Within hours of the announcement that legions of parents would be homeschooling their children, my social media feeds were awash with photos of homeschooling schedules and links to online educational resources. (Turns out there are a million websites to educate your kids online.) It seemed like it was going to be a full-time job just to figure out which website to park my children in front of for the next few weeks. So along with many of our parent friends, we spent the weekend figuring out how we will fill the hours, balance screen time limits and still get our own work done. Instant homeschooling? Buckle up kiddos!
After what seemed like a 100 hours of planning, I began to realize that what I want my kids to learn isn’t going to fit neatly into my 45 minute time blocks or available on any free trial educational websites. Beyond math worksheets and at-home science experiments, there are larger life lessons to learn.
I want them to learn to rely on facts and science. With fear swirling around us, I want my kids to learn that they must turn to facts and science to ground them in their actions and reactions. Do not stop eating at our favorite chinese food restaurant because this virus started in China. Do not run out and buy all the masks you can find. They will not provide you the protection you seek. Instead, seek out science and the experts who have spent their professional lives researching this type of virus and pandemics. Trust science, not hype.
I want them to learn that small actions can have big impacts. It is hard to tell your kids that they cannot have play dates or go to the playground or see their grandparents. Try telling your preschooler that they can only wave to their best friend from across the street. Instant meltdown. But by taking small actions—just our family staying home—we have the potential to save a lot of lives. Our kids are little, but they can have a big impact on the course of this virus. Exponential growth is real.
I want them to learn that there are hardworking people that are willing to risk their own lives to take care of others. Hopefully, for us this experience will be no more than a long and boring quarantine at home. But for many families, this experience means that Mom and/or Dad are away tending to the sick in hospitals, guarding and caring for the elderly in nursing homes, driving trucks of food to our grocery stores and disinfecting our schools. These people are risking their own personal safety and health to protect and keep the rest of us alive. When this is over, we must find a way to repay these people for their sacrifice, time and expertise. There is still good in the world.
I want them to learn that bad things happen but they are resilient. We work very hard to protect our children from the cruelties of the world. But I fear that the coming storm of illness and death may hit people we know and care about. We will not be able to protect our children from the heartbreak of losing a grandparent. This virus may leave a hole in their hearts but they are strong little people.
I want them to learn that good things can come from really bad experiences. If we are lucky, our kids will become experts at properly washing their hands. And perhaps we will learn that we have a pretty cool family that can act as a team and take care of each other in tough times. But I hope they also learn that we can come together as a world to fight a deadly virus. This too shall pass and when it does, our kids will know to look for the good among the bad.
I want them to learn what kind of person they want to be and how they want to treat other people. Do they want to be like the man in Tennessee who traveled from store to store buying over 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to sell at an exorbitant profit? Or do they want to be the person on the neighborhood listserv offering to get groceries and medicine for elderly neighbors? You can choose who you want to be in life.
I want them to learn that self-care is important. This is going to be a long haul. We cannot sustain our current level of stress and consumption of news. Dance parties. Yoga. Nature. Breath. Read. (And, honestly, lots of screen time.) It’s okay to take a break.
When this crisis is over and life resumes its normal rhythms, I hope that these are the lessons that stay with my kids. Like our thrifty grandparents whose childhood was marked by the Great Depression, our kids may carry a very different view of the world and how individuals and our society should act in times of crisis. So as we proceed with our homeschooling adventure over the next few weeks (or months, if I am being honest with myself), I am going to try to keep some perspective about what I really want to teach my kids.