documentaries to watch together. Talk about them during and after. Eat popcorn while watching just for fun. Because, popcorn.
7. Teach them about innovation. There is no better time to inspire your kids to learn about the important work scientists do. This is STEM in action, starring remarkable men and women collaborating around the globe to save the world. Share the amazing stories of innovation and challenges the Coronavirus is forcing everyone to overcome; almost everything in our lives has to be reimagined and reinvented for a quarantine lifestyle.
8. Teach them about leadership. Share the amazing stories popping up every day about heroes leading with integrity and passion. Some of them are in positions of power. There are moms, dads and kids launching initiatives that are making a difference in this challenging time. Tell your kids about them. Show them that anyone, at any age, can be a leader.
9. Teach them to be feminists. Show them the pictures and videos of all the extraordinary, powerful women leading the fight to discover COVID vaccines, run hospitals, make regulatory decisions and treat patients on the frontlines.
10. Teach your kids that learning is fun. Unlike the forced memorization and worksheets commonly associated with homework, you have an opportunity to let your kids nurture their innate curiosity and passion. Let them gravitate to what they love to do when no one is watching and let them do it. It’s never too early for your kids to begin their 10,000 hour journey to mastery.
Whatever the new normal is going to be will be clearer in a few months. It will likely include going back to the rat race of making lunches, school pick and drop off, homework, and non-stop extra-curriculars. Hopefully, your kids will return to their classrooms with a new appreciation for learning. If not, at least they will know how to do the laundry. And that’s something to celebrate.