As parents, a natural worry is whether or not we are doing what is best for our children. How many times have we agonized over the decisions we are making for our kids? Right now, a huge question facing many families across America, and understandably creating anxiety, is what to do concerning the upcoming school year. Moving forward with helpful tips, tools, and resources can help ease the stress.
As parents, we all worry if we are doing what is best for our children. How many times have we all agonized over whether or not we are making the right decision for our kids? Right now, a huge question facing many families across America and creating so much anxiety within them is what to do concerning the upcoming school year.
Whether your child is in preschool or heading off to college, trying to figure out the "right" decision can seem excruciating. There are questions about safety. Will my child be safe if they go back to school? What about the issue of emotional health concerns? Will my child be OK going back to a school environment that will be completely different from what they have known? How will relationships be impacted? There is also the question of academics. Where will my kid learn the best? Will my child fall behind if I choose one option over the other? How will I manage work if I don't send my child back to school? It's enough to overwhelm any parent!
While there are no quick fixes for these challenges that we face as parents, I would love to offer a few thoughts that may help calm the anxiety around these concerns.
- Pray. While we are facing challenging decisions and obstacles, we can take comfort and find hope in the truth that God will lead us if we seek Him. Proverbs 3:5-7 encourages us to, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Psalm 32:8 is a very personal reminder that God sees us and that He will lead us, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you." If you are married, or single, take time to seek God's guidance and wisdom with your family. As a parent, this is a wonderful way to model to your kids your commitment to your own personal spiritual growth. Pray as a family. Inviting your kids to join you in praying about the decision is a beautiful way to show them the importance of prayer and a practical way we can live out Deuteronomy 6:4-9 to our children.
- Remember, there is no one size fits all answer. There are so many voices around this sensitive topic and many strong opinions about what is right or wrong. And let's be honest, we all like to feel like we are right; it is a way we can feel in control, especially amid such chaos. There is always a strong pull in our families, communities, and cultures to ease our anxiety and discomfort by seeking shared harmony. It just feels better to have people be like-minded. In light of this, it can be challenging to make decisions for our own family from a place of our values, beliefs, and life circumstances when it looks different from other people's choices. This week, my coworker and a close friend shared about the confusion and questioning she experienced around this issue. After deciding to send her kids back to school, she heard that 50% of families had chosen a remote learning option. After hearing this news, she began to feel anxious and question her family's decision and if she was doing what was best. Ephesians 4:12 in the Message version of the Bible is a great reminder, "But that doesn't mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift." Each family has different circumstances that will inform their decision. Our choices, like the spiritual gifts God gives us, will look different.
- Create a plan. Regardless of your decision on how to school, prepare for the year ahead. Having a transition plan and routine for school helps parents and kids move through the unknown with less anxiety. Whether your kids are learning remotely or in person, you can begin planning for school by adjusting bedtimes, setting out clothes for the school day, and making lunches. For smaller kids, driving by the school and discussing questions they may have helps them to become familiar with their new routine. Talking about fun memories your kids have had at school and connecting them with friends through a video call ahead of time can help your child look forward to the new school year. These small steps of exposing your kids to the year ahead of time will benefit the entire family's transition. Also, planning for personal growth as a family during this season will reap benefits that will also impact their learning experience. Ephesians 5:16 encourages us to make the most of every opportunity. This verse encourages me that even in a pandemic, I can be purposeful about my personal growth and my family's growth.
- Manage your own emotions and validate your kid's emotional experiences. I have a 22-year-old son in his senior year at Texas A&M (Whoop!). Recently, he was showing me videos and reading the school guidelines for returning to class. I noticed myself feeling fearful about the new abnormal he was returning to and how it may impact him even at 22.
The start of a new school year under the best of circumstances brings anxiety for most parents. We may not realize when our emotional systems are revving high. Check-in with yourself. How are you doing? Just identifying our own emotional experience can help us begin to regulate it. Regulating our own stress responses as parents is a great way to help calm our family systems. Just like you, your kids are going through an array of emotions. Listening and talking with them about their experience is another beautiful way to live out God's call in Deuteronomy.
CDC School Decision-Making Tool
Alternative School Option
Staci Reichmanis, MA, LPC
Published on Aug 12 @ 9:14 AM CDT
As we face Corona-related quarantines and school closings and social distancing, many parents are embarking on a journey they never wanted to take: homeschooling. Here are two resources on homeschooling to help you!
As we face Corona-related quarantines and school closings and social distancing, many parents are embarking on a journey they never wanted to take: homeschooling. Here are two helpful resources on homeschooling. The first is an article from Hill Country member Heather Creekmore, and the second is a video with Sarah Walters, one of our couselors.
Forced to Homeschool? Here’s How to Homeschool in Quarantine and Love it!
By: Heather Creekmore
As families self-quarantine and thousands of traditional schools have closed their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, many parents are embarking on a journey they never wanted to take: homeschooling.
