You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 9:11
Teaching our own children is not a new idea. God talks about teaching children from the beginning. Deuteronomy 9:11 gives us a great principle to follow when trying to manage the challenges of the current quarantine. Parents are teachers at all times, no matter what is going on in the home. We instruct in manners, life skills, acceptable behavior, worldview, and more. However, one of the challenges of the current quarantine situation is finding ways to provide quality distance academic education to all students in an equitable manner.
In my Bible reading today, I read from one of Paul’s letters to Timothy (II Timothy 1:6-14). Paul was training Timothy to be a pastor and leader, and he was doing it through letters. If Paul trained through letters, I believe we can find ways to train students. Mail is still a viable communication channel. I am not suggesting teachers need to write to students individually; however, sending curriculum packets through the mail is viable. Schools could support the postage. But we may not need to do that. The technology available to most students—even those without high speed connections—is email. Assignments can certainly be sent through email. And many students have textbooks as resources. Some also have high speed internet as a resource. And teachers have begun delivering distance instruction, many using Google Classroom.
Yet even with the potential solutions that are open to us, what if schools did nothing? Could there possibly be benefits? And are the drawbacks worth all the stress? Can children survive academically if formal education stops for the year now?
Let’s examine this. Students have attended approximately 60% of the current academic year. While 60% is barely passing in most classrooms, the “extra-credit” of home education, whether supervised or not, should count for something. In fact, it could even prove beneficial. With or without direction from formally trained teachers, here are some things students can learn at home. Some are formal instruction, and some are not. Tasks that require math, reading, or critical thinking on a daily basis abound. Here are my thoughts in no particular order.
• Board games –Reading the directions and employing strategies that require critical thinking are beneficial activities. The more we play a particular game, the more strategies we begin to use to win. Children learn these strategies through playing more than through formal instruction. Many games require math skills. Monopoly and Life are just two games that require a “banker.” Many games require word knowledge, like Boggle and Scrabble.
Board games also teach students how to play fairly and how to be a gracious winner and loser. These life skills are more valuable than many facts learned in a formal classroom.
• Self-direction and self-entertainment are skills in which many students can improve. They need to learn self-direction when their lives are not scheduled. Giving students the time and permission to choose their own activities and schedule their own time is also an important life skill. Making wise choices between formal learning time and play time can by guided by parents; but how wonderful would it be if children learned to take responsibility for this?
• Free play teaches kids to get along, share, communicate, and negotiate. All life skills they will need as adults. Using their imaginations is healthy and lends itself to future writing, goal-setting, and more. Legos, Barbies, building forts, playing house–all of these are beneficial to students of all ages.
• Math facts drill – Ten to fifteen minutes a day of math facts drill will be beneficial to students who have not yet memorized their multiplication tables. This will help them now and moving forward in their academic careers. Home made flash cards can be made if none are on hand, and this is another activity that can keep children busy and focused. For those who are fortunate enough to have Internet access, there are games that provide drill practice.
• Puzzles – Whether they are jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, or word search puzzles, they require patience and visual discrimination. Word puzzles are a fun way to learn new vocabulary.
• Vocabulary – Learn a new word every day. Building vocabulary is an excellent way to maintain and improve students’ reading skills. Tape a word to your refrigerator and have the whole family practice using it in daily conversations. You can also learn to spell your new word.
• Spelling – Create a spelling list. Parents can easily design short spelling lists for students each week.
• Daily fitness – Students should be active each day. Perhaps joining in a game of tag or football will even help some adults get in their daily activity. Besides all the sports, four square, hopscotch, bike riding, hula hoops, and blowing bubbles are some of the activities at our house. My driveway has also been outlined with chalk for bike paths. If outside activities are limited by weather, try some old-fashioned calisthenics or yoga moves. We’ve also done indoor bowling with Solo cups and foam balls. Or, put on some music and dance!
• Meal preparation – Reading recipes and learning to measure are another way to reinforce math and reading skills. And learning to cook or prepare simple meals is a great skill to have. Baking is also a fun activity that can include the whole family.
• Household chores – Children can take more responsibility for chores like dishes, laundry, vacuuming and dusting, gardening, planning meals, and creating shopping lists. And now, perhaps, parents can have time to give specific instructions on how to do a job well. Maybe they can even make a game out of it. I remember reading a children’s story where the mother hid pennies. Only children who dusted the furniture well would find the hidden treasure.
• Artistic endeavors – coloring, painting, drawing, paint by number, Spirograph, and more. Get out the crayons, markers, colored pencils, glue, and scissors and get creative.
• Lifetime hobbies – Parents, do you sew or crochet? Do you play an instrument? Do you build things? What hobbies or work skills do you have that could be passed on to your children now that you have time? Teach them what you know.
• Penmanship – Can you teach your child to write cursive? As a former high school English teacher, I can assure you that many students were never taught cursive. It is a great skill to have, and research has shown that writing in cursive benefits creative writing.
• Write stories. Let students make up stories and act them out. If they have a phone or iPad, they can make a movie of their story and share it with friends and family.
• Tell stories. Students can always use practice in speaking, especially in front of a group.
• Making movies. Speaking of making movies, my grandsons have been taking video of their football skills so they can learn how to improve. What a great idea!
• Memorization – Bible verses, poetry, proverbs, and more. Memorization is an excellent brain exercise, and it takes a lot less effort than you may think. If you choose a Bible verse or a poem and say it once each day, pretty soon, you will have it memorized.
• Reading – I know this is stating the obvious, but if you have children who love to read, let them read. I spent hours and hours reading as a child. I still do as an adult. Reading of any kind increases vocabulary and speed, which in turn increases comprehension.
In the larger scope of life, missing forty to sixty days of formal schooling isn’t worth the stress it is causing parents, especially if they are dealing with working from home at the same time. Whether you have teachers providing you with a formal plan or you are taking on the job yourself, rest assured that learning is taking place. Informal learning is effective, and I encourage parents and teachers to do the best they can and let go of the rest. This is neither a situation that we created nor foresaw. Kids learn new things every day whether we are instructing them or not. A small amount of guidance and direction from you will add the value you are seeking. You can survive for a few more weeks and into summer as well.
September will be here before you know it!