Help and hope for homeschooling

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, April 1st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: crisis schooling. 

For those without much experience teaching, the sudden task of teaching at home can be daunting. 

And with many school districts now saying school may not start up again on site until the fall, many parents are wondering how to make it work. 

WORLD’s Emily Whitten now has some helpful tips for homeschool success.

EMILY WHITTEN, REPORTER: Recently, an overwhelmed Israeli mom recorded a video from the safe space of her car. It was the second day of distance learning for her four children. The video quickly went viral, getting translated into 20 languages, as moms and dads across the globe shared it in social media timelines. Here’s part of the YouTube version. I’ll read some of the English translation for you:

AUDIO [TRANSLATED]: Listen, it’s not working, this Distance Learning thing. Seriously–it’s impossible! It’s crazy….enough guys, teachers, dial it down, lower expectations!”

In addition to sudden onset homeschooling, many parents need to work from home. NPR’s Sarah McCammon described her new reality in this tweet: “Day 1 of Coronavirus Homeschool: Here’s a detailed itinerary by which we will live full and productive lives. Day 3: Here’s a donut; please put on pants by noon….”

The struggle is real, y’all. 

I wish I could offer a cure for struggling families. But it’s unlikely we’ll get a sibling-rivalry vaccine anytime soon. Unlimited free knitting curriculum and online museum tours may distract kids for a minute, but let’s face it—they’re no panacea. 

So, I offer what I can—a little encouragement. 

Over the last three years, my oldest daughter went through a health crisis. It affected nearly every part of our family life, including our homeschooling. We spent many weeks and months stuck at home, missing out on church, co-op, time with friends. We got behind on our math lessons. 

But we learned other things, like how to persevere through long days of frustration. We did unit studies on handling disappointment and anxiety. We took daily pop-quizzes on forgiving each other and living out God’s grace.

My 12-year old, Anna, says she learned practical ways to deal with stress. Her suggestions for others? Connect with friends. Do things differently—do school outside when you can. Here’s some of my conversation with Anna:

ANNA: Exercising helps a lot even if you don’t want to. Because it makes you feel so much better. Books are nice because you don’t really think about what’s going on. You get submerged into a little world where everything is good…well, things are not good but they’re not your problems! (laughter)

I learned the importance of prayer in a time of crisis. Pray alone. Pray with your spouse and kids. Pray with other moms and dads going through the same thing. Pray without ceasing, because you cannot win the spiritual battle you are in without God’s help.

I also learned the importance of support from other families. Homeschool veterans can be especially helpful. They can help you troubleshoot problems and remind you you aren’t completely crazy. In a pinch, check out online homeschool communities like Hip Homeschool Moms or Read Aloud Revival. Sarah Mackenzie’s book, Teaching from Rest, and her online resources can help you focus on God’s role in education.

MACKENZIE: (Teaching from Rest) First we remember what we’re doing, cultivating wisdom and virtue in our children. Who we’re doing it for is God. We have to go all in, fill our basket, fill our pitchers, whichever metaphor you wanna use. And then remember, He is responsible for the miracle.

Over the next few weeks, you and your kids may need to grieve real losses—milestones like graduation days that will never happen. People you love may lose their lives or their livelihood. Your kids may want to journal about this or spend extra time talking with friends. There is no shame in talking to a pastor or counselor if you need it.

In my experience, the two hardest parts of crisis homeschooling are finding a good daily rhythm and keeping kids motivated. To help with that, Christian author and podcaster Jonathan McKee suggests parents invite kids into the planning process. Maybe even have a family meeting about it:

MCKEE: (Parent Tips: Practical ideas) We as moms and dads make the mistake of just lecturing. But think about listening here. And maybe ask some questions. Say, hey, let’s say this is 4-6 weeks. What are your expectations for the next 4-6 weeks? What do you think your daily schedule will look like? I wanna hear from each of you. So literally go around the table and let each person share.

Involve your kids in setting a daily schedule…and let them choose some rewards. For younger kids, you could fill a shoebox full of dollar store treasures. Every afternoon, they pull out a reward when they finish their work. Let older kids brainstorm privileges they’d like to earn. 

Remember, you don’t need to recreate an entire school day in your home. Kristen Rudd’s piece last week at the Circe Institute’s website is called Seven Ways to Weather Societal Shutdown with Your Children. She lists seven attainable goals for each day like “do some math” or “read part of a classic book.”  

Kids doing online school or worksheets may have less flexibility, but parents can kindly let teachers know when expectations get too high. “Love covers a multitude of sins,” and we’re all on a learning curve right now.

One final lesson I’ll share: when you blow it, and you will, take five minutes and go eat some chocolate in your closet. Preferably dark chocolate. Then come back and ask your kids for forgiveness. Be honest about what God is teaching you, too. And pray together for the patience you need. 

Then, keep going and trust God to work in the chaos. I’ll give the last word to my 14-year-old, Rebecca:

REBECCA: It’s not going to be normal, and you can’t make it normal…you have to decide what’s most important to you. You have to take a long view and know it’s not gonna last forever. The coronavirus isn’t gonna be here for the rest of your life. Even though it feels like it.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Emily Whitten.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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