(This is the second post from Trinitas Junior Kindergarten teacher Sarah Hadley with tips for effective schooling at home during this difficult season.)
With all of us working at home and schooling at home in these unusual times, it might be tempting to think of children as a disruption. When the disciples had a similar moment, Jesus reminded them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). I need that verse stamped on each of my children’s foreheads. I need to see it in those moments of feeling frustrated and pulled in five different directions. As a parent, an employee, and a teacher, I feel stretched thin, but there are a few more steps we have taken in our home that have helped us be successful so far.
Break Up the Monotony
At school, our students do not sit in one place all day, so at home the transitioned “school room” is not where we stay all day either. For my young children, the dining room chairs and table are crucial for proper pencil grip and posture, so that is where we do our written work. But we break for short periods throughout the morning, which leads to playing with the dog, finding toys, helping fold laundry, or maybe even throwing a football outside. These really are short breaks—maybe ten minutes—then it is back to the grind. We will also venture to the couch to curl up together to read The Little House on the Prairie. (We all join for that assignment because everyone can get minutes for reading calendars as they listen to me read.) Back at the table, if my oldest needs to practice a recitation aloud, that is one of the few times I allow him to work in another room. Also, we practice writing spelling words on a mirror or window with a dry erase marker or a washable marker. Small movements like these have helped keep us sane. I will also task one of the older two with listening to the youngest student read. That helps in breaking up the workload for the older but keeps checking boxes off for completion and practice.
Manage Your Time
Schooling at home should not take as long as a regular school day + homework. Our daily aim is to be done with work by lunch (all my children are fourth grade and younger). This has worked well because there is an end in sight. It is not something we have discussed outright with the children much because they do not dictate when they are done, nor does the clock. Mom, Dad and teacher decide work time, but we have used it as motivation to finish strong when minds are adrift and attitudes are declining as lunch time draws near and stomachs bellow emptily.
Be Patient—Seek Forgiveness
Nothing makes me lose my temper quicker than being asked “What’s next?” or “What do I do now?” five times by an impatient little person. Especially if she is asking while I am mid-discussion with another child about his history work. And even though the oldest waits silently for his new directions, I feel his need pressing on me. At the same time I have parents messaging me for directions for their little ones and waiting anxiously for my reply. I’d be lying if I said things were going perfectly here, but I too am human and have had to seek forgiveness from my children several times for my impatience and attitude. I encourage you when you fall short (because you will fall short) to humbly go before the Lord and the one against whom you have sinned and seek forgiveness.
Some days are easier than others, week two has started out better than I could have imagined with one child even pointing out as we finished day two, “Daddy, I didn’t fuss during school today!” I share that to say parents, this isn’t just hard on you. These little souls that God has blessed you with are enduring this difficult season alongside you. Their world has been rocked, and they too are in a tailspin. A wise mentor once advised that we learn to pray as we breathe. Parents, it is my prayer for you in this season to pray as you breathe. I pray you find a routine that works for your family and that God provides you with wisdom. I pray for your child’s teachers as they seek to honor God with all that they do as they reinvent school. He will see us through it, and remember, we are all in this together.