Yesterday I tried to put some “school” into our day at home. I had my 6-year-old do some math games, some art, some reading. I tried to get him to practice riding his bike – something he’s weak at.
By mid-day I found myself short tempered with him. I was acting like a drill sergeant while he was on the bike. He didn’t feel like riding it, and in my pent up tension and anxiety I felt a strong impulse to MAKE HIM RIDE THE BIKE. How was he going to learn if I didn’t teach him?!?!?
Same thing at “art” time. He wanted to quit drawing after a bit, but I felt compelled to make him draw. His fine motor skills need attention. He was starting to make progress. What is he going to do now, while he’s not getting set time to develop his fine motor skills? I was counting on all the practice he got in Kindergarten to help him with that.
Now he won’t have that.
I think we all have different concerns about what skills our kids are going to be not developing right now. This situation is out of left field and we are scrambling to make sense of things, and to find a way to make sure our kids are ok.
These are real concerns, and they will need to be addressed.
There are a TON of resources online right now for how to “homeschool” your child. It’s amazing what the educational community has pulled together in such a short time to help all of the parents who are floundering right now. And as a parent I’m extremely appreciative for these resources. I plan to use many of them.
But we are all very stressed out right now.
And trying to force academics on perhaps unwilling participants while we ourselves might feel on the verge of a bit of a breakdown – well that’s not a recipe for successful learning.
We all need to take a breath right now.
If academics are working for your family, that’s awesome. If lessons are flowing well in the day, and you’re not short-tempered as the new de facto teacher – that’s great. Whatever is working.
But for everyone who is feeling under enormous pressure right now, I would say this:
Protect the emotional well-being of the family first. Academics are secondary to that.
In social work we talk a lot about “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” The bottom of Maslow’s triangle is the priority first. When kids don’t have the basics (food, water, shelter, etc.), they can’t learn well. I saw this time and again as a social worker with abused kids.
And right now, a lot of kids have parents who are suddenly living without a paycheck – which puts the bottom of the triangle in jeopardy.
Even for kids whose families are not facing unexpected unemployment or under employment, this is a scary time. And even for kids who do have the basics, the need for security and safety comes next in order of importance.
If we adults are shaken up (and many of us are) our kids will be absorbing that. I’m very aware of this in my own house, and I’m still not always successful at keeping my anxiety at bay. But I’m trying.
My son has been making this face at me this week – it is a rude face. Instead of getting angry with it, I told him that every time he makes the face, I’m going to give him 10 kisses.
And he keeps making the face. Not because he is being rude – now it’s because he wants to get hugged and tickled and kissed. It’s become a littlle game, and although he’s not a cuddler by nature, I fully believe he needs the extra love right now. That’s why he’s seeking it out, in his roundabout way.
My friend’s young daughter gave her this yesterday, out of nowhere:
It was so sweet, and sad at the same time. Our kids are trying to process a world that is quickly changing around them. This is no easy task, for them or for us. My friend’s daughter, like all of our kids, needs to know they can count on us even when the world outside feels out of control.
Our kids simply cannot learn well if they don’t feel safe. So it is our job to be the safe base. Prioritizing your own mental health – and the mental health of your children – is more important in this initial phase than a math worksheet.
I do think having a general schedule to the day benefits kids, when one is possible. Consistency and predictability both help kids feel safer and more in control. So as much as this is possible, it’s great to maintain a fairly consistent flow to the day. But the focus on “academics” can play a smaller, less pressured component to the day at the moment.
Particularly for young kids, immersive play, outdoors when possible, is probably the absolute best thing you can provide.
Next up in the hierarchy of needs? Friendship.
And what are our kids missing right now? Friends. Responsible parenting means restricting our contact with friends right now.
My boys are at the age where the fundamental developmental tasks of their ages revolve around socializing with their peers, and learning how to negotiate those early relationships.
This is a significant concern to me – if this situation goes on for a very extended time – perhaps a year or more – we need to find a way to preserve our children’s relationships to others the best way we can. We will need to get creative here, but I just want to point out that again, this need comes before academics.
The top part of the triangle is where kids focus on things like achieving their full potential. When kids have the basics (bottom of the pyramid) in place, they can work toward the higher goals. This is why kids who come from safe homes where their needs are being met can more easily excel in the classroom than those who have shakier foundations.
That means that our first job – before “homeschooler” – is “emotional stabilizer.” We need to focus on this as much as possible, while still recognizing that we are human and we are all feeling stress right now too.
I’m not suggesting to devolve into chaos at home, especially if schedules are working for you. I’m just suggesting that right now we re-focus our efforts on the bottom of the pyramid – giving our kids love, affection, and a sense of security as best we can – before we tackle the math worksheets.
There will be time for academics in short order. Let’s stabilize home base first.
Need more camaraderie in your day? Follow A Mothership Down on Facebook!
Want A Mothership Down delivered to your inbox? SUBSCRIBE HERE.