By: MaryBeth Eberhard
It is an odd time in American history when all of our children are being educated at home. Families have mixed emotions.
For many, schedules have been shuffled, anxiety and panic are escalating and the joy of learning for the pursuit of knowledge and formation of character has gone out the window amid the desire to just get it done. As a teacher and homeschool mom, I have watched these past few weeks as social media has been flooded with complaints and comparison. With a gentle heart, I’d like to offer an alternative viewpoint and some strategies for helping navigate this challenge.
First, recognize the times we are in. Our children, no matter the age, sense the sudden change. Fear of the unknown can be a heavier burden than reality, even if the reality is grave. Sitting down as a family and talking about why school has changed and why it is important to take health precautions can alleviate some worry and provide a sense of family unity toward a common goal. Even the youngest child can rise and join the family in the new normal.
Set expectations for school. Treating this moment as an opportunity rather than an inconvenience can build character within us and our children. For instance, if you have a teenager who has been distracted in school, talking with him or her, building the child’s skills and helping to set goals for learning can strengthen your relationship and allow the teen to demonstrate accountability and build trust. In our home, it is often said that trust is built over time. Schooling at home can help with that.
Appreciate this time with your younger children. So much goes on in the mind of a young child – the desire to create and wonder, to explore and discuss. While curriculum can guide this, time spent learning together is just as important as the knowledge gained. Keeping a journal, taking pictures of your learning, reading together, sharing what has been learned at the family table can allow younger ones to feel involved.
Use care with your words. The dignity of a human, no matter the age, grows stronger with affirmation. Choose words that present homeschooling as an opportunity rather than a burden. Do not demean yourself or your children with jokes that belittle your ability or theirs. See this time at home as a gift to strengthen relationships within the family. Our lives run at such a hectic pace that the opportunity of time can cause panic: What do we do? Rest, laugh, go outside, read, play games, talk, listen, share time and space with each other and smile. It is amazing what a smile can do.
Trust yourself. It is being said that we are all in this situation together, and indeed we are, but no two situations are the same. As a homeschooling family, our schedule has been drastically changed as outside classes, sports, music lessons, activities and work schedules have all been altered. There is much to adjust to, yet seeing the opportunities can keep us positive. This type of schooling, whether for a veteran homeschool family or one who is new to it, is not an optimal version. This is a historic time where virtue can rise and families grow stronger. Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” What an opportunity! What fresh beginnings we are gifted with!
On a side note, so many resources are available to help support education at home. From illustrators offering daily art classes to online lessons on geometry and physics, the offerings can be overwhelming. While these resources are helpful, they are not necessary. It is easy to be overwhelmed and compare how we are “doing school” to other families’ efforts. It has been said that “comparison is the thief of joy,” and that is so true now. One does not look at one’s neighbor and say, “That is how we should be setting our table.” Or, “that is how we should dress or plant our garden or raise our children.” Rather, through prayerful discernment, we structure our family in a fashion that supports our values. Trusting your ability to facilitate learning in the home will decrease the stress level.
Love of learning comes by having an environment where we are being supported and challenged, and where a love of knowledge is being modeled. So, pick up a book, take up a new challenge from that bucket list and show that learning is a lifelong skill. You might be surprised by the camaraderie that develops with your students while you learn at home.
About the author: MaryBeth Eberhard writes about marriage, life experiences of a large family and special needs. She attends Sunbury St. John Neumann Church with her husband Ryan and her 8 children.