The thought of homeschooling may overwhelm you, especially if you’re also trying to work from home. But let me offer some encouragement. It can be done. The truth is that you may even enjoy it.
This spring I’ll finish my seventh year of homeschooling four children, now ages 8 to 13. I also work 20-plus hours a week from home writing, podcasting and doing marketing consulting.
Homeschooling has given me the flexibility to write two books and has given my children the opportunity to pursue their interests, learn in a flexible environment, and acquire practical skills ranging from time management to cooking!
Here are some of the most helpful things I've learned.
Homeschool doesn’t have to look anything like regular school. Don't try to make your children sit still all day or work for long stretches without breaks.
If you feel frustration rising in both you and your children, take a break. Send them outside to run laps or ride their bikes, while you grab another cup of coffee and get something done until they're ready to work again.
Remember that you're not the teacher of a class of 35. You're the parent-teacher. Parent-teachers have special privileges. Use what you know about your children to make school work for you.
Work on your time
If you have a job that's depending on you to work from home, remember that unless your child is taking live online classes, homeschooling doesn't have to match the timeframe of public school. You’ll likely get everything done a lot faster.
At school, a lot of time is spent transitioning between classes, taking "brain breaks," or waiting for other kids to finish the assignment given to the class. You may have a Type A firstborn who will sit and get all the work done in 90 minutes in the morning. Or you may have a middle child who'd rather do a little work, play Legos for 30 minutes, and come back and do a little more.
Just like adults, your child may be extremely productive and work ahead some days. Others, it may be difficult to get through one subject without frustration. You have the flexibility to adjust on a daily basis, so embrace the freedom.
Unless your children are following along with an online class, take advantage of the opportunity to let them gently learn on the schedule that works best for them.
Limit screen time
I've found that homeschool goes best if limits on screens are tight during our school week. Even a few hours of video games in the afternoon or evening can make the next day harder than it has to be.
Though your children will complain and express fears of dying of boredom (and though you’ll fear never getting anything done because of their ridiculous insistence), my best advice is to set up a system where video games aren’t a part of the daily equation.
Your home will remain more peaceful if your children are encouraged to do other screen-free things during the day. You may be amazed at what they come up with after the shock and awe of no video games dissipates.
Offer an hour of (timed) video games after dinner for good attitudes, if you need an incentive. But trust me, life is easier during the week without them.
Learn about and with your children
Life is busy and it was difficult for me to pay too much attention to everything my children were learning when they were in public school. But with them at home, I've had an incredible opportunity to learn beside them and about them.
Now I know what subjects they are most interested in and best at. I know what topics interest them so much that we need to find other resources to supplement what they're learning.
YouTube isn't all DIY plumbing and make-up tutorials. You'd be amazed at the helpful and kid-friendly videos you'll find on everything from wars to learning division.
For older children, try Khan Academy for classes in just about every subject. Amazon Prime and Netflix can be a treasure trove of documentaries on everything from geography to science. Plus, many online learning programs are offering free memberships during the coronavirus quarantine. Watch together and supplement what both of you are learning.
Keep first things first
We working parents may struggle with trying to keep a remotely located boss happy amidst running our child’s school day. My best advice is to start your day with prayer and then set your own priorities and schedule around what you know will work well for both you and your children.
My typical schedule is to work with my children from around 8:30 to 11 a.m. This is plenty of time for my third and fourth graders to complete all of their work. If my middle-school children need help later in the day we schedule it, making an appointment for them to meet with me.
As I record podcasts, meet writing deadlines and do other work, my children have learned to work on their own or play quietly (without screens). Children can be taught to give you some space and be respectful of your time as well. But this lesson is learned easier if you're first willing to designate time that is just for them.
This may be my "Enneagram 7" coming out, but the truth is: I really love homeschooling. I enjoy hanging out with my kids each day. We have fun. We take bike rides to the park or to Dunkin’ Donuts.
They spend time teaching themselves to draw or creating obstacle courses in our backyard. This quarantine may be your chance to just have fun together as a family. A lot of learning can happen when playing Monopoly or building a Lego model of something they learned about.
Talk to your children. They have things to say and want you to stop and listen. Ask them questions. Encourage them to try new things like drawing from a tutorial or banging on the keys of the dusty piano in the hall (gently, and not when mom is on a conference call).
Teach them out to clean, how to do laundry, what the difference between Windex and counter cleaner is and why they should never use the latter on your bathroom mirror. Play in the yard. Write a letter to an older person who can’t leave home until the coronavirus subsides.
This time is yours. This virus may be cramping your regular style, but why not make something absolutely beautiful out of it?
*Heather's article was picked up and published by a local news source. You can see the source here.
Encouragement on Homeschooling
Check out this encouragement and support from Sarah Walter, LPC, on homeschooling!
Published on Apr 6 @ 2:07 PM CDT