Schooling while stuck at home
by Jason and Andrea Stoddard
We’ve gotten lots of funny responses in our 6 months in Düsseldorf when people ask where our daughter, Ava, is in school. Our answer, “Nowhere! We home school!” Our family is in our 19th year of home schooling, and we’ve home schooled through all kinds of extraordinary circumstances, through hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms, and power outages with no way to cook except our outdoor grill! We were blessed to receive an exception from the Bezirksregierung Düsseldorf for our daughter to complete her current course of study online, rather than attend a German school this year, in preparation to attend University back in the US this coming Fall.
We hope that our experiences help anyone seeking to make staying at home and schooling at home a little less daunting. Here are our suggestions and advice, in no particular order. And of course, if anyone wants specific ideas, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Take breaks! Sounds strange, that our first piece of advice is not to do schoolwork, but kids who aren’t used to doing extensive school work at home or online will need breaks more often than you would guess. For younger kids, break work up with a pause every 30 minutes. Let them get up and run around the house, have a snack, or play in the garden for a bit to get the wiggles out. Their concentration will stay sharp and their attitudes will stay happier.
- Shorter “School” days. Completing school work at home will not take the same amount of time that a normal day at school takes. For the most part, actual school work is only a portion of the “school day” at school. Don’t be surprised when your child is finished with their assignments in a fraction of the time. They don’t have distractions of classmates and other disruptions.
- Have a schedule! Keeping everyone in a routine keeps your kids used to “school time,” but you don’t have to be as rigid as school.
- Do it!! Reinforce what they’re learning with an activity – act it out, find a fun activity that ties in to what they’re studying, create a family competition around a subject. For some examples, do an “egg drop” competition, challenge the family to recreate a famous painting with costumes, act out a passage of Scripture with each family member taking a role.
- Talk about it! Have each person share with the family what they’ve learned, and this includes Mom and Dad. At dinner each night, have everyone share one thing they learned that day that really interested them. This retelling helps cement learning, and allows you all to learn from each other – multigenerational learning is fantastic!
- Read aloud! or listen to an audio book together. Choose a great book or biography to read together – anything with a great story that engages the imagination and encourages the soul is wonderful. We found YWAM’s 49 book biography series, Christian Heroes: Then & Now to be a fantastic source of inspiration and blessing for our family! Pick a book that would be above the reading level of younger children; you’ll be amazed at how much more younger children can comprehend beyond what they can read.
- Remember this isn’t school. Yes, you want your children to stay current with their studies, but this is also a hard time for them. Be full of grace, and err on the side of keeping your family centered on Christ, rather than cracking a whip over their school work. This is an extraordinary time for us all; use it to be an example of Jesus to your family in a way that you cannot when life is “normal.”
- Have a family prayer and scripture reading. Take this opportunity to set aside time to pray and read the Bible together every day. This doesn’t have to be elaborate. With younger kids, read a Bible story that teaches a lesson. With older children, read a chapter of Proverbs and discuss the wisdom found there. Maybe assign different family member to lead the reading each day. Then take a few minutes to pray together, giving each person a chance to pray. It’s amazing how setting your minds on the Bible helps attitudes to get better and grace to abound!
- Family Fun! Take the time to do fun family activities together that don’t involve a screen. Play a game, go for a walk, cook together. Our family has been playing a couple rounds of Dominoes every night. It’s easy to let everyone drift off to do their own thing; instead choose an activity that causes you to interact with each other.
- Quick to Forgive! More than anything else we mention, let Scripture be your guide, knowing that in these extraordinary times, you will lose patience with each other, get on each other’s nerves, and sin against each other. Be quick to repent and quick to forgive each other.
- James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness God requires.
- Ephesians 4:1-3 Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. God has given you as parents this time to be an extraordinary example of Jesus to your children. Don’t let the time slip through your fingers.